Category : America/U.S.A.

(538) Don’t Bet On The Emergence Of A ‘Religious Left’

The first and perhaps most significant reason for skepticism is that there are far fewer religious liberals today than there were a generation ago. Nearly four in 10 (38 percent) liberals are religiously unaffiliated today, more than double the percentage of the 1990s, according to data from the General Social Survey. In part, the liberal mass migration away from religion was a reaction to the rise of the Christian right. Over the last couple decades, conservative Christians have effectively branded religious activism as primarily concerned with upholding a traditional vision of sexual morality and social norms. That conservative religious advocacy contributed to many liberals maintaining an abiding suspicion about the role that institutional religion plays in society and expressing considerable skepticism of organized religion generally. Only 30 percent of liberals report having a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in organized religion. Half say that religion’s impact on society is more harmful than helpful.

Another challenge confronting the progressive religious movement is the yawning generational divide in religious identity. Young liberals today are simply not that religious. Nearly half (49 percent) of liberals under 30 are religiously unaffiliated, according to the General Social Survey, which is more than the number who belong to all Christian denominations combined. Only 22 percent of liberal seniors are unaffiliated, while the overwhelming majority identify as religious. Your average left-leaning Christian is pushing 50. Coaxing young progressives to join a movement that would require them to reset their approach to religion is no small undertaking.

Read it all and makes sure to see this earlier Reiters story earlier which takes a different tack.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture

(WSJ) Jonathan Den Hartog–‘In God We Trust,’ Even at Our Most Divided

If both North and South stood under divine judgment, then a new attitude was demanded, one of humbly working for the common good. In his peroration, Lincoln called his hearers to steady service: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in.”

The most important of these tasks was “to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan.” Lincoln was calling to mind the good Samaritan from the Gospel of Luke, who, finding an injured man, “bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine.” Similarly, his injunction to help the widow and the orphan echoed the Book of James, which taught that “pure religion” consisted at least partly of visiting “the fatherless and widows in their affliction.”

Lincoln concluded that this vision could be a global one, as they would “do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” The 16th president thus demonstrated that the best religious reflection in public life could lead to humility, self-criticism, care for fellow citizens, and renewal of civic ties. And that seems like a beneficial reminder from the random coins jangling in our pockets.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture

(JSTOR Daily) Peter Feuerherd–How Religious Literacy Might Have Changed Waco

The siege had begun on February 28th of that year when, tipped off to an upcoming raid by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), Koresh and his followers killed four government agents who came to investigate alleged firearms violations at their compound. Six Branch Davidians were also killed in that initial gun battle.

While government officials saw the tragedy as inevitable given Koresh’s obstinancy and violent tendencies, a cascade of religious scholars argued that the Waco raid was not completely justified and that, with a little more patience and understanding of biblical theology, the massive loss of life could have been avoided. They note that Koresh had been in touch with two scholars who challenged his teachings. When the final raid took place, Koresh was writing an interpretation of the Book of Revelation in response to that critique. A little more time, religion scholars argued, and Koresh and his followers might have left the compound peaceably. They say he needed time to finish his manifesto.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Eschatology, Religion & Culture, The U.S. Government, Violence

(Economist) America has a retirement problem, not a saving problem: Policymakers need to learn the difference

[Political leaders]…continue to ignore the savings crisis that should worry them: Many Americans do not have enough savings ever to be able to retire. Traditional macroeconomics cares only about aggregate levels of capital stock. There is plenty of that. But it is shared among too few people. The median family of retirement age has $12,000 in savings. That is a terrifying figure for a country where Social Security, the state pension, pays out a maximum of roughly $2,500 a month, and pensions for both public and private employees are underfunded.

