Category : America/U.S.A.

In Flanders Fields for Rememberance Day and Veterans Days 2017

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

–Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)

In thanksgiving for all those who gave their lives for this country in years past, and for those who continue to serve–KSH.

P.S. The circumstances which led to this remarkable poem are well worth remembering:

It is a lasting legacy of the terrible battle in the Ypres salient in the spring of 1915 and to the war in general. McCrea had spent seventeen days treating injured men — Canadians, British, French, and Germans in the Ypres salient. McCrae later wrote: “I wish I could embody on paper some of the varied sensations of that seventeen days… Seventeen days of Hades! At the end of the first day if anyone had told us we had to spend seventeen days there, we would have folded our hands and said it could not have been done.” The next day McCrae witnessed the burial of a good friend, Lieut. Alexis Helmer. Later that day, sitting on the back of an ambulance parked near the field dressing station, McCrea composed the poem. A young NCO, delivering mail, watched him write it. When McCrae finished writing, he took his mail from the soldier and, without saying a word, handed his pad to the Sergeant-major. Cyril Allinson was moved by what he read: “The poem was exactly an exact description of the scene in front of us both. He used the word blow in that line because the poppies actually were being blown that morning by a gentle east wind. It never occurred to me at that time that it would ever be published. It seemed to me just an exact description of the scene.” Colonel McCrae was dissatisfied with the poem, and tossed it away. A fellow officer retrieved it and sent it to newspapers in England. The Spectator, in London, rejected it, but Punch published it on 8 December 1915. For his contributions as a surgeon, the main street in Wimereaux is named “Rue McCrae”.

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

(WS) A Must-not-Miss from Mary Eberstadt–The Primal Scream of Identity Politics


The founding document of identity politics, in other words, reflects reality as many African American women would have found it in the 1970s—one in which they were the canaries in the coal mine of the sexual revolution. It’s a world in which men are ever less trusted, relations between the sexes are chronically estranged, and marriage is thin on the ground. African American women were—and still are—disproportionately affected by aspects of the sexual revolution like abortion, out-of-wedlock births, and fatherless homes. Isn’t it suggestive that the earliest collective articulation of identity politics came from the community that was first to suffer from the accelerated fraying of family ties, a harbinger of what came next for all?

Identity politics cannot be understood apart from the preceding and concomitant social fact of family implosion. The year before the Combahee document’s publication—1976—was a watershed of a sort. The out-of-wedlock birth rate for black Americans tipped over the 50-percent mark (the 1965 Moynihan Report worried over a rate half as high). This rate has kept climbing and exceeded 70 percent in 2016. At the same time, other measures indicating the splintering of the nuclear and extended family expanded too. By 2012, Millennial women—who were then under the age of 30—exhibited for the first time the out-of-wedlock birth rate of black women in 1976: i.e., more than 50 percent. Millennials, of course, are the demographic backbone of identity politics.

And the out-of-wedlock birth rate is just one measure of the unprecedented disruption of the family over the last half-century-plus. Consider, just in passing, the impact of abortion. In 2008, the Guttmacher Institute reported that 61 percent of women terminating pregnancies were already mothers of at least one child. Many children—and many grown children—have been deprived of potential siblings via pregnancy termination.

Abortion, like single motherhood, is only one engine of a phenomenon that has come to characterize more and more American lives during the past half-century: what might be called the “family, interrupted.”

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Psychology, Theology

(The Atlantic) The Quiet Religious-Freedom Fight over Zoning Laws That Is Remaking America

A Church outgrows its building. It finds a vacant warehouse in a middle-class neighborhood, close to the highway and convenient for its congregants. Mortgage money is raised, plans are drawn up, the sale is approved. All that remains is a technicality: securing a zoning-code exemption.

Three years and two lawsuits later, the church is at last in its new building—and out $1.2 million. It holds services in the lobby because it ran out of money to renovate the room that was to be the sanctuary.

