Category : History

(NY Post) Salena Zito–Faith is no longer a virtue in America

Last week Joy Behar, co-host of the ABC show “The View,” did something that has become an escalating trend in our popular culture over the past 10 years — she mocked religiosity.

In a segment about Vice President Mike Pence and his belief that he hears the voice of God, Behar quipped: “It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another thing when Jesus talks to you. That’s called mental illness, if I’m not correct . . . hearing voices.”

The audience of “The View” clapped and laughed along with her.

But outside the entertainment bubble, in places like Cumberland, people were horrified.

“I am not sure what shocked me the most, that Behar mocked one of the core beliefs of Christianity or the reaction of the studio audience,” said Tim McGregor, pastor at the Lighthouse of Hope, a non-denominational Christian church here in western Maryland.

Read it all.

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

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Entertainment, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, History, Movies & Television, Religion & Culture

(Mosaic) Yarom Hazony–Nationalism and the Future of Western Freedom

Britain’s June 23 referendum on independence was the most important vote in a democratic nation in a generation. Many Americans assume that events in Western Europe can’t have that kind of significance, and in fact the U.S. media paid scant attention to the upheaval taking place in the UK right up until the official returns showing an impending British exit (or “Brexit”) from the European Union.

But in the aftermath, all this changed. The fear, outrage, and despair that Britain’s vote for independence provoked in elite opinion in Europe and in many circles in the United States points to a political event of massive proportions. Even before the vote, a campaign orchestrated by the Cameron government sought to play upon the sense of trepidation that had become evident among a portion of the electorate. The government’s message, Douglas Murray wrote, was “unmistakable”:

With Brexit, the country [would] be taking a leap into the unknown with the possibility of becoming a basket case and causing a world war. Memories of the mid-1970s were conjured up: the three-day work week, the uncollected rubbish, the unburied dead.

And that was the Tories speaking. In the aftermath of the vote, much the same message could be heard from all sides of the political establishment in tones that were, if anything, even more hysterical.

But the principal revelation here—and the phenomenon to keep our eyes on—is not only the fact that, for many both in the UK and elsewhere, the prospect of British independence is genuinely an object of dread. It is also the countervailing fact that the possible re-emergence of a free and independent Britain has rallied profound admiration and enthusiasm among countless others. The fissure between these powerfully held and irreconcilable views was there earlier. But Brexit has turned the floodlights on it, exposing, so that all can readily see, the deepest fault line in the politics of Western nations today. It is along this line that the bitterest and most fateful political battles in our time are likely to be fought.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(1st Things) David Bentley Hart–The Precious Stephen Pinker

In the end, what Pinker calls a “decline of violence” in modernity actually has been, in real body counts, a continual and extravagant increase in violence that has been outstripped by an even more exorbitant demographic explosion. Well, not to put too fine a point on it: So what? What on earth can he truly imagine that tells us about “progress” or “Enlightenment”—or about the past, the present, or the future? By all means, praise the modern world for what is good about it, but spare us the mythology.

And yet, oddly enough, I like Pinker’s book. On one level, perhaps, it is all terrific nonsense: historically superficial, philosophically platitudinous, occasionally threatening to degenerate into the dulcet bleating of a contented bourgeois. But there is also something exhilarating about this fideist who thinks he is a rationalist. Over the past few decades, so much of secularist discourse has been drearily clouded by irony, realist disenchantment, spiritual fatigue, self-lacerating sophistication: a postmodern sense of failure, an appetite for caustic cultural genealogies, a meek surrender of all “metanarrative” ambitions.

Pinker’s is an older, more buoyant, more hopeful commitment to the “Enlightenment”—and I would not wake him from his dogmatic slumber for all the tea in China. In his book, one encounters the ecstatic innocence of a faith unsullied by prudent doubt. For me, it reaffirms the human spirit’s lunatic and heroic capacity to believe a beautiful falsehood, not only in excess of the facts, but in resolute defiance of them.

Read it all (from 2012).

