Category : America/U.S.A.

(NPR) To Understand How Religion Shapes America, Look To Its Early Days

America’s exceptional commitment to religious freedom stems from the diversity of its faith traditions. The rebellious attitudes prevalent in frontier settlements fostered the growth of evangelical movements. African slaves introduced Islam to America. The drive to abolish slavery was led largely by Christian preachers.

“We can’t tell the story of America without telling the story of religion,” Manseau says, “and we can’t answer questions about the importance of religion today without going back to earlier generations.”

Manseau’s appointment as curator and his inaugural Religion in Early America exhibit signal “the beginning of a renewed engagement with the role of religion in American history,” according to John L. Gray, the museum director. Each of the objects in Manseau’s exhibit adds a special dimension to the larger narrative.

Read or listen to it all.

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

(WGBH) Boston Posters Produced to Fight Against abuse of Islamic citizens generates Discussion

The cartoon guide recommends that the bystander engage in non-confrontational behavior to diffuse a potentially unsafe situation for the person being harassed. It shows the bystander choosing to sit next to a woman in a hijab who initially appeared uncomfortable around a man leaning toward her on the bus.

The cartoon’s author, Maeril, encouraged onlookers to use the guide not only for diffusing Islamophobic harassment, but for any other type of harassment as well. Suzan El-Rayess, the civic engagement director at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, agreed.

“We encourage all of our fellow Bostonians to apply the approach in these posters to anyone targeted — whether Muslim, Latino or otherwise,” El-Rayess told the AP.

Elise Whitney, 28, thought that the poster may have the opposite intended effect and attract more unwanted attention toward hijab wearers.

Read it all.

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

Neil Young–“Evangelical” Is Not a Political Term-a review of The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America by Frances FitzGerald

As the wide swath of American evangelicalism becomes increasingly flattened into the Christian Right and its opponents, the vibrancy and vitality that marked the first half of The Evangelicals steadily lessens. FitzGerald devotes lengthy sections to events like Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial and the 2008 Republican primaries, but such explorations highlight how much of the lived experience of modern evangelicalism is missing. Aside from Pentecostalism, evangelical worship receives scant attention yet it is significant how much the worship experience has changed for conservative Protestants over the last 50 years. Beginning with the Jesus People in the 1960s and soon spreading through the burgeoning nondenominational churches of the West Coast, contemporary Christian music (CCM) and a relaxed worship style has remade Sunday services for all evangelicals, from Southern Baptists to Anglicans. Mainline Protestants have often tut-tutted the informality of evangelical worship, but the casualization of conservative churches has helped strengthen evangelical identity in part by further underscoring the basic evangelical premise that the Christian faith is not some Sunday morning ritual but an entire way of being.

FitzGerald comments that Joel Hunter grew his Northland Church in Orlando from 200 members to 5,000 in a decade (and more than 10,000 today) “because of its worship services.” (Hunter, it should be noted, is on the national advisory board of the Danforth Center on Religion and Politics, which publishes this journal.) His church’s stunning rate of growth is shared by hundreds of evangelical congregations around the country over the last thirty years, but FitzGerald dwells instead on Hunter’s un-conservative politics and his “challenge [of] the Christian right,” as if that is what has made him one of the most important names in contemporary evangelicalism.

At the close of her introduction to The Evangelicals, FitzGerald writes, “the Christian right no longer dominated evangelical discourse” by 2016. It’s a throwaway line, perhaps, but an entirely revealing one. The Christian Right—nor politics in general—has never dominated evangelical discourse. Imagining so betrays an inability (or unwillingness) to fully understand the complex and varied lives of American evangelicals and, importantly, what matters most to them. Even as an author of a recent history of the Christian Right, I would still stress how low nearly all evangelicals rank politics on their list of priorities. Instead, they pray for their children’s salvation and focus on their own spiritual development. They devote themselves to running their churches and participating in community Bible studies. They volunteer with local ministries and send spare dollars to relief work in Africa. They labor each day with the tension of being in this world but not of it. Evangelicals do all of this out of the desire not only to strengthen their personal faith but also with the hope that they might make some difference in their sphere of influence, however small it might be. For evangelicals, that is the real “struggle to shape America,” and it takes place far beyond the rare moments they find themselves in a voting booth in November.