This problem was supposed to be solved. Seventeen years ago, Congress unanimously passed a law, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, to prevent cities and towns from using zoning as a weapon against groups that want space to worship. At the time, everyone cheered a rare moment of legislative success. In practice, though, few congregations have the time, knowledge, money, or energy to pursue the legal process set up by RLUIPA, leaving many in a desperate limbo with no place to pray.

By the time they take on a zoning challenge, many religious groups are already struggling to find and retain members, and to get by on shoestring budgets. Without an adequate place to gather, they miss opportunities to assemble in study, service, and prayer. The stakes are high for towns, too. Churches, synagogues, and mosques influence life well outside their walls: People who belong to religious institutions are more civically engaged than their secular neighbors. They are more likely to serve on school boards, volunteer at charities, and join clubs. In the absence of these institutions, communities can become fractured and isolated. Neighborly infrastructure decays…

Read it all.

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

(NYT) In Places of Worship Scarred by Bullets, Long Memories and Shared Pain

The worshipers, hundreds of them, had gathered Sunday for the afternoon meal in the vast, bright dining hall at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, just as they do every Sunday.

But before long, the happy din of the congregants was interrupted by a grim bulletin from Texas. People pushed away their plates of cauliflower and rice as the horrific news chirped across their cellphones. A gunman in a house of God. Multiple fatalities. Multiple injuries.

The Sikh temple was 1,300 miles and worlds away from the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Tex. But at the temple, where a mass shooting left six dead five years ago, it felt sickeningly familiar, as it had at congregations in South Carolina and Tennessee and New York, places on the grim list of religious congregations that have become victims of gun violence. As different as they are, they share both a tragic past and a continuing struggle to move beyond it.

“Every time this happens, we feel the pain again,” said Harjinder Singh, a priest, as he sat in the quiet temple on Tuesday. “It is like when you have a bandage on your body, and it is ripped away.”

Read it all.

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

(Baltimore Sun) Maryland churches ponder security in wake of Texas shooting: ‘This evil can happen anywhere’

The Rev. Alvin C. Hathaway says it’s the duty of any church to do all it can to ensure the safety of its congregants, so he has long had security cameras in place throughout Union Baptist Church in West Baltimore.

But after yet another mass shooting left 26 people dead at a Texas church Sunday — the worst such incident at a place of worship in American history — the church and community leader is feeling a special urgency.

Hathaway was hard at work Monday on an email to other local religious leaders to urge action across denominational lines on matters of security.

“It’s tragic to think that this anger, this violence, is now invading our sacred spaces, the places where we try to foster peace and reflection, especially in a country that espouses religious freedom,” he says. “But this is clearly a fact of life now. We must think about security over and against our freedoms.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Violence

The President Of U.S. Conference Of Catholic Bishops Responds To the Mass Shooting In Texas

from here:

“Earlier today, we heard of the mass shooting at the Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. With Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, I extend my prayers and the prayers of my brother bishops for the victims, the families, the first responders, our Baptist brothers and sisters, indeed the whole community of Sutherland Springs. We stand in unity with you in this time of terrible tragedy—as you stand on holy ground, ground marred today by horrific violence.

We ask the Lord for healing of those injured, His loving care of those who have died and the consolation of their families.

This incomprehensibly tragic event joins an ever-growing list of mass shootings, some of which were also at Churches while people were worshipping and at prayer. We must come to the firm determination that there is a fundamental problem in our society. A Culture of Life cannot tolerate, and must prevent, senseless gun violence in all its forms. May the Lord, who Himself is Peace, send us His Spirit of charity and nonviolence to nurture His peace among us all.”

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

(NYT) Sutherland Springs, Texas Church Shooting Leaves at Least 26 Dead, Officials Say

A gunman clad in all black, with a ballistic vest strapped to his chest and a military-style rifle in his hands, opened fire on parishioners at a Sunday service at a small Baptist church in rural Texas, killing at least 26 people and turning this tiny town east of San Antonio into the scene of the country’s newest mass horror.

The gunman was identified as Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, according to two law enforcement officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was continuing. Mr. Kelley, who lived in New Braunfels, Tex., died shortly after the attack.