Posted in Anthropology, Apologetics, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Other Faiths, Secularism, Theology, Violence

A S Haley Historic Episcopal Church of South Carolina Asks US Supreme Court for Review

Bishop Mark Lawrence and his Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina, along with a number of member parishes, having lost a confusing, non-definitive and divided decision in that State’s Supreme Court, have filed a petition for writ of certiorari (review) in the United States Supreme Court. The petition (fifty pages, downloadable from this link) asks the Court to bring harmony to the multiple lower court decisions that diverge over the meaning of “neutral principles of law” as used by the Court in its seminal case of Jones v. Wolf, 445 U.S. 595 (1979).

As the petition lays out with masterful clarity, both state and federal courts apply differing standards of “neutral principles” in approaching the resolution of disputes over the ownership of church property:

Nearly 40 years after this Court last addressed the neutral-principles approach in Jones, the courts are deeply divided about what “neutral” means. For many courts, “neutral” means just that—“neutral”: the high courts of seven States, plus the Eighth Circuit and three intermediate state courts, follow Jones’ clear guidance and resolve property disputes between religious organizations by applying well-established state trust and property law. These jurisdictions hold that a disassociating local church’s property is held in trust for the national church only if the alleged trust satisfies ordinary state law requirements for the creation of trusts. Courts and commentators call this the “strict approach” to Jones, because it blinds judges to the religious nature of the parties to the dispute, requiring them to apply the same ordinary state law that would apply to property disputes between any other parties….

The petition then addresses the Court directly, and explains why it should grant review:

Petitioners are here for one simple reason: they are churches. If this dispute arose between two secular organizations, or between a religious and a secular organization, the party standing in Petitioners’ shoes would have prevailed. Thus, far from yielding to the First Amendment, the decision below actually violates it. The Religion Clauses command a “principle of neutrality” whereby “the government may not favor one religion over another, or religion over irreligion, religious choice being the prerogative of individuals under the Free Exercise Clause.” McCreary Cty. v. American Civil Liberties Union of Ky., 545 U.S. 844, 875-76 (2005). The hybrid approach disregards this vital bulwark, favoring one religious organization over another by allowing a national church to disregard the requirements of state trust law at the expense of a disassociated congregation’s claim to property. As two leading commentators recently emphasized, the strict approach to Jones is “the only approach consistent with the free exercise and nonentanglement principles of the Religion Clauses.” Michael W. McConnell & Luke W. Goodrich, On Resolving Church Property Disputes, 58 ARIZ. L. REV. 307, 311 (2016).

The persistent confusion over the meaning of Jones and the neutral-principles approach has resulted in polar-opposite outcomes in materially indistinguishable cases, creating enormous — and enormously expensive — uncertainty for this country’s religious institutions. Case outcomes turn on courts’ differing interpretations of Jones and the First Amendment, not on how the parties have arranged their affairs under state law. This case could have been easily resolved under ordinary state trust and property law. Instead, the parties and the property have been mired in litigation since 2013. Several years and millions of dollars later, Petitioners seek this Court’s review.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, - Anglican: Analysis, Church History, History, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

Historic South Carolina Diocese files a Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the US Supreme Court

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  Romans 8:28

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

On Friday, February 9 the Diocese of South Carolina and its parishes took the historic step of filing a Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the United States Supreme Court.  The requested review of the adverse ruling by the South Carolina Supreme Court focuses on addressing the key constitutional questions in that case.  The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1979 that church property disputes may be settled by applying “neutral principles of law”.  The South Carolina Supreme Court has interpreted that precedent as meaning that some religious institutions (such as TEC) are subject to standards of trust and ownership that would never be recognized under state law for anyone else. As Justice Kittredge in his opinion aptly stated, under truly neutral principles of law, “the suggestion that any of the thirty-six local churches created a trust in favor of the national church would be laughable.”