Read it all.

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

(CT) How Immigrants Are Reshaping American Missions

The economic and prayer engine powering Valentin’s ministry is an unmarked storefront where visitors enter through a back door in an industrial alley, the only door with a welcome mat.

Mario’s church, Ministerio a la Luz de la Palabra, is in East Compton, where the paint fades and weeds push unopposed through the sidewalks. The congregation leases, for a steal, a strip-mall theater that had all but burned to the ground before volunteers gutted it in 2008 and remade it into a house of worship.

It’s the sixth location in 20 years for the Assemblies of God church, common for majority-immigrant churches buffeted by Southern California’s atmospheric real estate prices. “We can’t keep one zip code,” Mario said. By his estimate, 90 percent of his 200-member congregation is undocumented, mostly from El Salvador and Mexico. The average household income is $20,000. Four families own homes.

Mario, 44, holds a doctor of ministry degree from Fuller Theological Seminary and likens his church to the church in Antioch, scattered by persecution but serving neighbors near and far. It has fueled the ministries in El Salvador while simultaneously developing local outreach efforts. The church’s food bank draws a line of beneficiaries stretching down the alley every Saturday. “The weird thing is, we don’t have money,” he said. “If we’re here, it’s because the Lord opened the door for us to be here.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Immigration, Missions

(BBC) Why are Iraqi Christians facing deportation from US?

More than 100 Iraqi Christians in Michigan are fighting deportation after being arrested in an immigration crackdown ordered by the Trump administration.

Read and watch it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Foreign Relations, Iraq, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Violence

Warren Hicks reviews “A Well of Wonder: Essays on C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien and the Inklings” by Clyde Kilby

A Well of Wonder introduces the reader to the relationships that Mr. Kilby had with Lewis and Tolkien that led him to pursue the project of gathering their papers and that of other of the Inklings into what would become the Marion F. Wade Center at Wheaton College in Illinois. This repository of primary source material including manuscripts and handwritten and typed correspondence among and by Lewis, Tolkien, Dorothy Sayers, Charles Williams, Owen Barfield and G. K. Chesterton has become the fruit of what Kilby describes as, “nothing less than a movement of the Holy Spirit.”

The collection of essays by Kilby are chiefly focused on his relationship and visits with Lewis, Tolkien and Barfield. These essays in some ways trace the story of the Wade Center and Kilby’s role in its establishment.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, Church History, England / UK, Evangelicals

(NPR) ‘How To Be A Muslim’ Author On Being A Spokesperson For His Faith

Growing up in New England as a first-generation Pakistani-American, Haroon Moghul was taught that practicing his Islamic faith would make life his better. What he didn’t anticipate was how challenging it could be to be Muslim in America.

In 2001, Moghul was the student leader of New York University’s Islamic Center when the Sept. 11 attacks occurred. Shortly thereafter, he was called upon to be a spokesperson for the Muslim community in New York — a role he describes as both a “civic responsibility” and a “tremendous burden.”

“It’s really hard,” he says. “Being Muslim can be a limiting factor where you’re shackled to what people do in the name of Islam in different parts of the world, including here in the United States.”

Read (or listen to) it all.

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

A Citadel historian explains how the Revolutionary War was unique down South

Has South Carolina’s role in the Revolutionary War been overlooked?

Most historians of the American Revolution understand that the southern theater, and the southern campaigns in particular, were truly decisive in creating the circumstances for the ultimate British defeat. … The significance of the southern campaigns has not always gotten the degree of attention that it truly deserves. The work that’s come out in the past decades has really changed that previous neglect of the southern story.