He had served in the Air Force at a base in New Mexico but was court-martialed in 2012 on charges of assaulting his wife and child. He was sentenced to 12 months’ confinement and received a “bad conduct” discharge in 2014, according to Ann Stefanek, the chief of Air Force media operations.

The motive for the attack was unclear on Sunday, but the grisly nature of it could not have been clearer: Families gathered in pews, clutching Bibles and praying to the Lord, were murdered in cold blood on the spot.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Violence

(TGC) How America’s Largest White Presbyterian Church Became Multiethnic

Within 20 years, Hope was the largest church in Memphis, regularly drawing 7,000 worshipers each weekend. But in a city that was nearly 60 percent black, less than 1 percent of them were African American.

At first, Hope reflected its neighborhood. The city to Hope’s south—Germantown—was 93 percent white in 2000, and 90 percent white in 2010. But its county—Shelby—fell from 47 percent white in 2000 to 41 percent white in 2010. And Cordova, the small suburb where Hope sits, dropped from nearly all white in 1988 to 68 percent white in 2010.

So Strickland and Morris set out to do what had never successfully been done before—to convert a white megachurch into a multiracial congregation.

They’re doing it.

Today, one out of five people who attends Hope is black. Of the 106 staff, 18 are nonwhite—including the senior pastor. The congregation sings hymns, contemporary Christian, and black gospel. Members work in predominantly black, underresourced neighborhoods in north Memphis together through Hope’s community development corporation. They attend biannual three-day urban plunges and regularly spend eight weeks eating dinner with someone of another ethnicity.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Evangelism and Church Growth, Parish Ministry, Presbyterian, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

(Marketwatch) 1 in 2 U.S. millennials say they would rather live in a socialist or communist country than a capitalist democracy

According to the latest survey from the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, a D.C.-based nonprofit, one in two U.S. millennials say they would rather live in a socialist or communist country than a capitalist democracy.

What’s more, 22% of them have a favorable view of Karl Marx and a surprising number see Joseph Stalin and Kim Jong Un as “heroes.”

Really, that’s what the numbers show.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., History, Sociology, Young Adults

(Wash Po) Ryan Danker–Historic church should rethink Washington, Lee plaque removals

The plaques on the walls of Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia, commemorate famous Americans who at one time called the Episcopal parish their own: George Washington and Robert E. Lee.

As a church historian, I believe the vestry’s recent decision to remove the memorials – as well as their forebears’ decision to put them up in the first place – disregards the true purpose of Christians’ commemoration of the dead.

From the very start of the Christian faith, believers have remembered the “great cloud of witnesses” who came before them. During the third century, the church in North Africa regularly commemorated early martyrs on the anniversary of their death – the origin of saints’ days.

Whether honored through holidays or monuments, the church still recognized the complexity of the human situation and never expected perfection from these early saints. Scripture and church history provided plenty of evidence of their shortcomings: Paul’s thorn in his flesh, Peter’s denial of Christ, Augustine’s lust, Thomas Aquinas’ borderline gluttony, Martin Luther’s anti-Semitic tendencies, John Calvin’s use of capital punishment, and John Wesley’s failed marriage.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Church History, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Office of the President, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, TEC Parishes

(NYT) At Least 8 Killed in Terror Attack as Truck Careens Down Bike Path in Manhattan

Eight people were killed when a man drove 20 blocks down a bike path beside the Hudson River in Lower Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon before he crashed his pickup truck, jumped out with fake guns and was shot by a police officer, the authorities said.

Federal authorities were treating the incident as a terrorist attack and were taking the lead in the investigation, a senior law enforcement official said. Two law enforcement officials said that after the attacker got out of the truck, he was heard yelling, “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is great.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference, “Based on information we have at this moment, this was an act of terror, and a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians.”

Read it all and join us in praying tonight for New York City.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Police/Fire, Religion & Culture, Terrorism, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(Scientific American) Dissolve the Dead? Controversy Swirls around Liquid Cremation

Proponents note that traditional cremation is trending upward in the U.S. In 2015 more people in this country were burned than put in the ground for the first time, according to a report by the National Funeral Directors Association. This fad is driven in part by price: A fire cremation usually costs less than a third of a burial, according to an industry report by market research firm IBISWorld. It also saves on some natural resources; a burial requires land as well as the stone, steel, cloth and wood used to make the casket and gravestone.

Some see alkaline hydrolysis—versions of which go by the names biocremation, aquamation and resomation—as the next big thing for those who want to make an environmentally friendly exit.

The technique has its origins in an 1888 patent for making fertilizer and gelatin, which describes dissolving animal parts in an alkaline solution such as potassium hydroxide. In the 1990s two researchers began disposing of lab animals this way at Albany Medical College in New York State. Their work informed the construction of the first machine that could handle a single human body, built by a company called WR2 and first used in the Mayo Clinic’s anatomical bequest program in Rochester, Minn., in 2006.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Energy, Natural Resources, Eschatology, History, Other Faiths, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Secularism

David Brooks–The American Narrative informed by Scripture is being turned into an anti-biblical zero-sum struggle of class and ethnic conflict

The American social structure, as [Jonathan] Sacks notes, was based on biblical categories. There was a political realm, but the heart of society was in the covenantal realm: “marriages, families, congregations, communities, charities and voluntary associations.”

America’s Judeo-Christian ethic celebrated neighborliness over pagan combativeness; humility as the basis of good character, not narcissism. It believed in taking in the stranger because we were all strangers once. It dreamed of universal democracy as the global fulfillment of the providential plan.

That biblical ethic, embraced by atheists as much as the faithful, is not in great shape these days. As Sacks notes: “Today, one half of America is losing all those covenantal institutions. It’s losing strong marriages and families and communities. It is losing a strong sense of the American narrative. It’s even losing e pluribus unum because today everyone prefers pluribus to unum.…”

Trump and Bannon have filled the void with their own creed, which is anti-biblical. The American story they tell is not diverse people journeying toward a united future. It’s a zero-sum struggle of class and ethnic conflict. The traits Trump embodies are narcissism, not humility; combativeness, not love; the sanctification of the rich and blindness toward the poor.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

(The Hill) George Washington’s Virginia church taking down his memorial

A church attended by George Washington will take down a memorial to the nation’s first president, a move church leaders say is intended to make the place of worship more welcoming.

The Washington Times reported Friday that Christ Church in Alexandria, Va., will remove memorials of Washington and former Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, which stand on either side of the church’s altar.

“The plaques in our sanctuary make some in our presence feel unsafe or unwelcome,” church leaders said. “Some visitors and guests who worship with us choose not to return because they receive an unintended message from the prominent presence of the plaques.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Episcopal Church (TEC), History, Office of the President, Parish Ministry

Ed Stetzer–The Great Divide (in the Church) in 2016, and Why It Still Matters

Our values as Christians come from a Holy Spirit-led understanding of scripture, not a political platform.

Our leader is Christ, not an elected official. Our family is the Church, not a political party. We can easily agree with this while reading a blog, but are we living the principle out in the Church and public spaces? Is our unity found in our political ideology, or in the faith that has been passed down through the centuries? Is our identity found in who we are in Christ, or is it found in how we pulled the lever for last November?

This is important to remember at all times, but especially in the face of other facts that can easily make us forget the truth of who we are and how we are to interact with each other and the world around us.
There have been more than a few divisions in the Church over the last couple of thousand years. In fact, some people only see the Church in light of these divisions. They point to our differences and denominational lines and ridicule us because we can’t seem to get along. In some ways, these division, for better or for worse, have defined us. We are in a spiritual battle. Conflict is to be expected.

A decent amount of the New Testament is dedicated to conflict resolution and dealing with issues that divide. So it isn’t that division must destroy us, but rather that we are to overcome with unity. And unity does not mean uniformity.

Read it all.

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