Our Petition addresses as the central issue in our litigation the following question:  Whether the “neutral principles of law” approach to resolving church property disputes requires courts to recognize a trust on church property even if the alleged trust does not comply with the State’s ordinary trust and property law.” (Petition, p. i)

As the Petition goes on to argue, the original intention of the neutral principles approach is to rely “exclusively on objective, well established concepts of trust and property law familiar to lawyers and judges.” and “embodied in some legally cognizable form.” Jones v. Wolf (1979).  Strict application of this principle would mean that it could not be determined that parish property is held in trust for the national church unless such a trust satisfied ordinary state law requirements for the creation of trusts.  The petition makes the point that the Jones majority expressly ruled out “compulsory deference” to national denominations, in its affirmation of neutral principles.

The plurality position in the South Carolina court unquestionably did not take this “neutral” approach.  Those justices believed that requiring a national church to comply with ordinary State trust and property law would “impose a constitutionally impermissible burden on the national Church and violate the first amendment.”  Courts and commentators call this the “hybrid approach” because it rejects application of ordinary state law in favor of deference to the national church’s unilateral rule and canons (i.e. the “Dennis Canon”).  It is compulsory deference in effect if not in name.

The State Supreme Court’s earlier All Saints (2009) ruling clearly upheld the neutral principles approach and was the basis around which the Diocese and its parishes ordered their common life and governing documents.  As former Chief Justice Toal noted in her dissenting opinion on the South Carolina court, its August ruling is a “distinct departure from well-established South Carolina law and legal precedents… appears to be driven by a sole purpose: reaching a desired result in this case.”  All Saints, embraced in name but not result, illustrates the concern raised in our petition.  “The vacillation of the Supreme Court of South Carolina from the strict approach in All Saints to the hybrid approach in this case makes clear that title to local church property is no more secure than the composition of a state’s high court.”  (Petition, p. 38)

The U.S. Supreme Court is asked to take this case, because it represents “a deep, acknowledged and fully matured split both among and within the Nation’s courts over the meaning of Jones and its “neutral principles of law” approach.” (Petition, p. 18)   The high courts of at least seven states, plus the Eighth Circuit have required the application of normal trust principles as Jones suggests.  The high courts of at least eight other States, however, now including South Carolina, have adopted the less than neutral interpretation that “courts must recognize trusts announced in church canons, even if those alleged trusts do not satisfy the requirements of state law.” (Petition, p. 18)

It is our assertion that this approach violates both the Free Exercise and Establishment clauses of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.  The former prevents states from burdening the free exercise of religion.  The “hybrid” approach clearly does this by conditioning congregations’ free exercise of differing religious beliefs on their willingness to surrender their property to TEC who has neither owned nor contributed to its purchase.   Similarly, the Establishment clause forbids the government from favoring one religion over another.  The “hybrid” approach irrefutably does that as well, “allowing national churches – and no one else – to skirt ordinary state trust and property law…  The law cannot then place a thumb on the scale in favor of a national church in its property dispute with a disassociating congregation…” (Petition, p. 19)   As observed by Justice Rehnquist in an earlier opinion, “If the civil courts are to be bound by any sheet of parchment bearing the ecclesiastical seal and purporting to be a decree of a church court, they can easily be converted into handmaidens of arbitrary lawlessness.” Serbian, (1976).

It is anticipated that today’s Petition will be considered by the U.S. Supreme Court in the coming months and the decision whether to grant review or not will be made before the end of the current session in June.   If review is granted, a hearing would be late this year or in the Spring of 2019. In the meantime, we should remain prayerfully confident as a Diocese that God is working His purposes out in all these things and will redeem them for the greater blessing of the Church and the spread of the Kingdom.  To those ends I encourage your continued prayers.

–The Rev. Jim Lewis is Canon to the Ordinary to the Bishop of South Carolina
(if necessary you may find a link for the original letter on the web there).

Posted in * South Carolina, Anthropology, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Supreme Court, Theology

(1st Things) Thomas White–The Metaphysics of Democracy

What is needed today is a Catholic metaphysics of democracy. Cosmopolitan liberalism is inherently unstable, but so is the current Catholic response to it. The Church’s engagement of democracy as a positive good comes in two historical stages, each recent and limited in success. The first came after World War II: the demise of the totalitarian regimes and the advent of Christian democracy in Western Europe. It provided the cultural space and fueled the optimism that made the Second Vatican Council possible. We may be accustomed to thinking about the secularization that followed the council as a sign of its ineffectiveness, despite all good intentions. But things could have been much worse. The positive vision of Christian humanism that the council articulated was inspirational in Western Europe at a critical moment. The Church was able to develop a complex social doctrine in a democratic context just at the time that it mattered, in response to the rival system of totalitarian communism, which risked engulfing the larger political order of world history.