For the median, wage-earning family, the best way to encourage saving is not to lower capital gains taxes or estate taxes, but to give the family access to a retirement plan that delays taxation until retirement. (In his textbook, Mr Mankiw encourages these plans, but only as another way to increase capital investment.) For those who put money into one, median accounts at retirement age rise to about $100,000—still inadequate for a lengthy retirement, but a significant improvement. About 70 percent of Americans have access to these plans through their employers. But just over half use one.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., Economy

Johnny Cash & The Carter Family–Were you There When They Crucified my Lord? (1960)

Watch and listen to it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Holy Week, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Religion & Culture

(Christian Post) Student Sues School District for Allowing Girl to Undress in Boys’ Locker Room

A lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for Pennsylvania’s Eastern District…[in late mid-May] against the Boyertown Area School District by a student referred to by the pseudonym “Joel Doe” on the grounds that the district intentionally violated his right to bodily privacy.

The lawsuit explains that Doe was changing in the gym locker room last October before his physical education class when he saw a female student wearing a bra also in the locker room. The school district’s policy allows for the transgender student, who recently began the process of transitioning from female to male, to access locker rooms and bathrooms consistent with the student’s chosen gender identity.

“This policy needlessly subjects Doe to the risk that his partially unclothed body will be exposed to the opposite sex and that he will be exposed to a partially clothed person of the opposite-sex, as actually occurred when the policy was first implemented,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit alleges that the school district “secretly authorized a student of the opposite sex to have unrestricted access to enter and use boys’ private facilities” without informing other students and parents.

Read it all.

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

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Sexuality

(USA Today) For Coptic Christians in New Jersey, another in a long string of attacks

The message delivered during Sunday’s morning service at the Coptic Orthodox Church of St. Mark in Jersey City was all too familiar: Pray for all of those killed by bombings at their churches in Egypt.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for two terrorist attacks on Coptic churches in the Egyptian Nile Delta town of Tanta and the coastal city of Alexandria that killed at least 44 people during crowded Palm Sunday services, the latest in a string of attacks against the Christian minorities in the majority-Muslim country.

The bombing in Tanta hit especially close to home at St. Mark, where many of the U.S. Copts have friends and relatives who died or were injured in Sunday’s attack. Joseph Ghabour, a deacon at St. Mark, the first Coptic church to open in the U.S, said the church used its morning service to pray for the dead, the wounded and their families. In what has become a common theme, clergy and parishioners also prayed for those who carried out the grisly attacks.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Coptic Church, Egypt, Terrorism

Barna Group–An in Depth look at the “Spiritual but Not Religious”

“I’m spiritual but not religious.” You’ve heard it—maybe even said it—before. But what does it actually mean? Can you be one without the other? Once synonymous, “religious” and “spiritual” have now come to describe seemingly distinct (but sometimes overlapping) domains of human activity. The twin cultural trends of deinstitutionalization and individualism have, for many, moved spiritual practice away from the public rituals of institutional Christianity to the private experience of God within. In this conclusion of a two-part series on faith outside the church (read the first part, on those who “love Jesus but not the church”), Barna takes a close look at the segment of the American population who are “spiritual but not religious.” Who are they? What do they believe? How do they live out their spirituality daily?

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Religion & Culture, Sociology

(CT Gleanings) This Unpaid Pensions Case Could Crush Christian Hospitals

Today the US Supreme Court heard a trio of lawsuits on pension plans at Christian hospital systems. So far, the panel of justices seems torn over whether religiously affiliated employers fall under federal requirements for pension benefits.

Churches are exempt from the US Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), but the current cases challenge whether such standards apply to employers that are affiliated with churches: hospitals, schools, and daycares, for example. Employees who filed the suits argue that the hospitals should comply and, in some cases, pay billions to make up for benefits their workers have missed out on.

The ruling would impact dozens of similar cases, as well as the budgets of a significant slice of America’s healthcare system. (For example, the American Civil Liberties Union found that last year, Catholic hospitals alone provided 1 in 6 patient beds available.)