Why has the North’s role received more attention?

There are a few reasons, actually. One is the presence of George Washington. With the exception of the siege of Yorktown in 1781, he didn’t command in the southern theater. Also, for much of the war, the northern or the middle theaters really were the focal point of the main army’s efforts. It wasn’t until late in the conflict that the British shifted the bulk of their military efforts to the Carolinas, but that arguably was the most decisive phase of the war. The British staked so much on obtaining victory in the southern colonies late in the war.

How did your new book set out to continue that shift of appreciating the South’s role in the war?

In the southern theater, this is where the British attempted for the first time in the war a true wide-scale pacification effort. … This was a really major undertaking on the part of the British — to attempt to control, under force of arms, such a huge swath of territory.

Read it all from the local paper.

Posted in * South Carolina, America/U.S.A., Military / Armed Forces

(IFS) Infidelity is *down* among young adults, *up* among older adults

Enshrined in the Ten Commandments, the adultery taboo has persisted throughout human history. According to the past 30 years of the General Social Survey (GSS), three out of every four American adults aver that extramarital sex is always wrong. At the other end of the spectrum, under three percent of the population thinks extramarital sex isn’t wrong at all. The number of Americans who report actually having sex outside the bonds of matrimony has held relatively steady, at around 16 percent. Annual fluctuations have been minor, rarely exceeding more than a percentage point in either direction. At first glace, it seems like America has made up its mind about extramarital sex.

But the broader trend has obscured startling changes: since 2000, older Americans are cheating more, while younger Americans are cheating less. These numbers are derived from GSS responses to this survey item: “Have you ever had sex with someone other than your husband or wife while you were married?” Survey respondents have been asked this question in each survey wave since 1991.

The growing age gap in extramarital sex is depicted in Figure 1, below. For the first few years of the millennium, there were scant age differences. Starting after 2004, Americans over 55 began reporting rates of extramarital sex that were about five or six percentage points higher than were being offered by younger adults. By 2016, 20% of older respondents indicated that their marriages were nominally adulterous, compared to 14% for people under 55. Most married Americans remain committed to monogamy, but the mounting age difference is noteworthy and statistically significant. Additional analysis suggests that the age difference cannot be explained by fundamental sociodemographic differences between respondents, including sex, age, race/ethnicity, or education.

Read it all.

Posted in Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., Marriage & Family, Middle Age, Sociology, Young Adults

(Local Paper) Visitors laud Charleston airport tribute to Emanuel AME Church shooting victims

Surrounded by eloquent words and somber images, Rayna Kneuper Hall of Mount Pleasant moves among the exhibits at Charleston International Airport set up in memory to the nine victims of the Emanuel AME Church shooting.

“It’s a beautiful tribute to the people and their families,” the part-time hospice worker said recently while showing the site to her friend’s 3-year-son, Edward Austin. “It’s so moving.”

She added, “It helps me remember the forgiveness and grace that the families showed as a natural reaction after the tragedy. … It made me so honored to be a Charlestonian.”

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, America/U.S.A., Church History, History, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

Joyce Lee Malcolm for July 4, 2017–‘Wonderfully Spared’

‘You and I have been wonderfully spared,” Thomas Jefferson wrote John Adams in 1812….”

It’s easy now, in a nation awash with complaints about what our Founders did not do, what imperfect humans they seem to 21st century eyes, to overlook how startlingly bold their views and actions were in their own day and are, in fact, even today. Who else in 1776 declared, let alone thought it a self-evident truth, that all men were created equal, entitled to inalienable rights, or to any rights at all? How few declare these views today or, glibly declaring them, really intend to treat their countrymen or others as equal, entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

Certainly not America’s 20th century enemies, the Nazis and communists; certainly not today’s Islamic radicals, who consider infidels unworthy to live and the faithful bound by an ancient and brutal code of law. We are fortunate that the Founders of our nation were enlightened, generous, jealous of their rights and those of their countrymen, and prepared to risk everything to create a free republic.