The second stage took place during the pontificate of John Paul II, first in direct confrontation with communism and, subsequently, in the wake of its defeat. Democratic market economies succeeded and communism crumbled, but the end of the Cold War was treated by many as a triumph of capitalism alone, not of the spirit. The Church found herself in a paradoxical situation. She advanced a system that now has no need to reference its own religious roots and is indifferent to them.

There was a time when the leaders of the Church could continue to promote democratic values as part of a strategy of forming the future of the modern West. That strategy has lost its force, and the Church now risks becoming a sociological ghetto, or worse, an archeological museum of ideas. Today it seems that three options remain….

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Philosophy, Theology

(NYT) Early Facebook and Google Employees Form Coalition to Fight What They Built

Mr. [Roger] McNamee said he had joined the Center for Humane Technology because he was horrified by what he had helped enable as an early Facebook investor.

“Facebook appeals to your lizard brain — primarily fear and anger,” he said. “And with smartphones, they’ve got you for every waking moment.”

He said the people who made these products could stop them before they did more harm.

“This is an opportunity for me to correct a wrong,” Mr. McNamee said.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Science & Technology

([London] Times) Heterosexuals close to getting right to have civil partnerships

More than three million heterosexual couples could be allowed to form civil partnerships under proposals backed by the government.

A bill proposed by the Conservative MP Tim Loughton received an unopposed second reading yesterday. If passed, Mr Loughton said that the legislation would “correct an unintended but glaring inequality”.

Extending civil partnerships to heterosexual couples is one of the five planks of The Times’ Family Matters campaign for reform of family laws.

Mr Loughton said: “I am pleased that the government has accepted the wording of my bill and that it was passed unanimously and has passed through second reading….”

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in History, Law & Legal Issues, Men, Women

(Local paper Front Page) Orangeburg Massacre survivors fight for remembrance of bloodiest civil rights event in South Carolina history

Cleveland Sellers can’t say for sure how long the gunfire lasted.

Was it 8 seconds? he wonders. Maybe it was closer to 10.

On the campus of South Carolina State University, he stops at the very spot where he stood when he was shot 50 years ago.

He was 23 on the night of Feb. 8, 1968, and joined the crowd of students who had gathered to vent frustrations over a segregated bowling alley and other perceived injustices. It was the third straight day of unrest, but this one was especially menacing.

“I had a bad feeling that day,” recalled Sellers, now 73.

In a barrage of trooper shotgun fire that lasted about 10 seconds, at least 28 students were injured and three — Samuel Hammond, Jr., Delano Middleton and Henry Smith — were killed.

It was the bloodiest civil rights event in South Carolina’s history.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, History, Race/Race Relations, Violence

(Times Picayune) Ted Jackson offers a stunning portrait of a former NFL star who played in 2 Super Bowls–The search for Jackie Wallace

One foot in front of the other, the hulking old man trudged up the ramp to the Pontchartrain Expressway. A cold wind stiffened his face, so he bundled tighter and kept walking. His decision was made. A life full of accolades and praise meant nothing to him now. A man who was once the pride of his New Orleans hometown, his St. Augustine alma mater and his 7th Ward family and friends was undone. He was on his way to die.

The man was tired. In his 63 years, he had run with the gods and slept with the devil. Living low and getting high had become as routine as taking a breath. A hideous disease was eating his insides. He was an alcoholic, and he also craved crack cocaine. He was tired of fighting. He was tired of playing the game.

He crossed the last exit ramp and continued walking the pavement toward the top of the bridge. He dodged cars as they took the ramp. No one seemed to notice the ragged man walking to his suicide. If they did notice, they didn’t stop to help.