Read it carefully and read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(First Things) Patrick Deneen–Moral Minority: A Look at Three recent Books on Christians in America

Thirty years later, the mood has changed. Three books have appeared almost simultaneously that assume the opposite of what Falwell believed: America is populated by an immoral majority. Not only is its leadership class dominated by progressive elites, but the American public more generally has been corrupted by constant saturation in a media of skepticism and irony, pervasive consumerism, unavoidable pornography, and incessant distraction fostered by entertainment centers in every person’s pocket. America has lost its faith, and so the faithful have begun to question their belief in America.

Published within months of each other—by a popular blogger and author who has journeyed from Protestantism to agnosticism to Catholicism to Orthodoxy, Rod Dreher; by one of America’s most prominent and intellectually accomplished Catholic bishops, Philadelphia’s Archbishop Charles J. Chaput; and by a Catholic professor of English at Providence College and renowned translator of Dante, Anthony Esolen—the books share the belief that traditional Christians are a moral minority. All three books were written in the midst of a political campaign that was expected to result in the election of Hillary Clinton. All three reflect the pessimism that accompanied that prospect.

The outcome of that election, surprising as it was, does not change the argument of these books: Politics will not save us. What is first of all necessary is to rebuild a culture in disarray. Compared with recovering the basic requirements of virtuous civilization—healthy communities, flourishing family life, sound education, a deep reservoir of cultural memory and practice, and formative religious faith—remaking the Supreme Court is a cinch. Philosophers who have described culture as the first requirement of a healthy civilization, from Plato to Burke to Tocqueville, have generally believed that the most one can consciously strive to achieve is preservation of a healthy culture, should one be fortunate enough to possess one. Once a culture is corrupted from within, however, they saw little hope of reversing its decay.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, Religion & Culture

538–Americans’ Shift To The Suburbs Sped Up Last Year

The suburbanization of America marches on. Population growth in big cities slowed for the fifth-straight year in 2016,1 according to new census data, while population growth accelerated in the more sprawling counties that surround them.

The Census Bureau on Thursday released population estimates for every one of the more than 3,000 counties in the U.S. I grouped those counties into six categories: urban centers of large metropolitan areas; their densely populated suburbs; their lightly populated suburbs; midsize metros; smaller metro areas; and rural counties, which are outside metro areas entirely.

The fastest growth was in those lower-density suburbs. Those counties grew by 1.3 percent in 2016, the fastest rate since 2008, when the housing bust put an end to rapid homebuilding in these areas. In the South and West, growth in large-metro lower-density suburbs topped 2 percent in 2016, led by counties such as Kendall and Comal north of San Antonio; Hays near Austin; and Forsyth, north of Atlanta.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A.

Princeton Seminary Rescinds its Award of the Kuyper Prize to Tim Keller

Dear Members of the Seminary Community,

On March 10 I sent a letter to the seminary community addressing the emerging objections to the Kuyper Center’s invitation to the Reverend Timothy Keller to speak at their annual conference and receive the Kuyper Prize. Those who are concerned point to Reverend Keller’s leadership role in the Presbyterian Church in America, a denomination which prevents women and LGBTQ+ persons from full participation in the ordained Ministry of Word and Sacrament.

As I indicated in my previous letter, it is not my practice to censor the invitations to campus from any of our theological centers or student organizations. This commitment to academic freedom is vital to the critical inquiry and theological diversity of our community. In talking with those who are deeply concerned about Reverend Keller’s visit to campus, I find that most share this commitment to academic freedom. Yet many regard awarding the Kuyper Prize as an affirmation of Reverend Keller’s belief that women and LGBTQ+ persons should not be ordained. This conflicts with the stance of the Presbyterian Church (USA). And it is an important issue among the divided Reformed communions.