Breaking with Britain was a risky and distressing venture; could the American colonies go it alone and survive in a world of great European powers?

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History

Long, Too Long America

Long, too long America,
Traveling roads all even and peaceful you learn’d from joys and
prosperity only,
But now, ah now, to learn from crises of anguish, advancing,
grappling with direst fate and recoiling not,
And now to conceive and show to the world what your children
en-masse really are,
(For who except myself has yet conceiv’d what your children en-masse
really are?)

–Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

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

A Look Back to 2006: Andrew J. Bacevich–Twilight of the Republic? Seeds of Decline, Path to Renewal

Seeking an escape from our predicament through further expansion points toward bankruptcy and the dismantling of what remains of the American republic. Genuine pragmatism-and the beginning of wisdom-lies in paying less attention to “the way that they live” and more attention to the way we do. Ultimately, conditions within American society determine the prospects of American liberty. As early multiculturalist Randolph Bourne observed nearly a century ago, ensuring that authentic freedom will flourish at home demands that we attend in the first instance to “cultivating our own garden.” This does not imply assuming a posture of isolationism, although neoconservative and neoliberal proponents of the global “war on terror” will be quick to level that charge. Let us spare no effort to track down those who attacked us on 9/11, beginning with Osama bin Laden, still at large more than five years later. But let us give up once and for all any pretensions about an “indispensable nation” summoned to exercise “benign global hegemony” in the midst of a uniquely opportune “unipolar moment.” For too long now these narcissistic and fallacious claims, the source of the pretensions expressed by President Bush since September 2001, have polluted our discussion of foreign policy, and thereby prevented us from seeing ourselves as we are. Cultivating our own garden begins with taking stock of ourselves. Thoughtful critics have for decades been calling for just such a critical self-examination. Among the very first canaries to venture into the deteriorating mineshaft of postwar American culture was the writer Flannery O’Connor. “If you live today,” she observed with characteristic bluntness a half-century ago, “you breathe in nihilism.” O’Connor correctly diagnosed the disease and other observers bore witness to its implications. Her fellow Southerner Walker Percy wondered if freedom American-style was not simply becoming the “last and inalienable possession in a sick society.” The social critic Christopher Lasch derided “the ideology of progress” manipulated by elites contemptuous of the ethnic, social, and religious traditions to which ordinary folk subscribed. Lasch foresaw an impending “dark night of the soul.” From his vantage point, Robert Nisbet detected the onset of what he called “a twilight age,” marked by “a sense of cultural decay, erosion of institutions…and constantly increasing centralization-and militarization-of power.” In such an age, he warned, “representative and liberal institutions of government slip into patterns ever more imperial in character….Over everything hangs the specter of war.” Towering above them all was Pope John Paul II who, in a message clearly directed toward Americans, pointedly cautioned that a democracy bereft of values “easily turns into a thinly disguised totalitarianism.” Our own self-induced confusion about freedom, reflected in our debased culture and our disordered economy, increases our susceptibility to this totalitarian temptation even as it deadens our awareness of the danger it poses. Escaping its clutches will require something more than presidents intoning clichés about America’s historic mission while launching crusades against oil-rich tyrants on the other side of the globe.

We are in difficult straits and neither arms (already fully committed) nor treasure (just about used up) will get us out. Our corrupt age requires reformation. Shedding or at least discrediting the spurious conceptions of freedom to which Americans have lately fallen prey qualifies as a large task. Still, when compared to the megalomania of those who under the guise of “eliminating tyranny” are intent on remaking the entire Islamic world, the restoration of our own culture appears to be a positively modest goal. At the end of the day, as William Pfaff has observed, “The only thing we can remake is ourselves.” And who knows? Should we, as a consequence of such a reformation, actually live up to our professed ideals-restoring to American freedom something of the respect that it once commanded-we may yet become, in some small way, a model worthy of emulation.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A.