Only a half-mile more and it would all be over. One hundred and 50 feet below, the powerful currents of the Mississippi River would swallow his soul and his wretched life. He dodged another car. But why did it matter? Getting hit by a car would serve his purposes just as well as jumping.

How did it come to this? This was long after Jackie had turned his life around, or so we both thought….

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, History, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Police/Fire, Sports, Theology

(1st Things) Mary Eberstadt–The Zealous Faith of Secularism: How the Sexual Revolution became a dogma

If the so-called right to choose were truly an exercise of choice—if the rhetoric of the people who defend it matched the reality of what they actually believe—one would expect its defenders to honor choosing against it here or there. But this does not happen: No “pro-choice” group holds up as an example any woman who chooses not to abort.

That this doesn’t happen tells us something noteworthy. For secularist believers, abortion is not in fact a mere “choice,” as their value-free, consumerist rhetoric frames it. No, abortion is sacrosanct. It is a communal rite—one through which many enter their new religion in the first place. The popular, Internet-driven rage for “telling one’s own abortion story”—the phenomenon known as #shoutyourabortion—illustrates this point. Each individual story is a secularist pilgrim’s progress into a new faith whose community is united by this bloody rite of passage. Add the suggestively popular term “woke”—today’s gnostic version of “awakened”—and there’s more evidence that secularist progressivism has erected a church.

So the fury directed at Christianity can be pressed into a single word, sex. Christianity today, like Christianity past and Christianity to come, contends with many enemies. But the adversary now inflicting maximal damage on the Church is not dreamed of in Horatio’s philosophy. It is instead the absolutist defense of the sexual revolution by its faithful.

Christians and other dissidents aren’t being heckled from Hollywood to Capitol Hill for feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, or defending the commandments against lying and stealing. Bakers aren’t landing in court because of trying to follow what’s said in the Song of Songs. All of the expressions of animosity now aimed against Christianity by this new secularist faith share a common denominator. They are rooted in secularist dogma about the sexual revolution, according to which that revolution is an unequivocal and fundamental boon.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Other Faiths, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Secularism, Sexuality

Perspective from the Pages of History–the Revolution of Personal Checking Accounts in 1954

Posted in * Economics, Politics, History, Personal Finance

(Telegraph) Church accused of launching new ‘shameful’ attack on memory of Bishop George Bell

The Church of England has been accused of launching a ‘shameful and foolish’ new attack on one of its most revered bishops, by making public an uncorroborated child sex abuse allegation almost 70 years old.

The Church announced on Wednesday it had referred to the police a second claim of sexual assault made against Bishop George Bell, who died in 1958.

It made the allegation public amid growing pressure on Archbishop Justin Welby to apologise for the Church’s handling of a previous claim against Bishop Bell, which shredded his reputation.

The General Synod is to discuss the Church’s treatment of Bishop Bell with some suggestion that Archbishop Welby should have resigned over his refusal to say sorry.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church History, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture

Congratulations to Roger Federer for winning the Australian Open+his 20th Grand Slam Final

Posted in Australia / NZ, History, Men, Sports

The Economist reviews Patrick Deneen’s new Book ‘Why Liberalism Failed’

Over the past four centuries liberalism has been so successful that it has driven all its opponents off the battlefield. Now it is disintegrating, destroyed by a mix of hubris and internal contradictions, according to Patrick Deneen, a professor of politics at the University of Notre Dame.

The gathering wreckage of liberalism’s twilight years can be seen all around, especially in America, Mr Deneen’s main focus. The founding tenets of the faith have been shattered. Equality of opportunity has produced a new meritocratic aristocracy that has all the aloofness of the old aristocracy with none of its sense of noblesse oblige. Democracy has degenerated into a theatre of the absurd. And technological advances are reducing ever more areas of work into meaningless drudgery. “The gap between liberalism’s claims about itself and the lived reality of the citizenry” is now so wide that “the lie can no longer be accepted,” Mr Deneen writes. What better proof of this than the vision of 1,000 private planes whisking their occupants to Davos to discuss the question of “creating a shared future in a fragmented world”?

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Philosophy