I have also had helpful conversations about this with the Chair of the Kuyper Committee, the Chair of the Board of Trustees, and Reverend Keller. In order to communicate that the invitation to speak at the upcoming conference does not imply an endorsement of the Presbyterian Church in America’s views about ordination, we have agreed not to award the Kuyper Prize this year.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Evangelicals, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education, Sexuality

(JE) Opposing Tim Keller at Princeton Seminary

Unfailingly thoughtful and cerebral, frequently appearing in secular media as a religious and cultural commentator, Keller is one of the most influential pastors and Christian thinkers in America today. He is a guru of the rebirth of urban evangelical Protestant Christianity. His theology like his denomination’s is orthodox and Reformed. Keller typically avoids culture war issues and hot button debates. He affirms traditional Christian sexual ethics and marriage teaching but rarely speaks about it. His churches are full of New Yorkers who are socially liberal but drawn to his intellectually vibrant presentation of Christianity.

One Princeton graduate, a minister in the liberal Presbyterian Church (USA), has been quoted in The Christian Post denouncing Keller’s scheduled appearance at her alma mater in her blog, which declares:

…An institution designed to train men and women for ministry shouldn’t be awarding fancy prizes to someone who believes half the student body (or is it more than half?) has no business leading churches. It’s offensive and, as I have taught my four and five year olds to express, it hurts my feelings.

She also complains that “he (and the denomination he serves) is also very clear in its exclusion of LGBT people.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Evangelicals, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education

(PD) Nathaniel Peters–Not Benedictine Enough: Rod Dreher’s Diagnosis and Prescription for American Christianity

Benedictines were grammarians. They cared deeply about words and their meanings and usage. Instead of calling Leah Libresco Sargeant an “effervescent Benedict Option social entrepreneur” they would recognize her for what she is: a Christian with a gift for hospitality and community-building. Sargeant notes that this kind of hospitality is not new, and neither is the Benedict Option:

People are like, ‘This Benedict Option thing, it’s just being Christian, right?’ And I’m like, “Yes! You’ve figured out the koan!” But people won’t do it unless you call it something different. It’s just the church being what the church is supposed to be, but if you give it a name, that makes people care.

She’s right about what is best about the Benedict Option—it’s just Christianity. But she’s wrong about the effect of the name. The Benedict Option is not a mystery designed to break open the mind; it’s a catchphrase that expresses a feeling of alarm and an intuited need for redirection. If the Benedict Option is just Christianity, it is neither inherently Benedictine nor is it optional. If it is a feeling and intuition, it needs to be guided by careful, prudent thought so that it bears good fruit. Dreher describes the question facing today’s Christians as “not whether to quit politics entirely, but how to exercise political power prudently, especially in an unstable political culture.” But that has always been the question facing Christians—and it is one to which Dreher never offers a clear answer.

These reservations aside, many readers will find Dreher’s counsel on practical spiritual matters helpful, even as they wish for clarity in his argument. Living the Christian faith intently in communities has been the heart—and challenge—of Christianity from the beginning. For like the monastic life, the Christian life has one ultimate goal: quaerere Deum—to seek God.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, Religion & Culture

(Coloradoan) A hidden horror: Heroin deaths rise fourfold in Colorado since 2002

Rebecca Waechter doesn’t need to listen to people talk about heroin and prescription opioid addiction to understand its far-reaching effects. She need only remember the night she almost died of an overdose in a friend’s Fort Collins bathroom.

Nine years after that near-death experience, the 35-year-old Loveland resident remains painfully acquainted with addiction’s deadly toll. As she sifts through a small binder stuffed with wrinkled letters and old photos of friends and lovers alike, she utters a phrase no amount of practice makes easier: “no longer with us.”

She’s lost track of the toll, though she estimates losing more than a dozen friends and loved ones to the deadly grip of opioid addiction.

“It’s terrifying to me,” Waechter said, her voice tinged with frustration over the ignorance in places like Fort Collins of the prevalence of opioid and narcotic abuse. “It is next door. It’s everywhere. It’s here.

“You don’t need to travel anywhere to get it. It is everywhere. And it’s cheap and just readily accessible. And people aren’t aware.”

Read it all (my emphasis).

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