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: It was the Flag of the Union

“Today we stand on an awful arena, where character which was the growth of centuries was tested and determined by the issues of a single day. We are compassed about by a cloud of witnesses; not alone the shadowy ranks of those who wrestled here, but the greater parties of the action–they for whom these things were done. Forms of thought rise before us, as in an amphitheatre, circle beyond circle, rank above rank; The State, The Union, The People. And these are One. Let us–from the arena, contemplate them–the spiritual spectators.

“There is an aspect in which the question at issue might seem to be of forms, and not of substance. It was, on its face, a question of government. There was a boastful pretence that each State held in its hands the death-warrant of the Nation; that any State had a right, without show of justification outside of its own caprice, to violate the covenants of the constitution, to break away from the Union, and set up its own little sovereignty as sufficient for all human purposes and ends; thus leaving it to the mere will or whim of any member of our political system to destroy the body and dissolve the soul of the Great People. This was the political question submitted to the arbitrament of arms. But the victory was of great politics over small. It was the right reason, the moral consciousness and solemn resolve of the people rectifying its wavering exterior lines according to the life-lines of its organic being.
“There is a phrase abroad which obscures the legal and moral questions involved in the issue,–indeed, which falsifies history: “The War between the States”. There are here no States outside of the Union. Resolving themselves out of it does not release them. Even were they successful in intrenching themselves in this attitude, they would only relapse into territories of the United States. Indeed several of the States so resolving were never in their own right either States or Colonies; but their territories were purchased by the common treasury of the Union. Underneath this phrase and title,–“The War between the States”–lies the false assumption that our Union is but a compact of States. Were it so, neither party to it could renounce it at his own mere will or caprice. Even on this theory the States remaining true to the terms of their treaty, and loyal to its intent, would have the right to resist force by force, to take up the gage of battle thrown down by the rebellious States, and compel them to return to their duty and their allegiance. The Law of Nations would have accorded the loyal States this right and remedy.

“But this was not our theory, nor our justification. The flag we bore into the field was not that of particular States, no matter how many nor how loyal, arrayed against other States. It was the flag of the Union, the flag of the people, vindicating the right and charged with the duty of preventing any factions, no matter how many nor under what pretence, from breaking up this common Country.

“It was the country of the South as well as of the North. The men who sought to dismember it, belonged to it. Its was a larger life, aloof from the dominance of self-surroundings; but in it their truest interests were interwoven. They suffered themselves to be drawn down from the spiritual ideal by influences of the physical world. There is in man that peril of the double nature. “But I see another law”, says St. Paul. “I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind.”

–Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (1828-1914). The remarks here are from Chamberlain’s address at the general dedicatory exercises in the evening in the court house in Gettsyburg on the occasion of the dedication of the Maine monuments. It took place on October 3, 1889. For those who are history buffs you can see an actual program of the events there (on page 545)–KSH.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Military / Armed Forces

(CT) Matt Reynolds–You Have God’s Blessing to Say ‘God Bless America’

Anyone reborn of the Holy Spirit will naturally lament, with inward groans and outward cries, all the brokenness afflicting “the whole world—and everyone in it.” But a prayer aspiring to everything has a subtle way of shrinking to nothing. For all the hazards of praying “God bless America,” and for all the other prayers we ought to pray, it remains a prayer for something real and tangible.

Not every Christian will fit the “patriotic” profile, at least in its conventional sense. Maybe you think fondly of your native land but feel called to the mission field. Maybe your country has wronged you grievously, and genuine affection sounds preposterous. And frankly, maybe you just aren’t wired to tear up when the national anthem rings out or the flag ripples in the breeze.

But as long as we have nations, we’re going to need people willing to look after their welfare. In Jeremiah 29:5–7, the prophet relays God’s message to the Jews taken captive in Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters. . . . Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.”

As exiles ourselves (1 Pet. 2:11), it’s hard to improve on this mission statement.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Religion & Culture, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology