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Saturday Food for Thought from JC Ryle–‘One plague of our age is this widespread dislike…of dogmatic theology’

The thing that we all need to save us from eternal death is not merely Christ’s incarnation and life, but Christ’s death. The atoning “blood” which Christ shed when He died, is the grand secret of salvation. It is the blood of the second Adam suffering in our stead, which alone can give life or health and peace to all who have the first Adam’s blood in their veins.

I can find no words to express my deep sense of the importance of maintaining in our Church the true doctrine of the blood of Christ. One plague of our age is the widespread dislike of what men are pleased to call dogmatic theology. In place of it, the idol of the day is a kind of jelly-fish Christianity — a Christianity without bone, or muscle, or sinew — without any distinct teaching about the atonement or the work of the Spirit, or justification, or the way of peace with God — a vague, foggy, misty Christianity of which the only watchwords seem to be, “You must be earnest, and real, and true, and brave, and zealous, and liberal, and kind. You must condemn no man’s doctrinal views. You must consider that everybody is right, and nobody is wrong.” And this Creedless kind of religion, we are actually told, is to give us peace of conscience! And not to be satisfied with it in a sorrowful, dying world, is proof that you are very narrow-minded! Satisfied, indeed! Such a religion might possibly do for unfallen angels. But to tell sinful, dying men and women, with the blood of our father Adam in their veins, to be satisfied with it, is an insult to common sense, and a mockery of our distress. We need something far better than this. We need the blood of Christ.

–JC Ryle, The Upper Room: Being a Few Truths for the Times (1888), pp.46-47

Posted in Church History, Theology

For His Feast Day–Clement of Alexandria: To the Newly Baptized

Cultivate quietness in word, quietness in deed, likewise in speech and gait; and avoid impetuous eagerness. For then the mind will remain steady, and will not be agitated by your eagerness and so become weak and of narrow discernment and see darkly; nor will it be worsted by gluttony, worsted by boiling rage, worsted by the other passions, lying a ready prey to them. For the mind, seated on high on a quiet thrown looking intently towards God, must control the passions. By no means be swept away by temper in bursts of anger, nor be sluggish in speaking, nor all nervousness in movement; so that your quitness may be adorned by good proportion and your bearing may appear something divine and sacred. Guard also against the signs of arrogance, a haughty bearing, a lofty head, a dainty and high-treading footstep.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Theology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Clement of Alexandria

O Lord, who didst call thy servant Clement of Alexandria from the errors of ancient philosophy that he might learn and teach the saving Gospel of Christ: Turn thy Church from the conceits of worldly wisdom and, by the Spirit of truth, guide it into all truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Richard Acland

Grant, O Lord, that we who once again prepare for the commemoration of the coming of thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, may so direct our hearts to the fulfillment of thy law, that he may now accept our hosannas, and in the life to come receive us in the heavenly Sion; where with thee and the Holy Ghost he liveth and reigneth, ever one God, world without end.

Posted in Advent, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

Now I know that the LORD will help his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with mighty victories by his right hand. Some boast of chariots, and some of horses; but we boast of the name of the LORD our God. They will collapse and fall; but we shall rise and stand upright. Give victory to the king, O LORD; answer us when we call.

–Psalm 20:6-9

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) Christopher Caldwell–Macron Seeks an Enlightened Islam

Devout Catholics have often chafed under laïcité. But having either lived through or studied the Dreyfus era, they understood laïcité’s historic logic. Today’s young Muslims have no such folk memory. And history has moved on. In 1905, mass movements—socialism above all—were ready to provide antireligious muscle for the state. Today they are weaker, and they face a different religion, one that does not feature “turn the other cheek” among its precepts.

Nor does Islam have any hierarchy through which the state’s commands can efficiently resonate. When Combes told the church to close thousands of schools, bishops obliged. Laïcité requires such institutional interlocutors. Where France once tore down Catholic institutions, it must now build up Muslim ones. The CFCM is one example. As part of his antifundamentalist push, Mr. Macron has called for more Arabic instruction in schools.

The French leaders who invented laïcité knew the church. They were often lapsed Catholics themselves. Now when they sing the praises of an “Islam of the Enlightenment,” one wonders whether this is a realistic prospect or a figment of their ideological imaginations. Muslims may prefer the real Islam they have studied and lived to the licensed, accredited Islam of “Republican values” that Mr. Macron is proposing.

Every Western country has a version of this problem. All our treasured “values” were formulated for a society more uniform and more orderly than today’s. Why do we assume these values will survive diversity? Why does France assume that a system devised to subordinate its historic religion can serve just as well to mediate between its more recent secularism and a (rising) foreign religion? For a long time laïcité has rested less on its own logic than on the forbearance of its citizens. Under conditions of globalization, mass migration and the ethnic and religious recomposition of that citizenry, such forbearance can no longer be assumed.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, France, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(CPT) Gratitude as Intellectual Virtue: On John Webster’s “Theology in the Order of Love” (Part 1)

Although the regeneration of our fractured natures is God’s work from beginning to end, we must fill out this reality by working hard in pursuit of intellectual powers (abilities), and virtues. Webster acknowledges a long list of intellectual virtues, but focuses on just two: gratitude (to God and to others in the communion of saints), and generosity.

We’ll think about gratitude to God in the remainder of this post, and gratitude and generosity to others in a later post.

Webster reminds us that “Gratitude is fundamental to regenerate life: ‘Give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God for you.’ (1 Thess. 5.18).” For theologians in our theological work, this includes gratitude to God as our teacher.

As our instructor, God doesn’t merely pass on information to us. Rather, he establishes a relationship and he makes us his friends. We don’t just know information. God enables us to know God (Jn 17:3). In God’s grace, “Ignorance and idolatry are overcome; powers of mind which creatures have neglected to exercise or squandered on worthless objects are awakened, reanimated and redirected.” And this is not done in isolation: in his saving work of regeneration, God is created an “intellectual society”, a “company of pupils or disciples (Isa 2.2-4; Mic. 4.1-3; Mk 6.34).”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(NYT) Cyberattacks Discovered on Vaccine Distribution Operations

A series of cyberattacks is underway aimed at the companies and government organizations that will be distributing coronavirus vaccines around the world, IBM’s cybersecurity division has found, though it is unclear whether the goal is to steal the technology for keeping the vaccines refrigerated in transit or to sabotage the movements.

The findings were alarming enough that the Department of Homeland Security issued its own warning on Thursday about the threat.

Both the IBM researchers and the department’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said the attacks appear intended to steal the network log-in credentials of corporate executives and officials at global organizations involved in the refrigeration process necessary to protect vaccine doses.

Josh Corman, a coronavirus strategist at the cybersecurity agency, said in a statement that the IBM report was a reminder of the need for “cybersecurity diligence at each step in the vaccine supply chain.” He urged organizations “involved in vaccine storage and transport to harden attack surfaces, particularly in cold storage operation.”

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(BBC) France launches checks on dozens of mosques

The French authorities have launched inspections of dozens of mosques and prayer halls suspected of links to Islamist extremism.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin announced the crackdown, saying some could be closed if found to be encouraging “separatism”.

It comes a week before the unveiling of a new law to combat such extremism.

It is a response to attacks in October, blamed on Islamists, including the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty.

In a note to regional security chiefs, reported by French media, Mr Darmanin said there would be special checks and surveillance for 76 mosques and prayer halls, 16 of them in the Paris region.

He ordered “immediate action” concerning 18 of them, with the first checks set to be done on Thursday.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, France, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

A Prayer for the Feast Day of John of Damascus

Confirm our minds, O Lord, in the mysteries of the true faith, set forth with power by thy servant John of Damascus; that we, with him, confessing Jesus to be true God and true Man, and singing the praises of the risen Lord, may, by the power of the resurrection, attain to eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for evermore.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Lancelot Andrewes

Thou who with thine own mouth hast avouched that at midnight, at an hour when we are not aware, the Bridegroom shall come: Grant that the cry, The Bridegroom cometh, may sound evermore in our ears, that so we be never unprepared to meet him, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Posted in Advent, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Scripture Readings

I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved….Thou dost show me the path of life; in thy presence there is fulness of joy, in thy right hand are pleasures for evermore

Psalm 16:7-8;11

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(The State) First batch of COVID-19 vaccines could reach South Carolina before Christmas, officials say

South Carolina could be less than two weeks away from receiving its initial shipment of COVID-19 vaccines, officials say.

Stephen White, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control’s immunization program manager, said if both Pfizer and Moderna receive approval for their respective COVID-19 vaccines when anticipated, South Carolina could be in line to receive limited quantities of both vaccines before Christmas.

“Things can change, decisions could linger, things could be expedited,” he said on a media call Thursday. “But that is the time frame we’re thinking the vaccine could be available, if the (emergency use authorization) is approved and (the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) provides their guidance.”

White said the agency anticipates receiving the Pfizer vaccine first, perhaps by Dec. 14, with the Moderna vaccine arriving the following week.

Both vaccines, which have been submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval, are considered safe and have both been more than 90% effective in initial trials, according to preliminary data.

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Health & Medicine, State Government

(Tennessean) NIH director Dr. Francis Collins urges Christians to look for truth about COVID-19 vaccines, not conspiracy theories and misinformation

Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, urges anyone questioning whether they should take a COVID-19 vaccine to evaluate all of the available evidence.

While speaking Thursday with a top Southern Baptist leader, Collins encouraged Christians to seek out the truth about the vaccines awaiting approval from the Food and Drug Administration instead of the misinformation and conspiracy theories being spread out of fear and anxiety. Collins pointed to a Bible verse in Philippians 4 for guidance.

“‘Brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things,'” Collins said. “That would apply really well right here. So whatever is true.”

Amid a surge in coronavirus cases and promising vaccine developments, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission hosted Collins, who leads the country’s medical research agency, for an online discussion.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(CC) Sam Wells–The words I turn to in times of grief and distress

After the service, my mind went back to a conversation ten years earlier. “How about you, Sam? What would you like written on your tombstone?” It was the kind of conversation you imagine having with your fellow hostage when an insurgent group has kidnapped you and left you in an attic for years on end. In fact, it was with a roomful of people I’d only just met. In such conversations, I tend to remember either the things that I put into words instantaneously that I previously didn’t know I thought or the things I only realized later, hours or years after the conversation, that I wish I’d said.

This time it was the first kind. “If it can’t be happy, make it beautiful.” I didn’t know where it came from. It landed, fully formed.

All these years later, I haven’t changed my mind. (Except I doubt I’ll have a tombstone at all: when you’re in eternity, trying to shape what people think of you for the first few decades after you’ve gone seems the wrong place to put your energy.) In fact that expression has become my template for almost every occasion when friends or congregation members face profound grief, their own mortality, or terrible distress. As a widower plans a funeral, or as a person faces another kind of loss, I invariably return to those simple words: “I hope that, in the midst of your sorrow and the bleakness of what you’re facing, you can yet find a way to make it beautiful.”

Notice those words don’t say, “If it can’t be good.” Beauty isn’t an alternative to goodness; it isn’t a distraction from depth, seriousness, honesty, or integrity. Nor do they say, “Make it pretty.” Making it beautiful is about realizing we’re usually operating on a mundane level, where things will seldom make sense and where most things are fragile and contingent. In the face of dismay, the best approach is to go up a level, to a realm of fittingness, recalibrated priorities, and God’s kingdom. But making it beautiful also addresses the powerlessness at the heart of grief. There is, it turns out, something you can do, and that is to take the wisdom, grace, or soul of what’s been lost and portray its transcendent quality in word, deed, or collective gesture.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Death / Burial / Funerals, Marriage & Family, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Theology

(ITV) Police apologise to minister after shutting down legal church service in Milton Keynes

Police have apologised to a church minister after officers interrupted a lawful service in Milton Keynes and told him he would be prosecuted for breaking Covid regulations.

Pastor Daniel Mateola normally preaches to a full church, but since communal worship is banned under Covid rules, his congregation gets support from online worship instead.

Services are filmed professionally and streamed online, but last Friday worship was interrupted by the police who said there were too many people present.

To avoid confrontation, the church sent their five musicians home but police said the film crew was too big and called seven more officers as back up.

Pastor Daniel said: “It was very challenging, very intimidating, at one point a little bit scary too. At one point I was thinking, what’s going on here?

Read it all.

Posted in England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture

(NYT front page) As Hospitals Fill, Travel Nurses Race to Virus Hot Spots

It is a nomadic existence and, in a pandemic, a particularly high-risk one. The nurses parachute into cities like New York, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Green Bay for weeks or months at a time, quickly learning the ways of a new hospital and trying to earn the trust of the existing staff.

At the end of their shifts, they return to their temporary homes: hotels, Airbnb apartments or rented houses. Their families and friends are sometimes thousands of miles away, available only through phone calls or FaceTime.

Last week in Green Bay, where the surrounding county has averaged more than 150 cases a day since late September, a team of four travel nurses worked at Bellin Hospital, grappling with the unrelenting pressure of the emergency room and a Thanksgiving holiday far from home.

More than eight months into the pandemic, many travel nurses have done little else but treat Covid-19 patients.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Pastoral Theology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Francis Xavier

Loving God, who didst call Francis Xavier to lead many in India and Japan to know Jesus Christ as their Redeemer: Bring us to the new life of glory promised to all who follow in the Way; through the same Jesus Christ, who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Richard Baxter

Keep us, O Lord, while we tarry on this earth, in a serious seeking after thee, and in an affectionate walking with thee, every day of our lives; that when thou comest, we may be found not hiding our talent, nor serving the flesh, nor yet asleep with our lamp unfurnished, but waiting and longing for our Lord, our glorious God for ever and ever.

Posted in Advent, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

I love thee, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.

The cords of death encompassed me,
the torrents of perdition assailed me;
the cords of Sheol entangled me,
the snares of death confronted me.

In my distress I called upon the Lord;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears
Then the earth reeled and rocked;
the foundations also of the mountains trembled
and quaked, because he was angry.
Smoke went up from his nostrils,
and devouring fire from his mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from him.
He bowed the heavens, and came down;
thick darkness was under his feet.
He rode on a cherub, and flew;
he came swiftly upon the wings of the wind.
He made darkness his covering around him,
his canopy thick clouds dark with water.
Out of the brightness before him
there broke through his clouds
hailstones and coals of fire.
The Lord also thundered in the heavens,
and the Most High uttered his voice,
hailstones and coals of fire.
And he sent out his arrows, and scattered them;
he flashed forth lightnings, and routed them.
Then the channels of the sea were seen,
and the foundations of the world were laid bare,
at thy rebuke, O Lord,
at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.

He reached from on high, he took me,
he drew me out of many waters.
He delivered me from my strong enemy,
and from those who hated me;
for they were too mighty for me.
They came upon me in the day of my calamity;
but the Lord was my stay.
He brought me forth into a broad place;
he delivered me, because he delighted in me.

The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he recompensed me.

–Psalm 18:1-20

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(AJ) Calgary priest elected 14th bishop of the diocese of British Columbia

The Rev. Anna Greenwood-Lee, incumbent at St. Laurence Anglican Church in the diocese of Calgary, was elected bishop of the diocese of British Columbia Sept. 26.

She was elected on the seventh ballot during a virtual synod.

Greenwood-Lee says the diocese’s vision of transformation spoke to her. “It felt like my gifts and what they were looking for in terms of their vision lined up.”

Greenwood-Lee points to her interest in social justice, particularly in the creation of the Wisdom Centre, an online network that connects people with events and resources. She also has experience with and teaches courses on congregational development, and teaches courses on the topic. In 2006, when she became the incumbent at St. Laurence, she was given three years to “either turn the place around or close it,” she says. “It’s still here!”

Greenwood-Lee says she has an interest in helping the church try to enter a new stage of its life. “I feel like we’re called to be midwives of what God is birthing in our midst…. Death is a natural part of life, so some parts of our institutional life are dying. But at the same time, I think amazing things are struggling to be born, or are being born in our midst.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Canada

(Church Times) Pandemic likely to increase slavery and trafficking, mission warns

The world must act now to prevent a surge in global slavery under the conditions created by the coronavirus pandemic, the International Justice Mission (IJM) has warned today, the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.

Covid-19 is exacerbating poverty and the circumstances that cause people to fall into bonded labour and servitude, the IJM, a Christian anti-trafficking charity, has said. Furthermore, the lockdowns that many governments have imposed in an effort to control the virus have led to a marked increase in online sexual exploitation of children, as adults in the West who are restricted to their homes have spent more time on the internet, facilitating the abuse of children elsewhere.

Estimates from the World Bank suggest that 49 million extra people will be forced into extreme poverty as a result of the pandemic. The IJM said that it had already observed people-traffickers trying to exploit this by offering false job offers or loans to entrap vulnerable people who had lost their income because of the virus.

The IJM’s principal adviser on modern slavery, Peter Williams, said that evidence suggested that certain vulnerabilities were key key, and that these — loss of income, family medical emergencies, isolation — were “characteristic of the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on people in poverty”.

In the developing world, public institutions that were needed to combat trafficking and modern slavery — such as local police forces, social services, and the courts — were being put under unprecedented pressure by the pandemic, Mr Williams said.

Read it all.

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

(Post-Gazette) In Greater Pittsburgh, Some churches scale back in-person worship amid COVID19 surge

When the first coronavirus wave hit in the spring, most churches shut down live worship at the peak of the Christian calendar, with Lent leading into Holy Week and Easter.

While many churches reopened to at least some in-person worship in the ensuing months, some are now scaling back those in-person activities with the recent resurgence in COVID-19. And that happens just as churches today usher in another season that normally draws some of the biggest worship attendance of the year — the start of the Advent season, the four-week period leading to Christmas.

That means that more worshipers will be listening at home to “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” rather than singing out the traditional opening hymn of the first Sunday of Advent in church. And other services marking the season also are going on line. Services like “the hanging of the green, that’s not happening,” said the Rev. Sheldon Sorge, general minister for the Pittsburgh Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), referring to ritual decorating of churches with Christmas symbols.

Several churches that had resumed live worship have gone back to online-only.

“Almost none of our churches are going to have a live Christmas Eve program,” he added. “Christmas Eve is typically a crowded service. It’s going to be difficult to do socially distancing.”

He added: “This is a hard decision. People don’t want to stop meeting.”

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(NYT Op-ed) Michael W. McConnell and Max Raskin: The Supreme Court Was Right to Block Cuomo’s Religious Restrictions

During a public health emergency, individual freedoms can be curtailed where necessary to protect against the spread of disease. Most of this authority is at the state and local, not the federal, level. But when public health measures intrude on civil liberties — not just religious exercise, but other constitutional rights — judges will insist that the measures be nonarbitrary, nondiscriminatory and no more restrictive than the facts and evidence demand.

The real disagreement between Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Breyer and the majority was over a technical though important detail. This disagreement made the court look more fractured than it actually was. Just days before the decision, on Nov. 19, the governor’s lawyers sent the court a letter stating that he had redrawn the red and orange zones in Brooklyn, conveniently putting the churches and synagogues that were the focus of the litigation into the more permissive yellow zone. The letter cited no reasons for the reclassification and offered no assurance that it might not happen again, at a moment’s notice, with no more explanation than this time.

The court majority regarded the governor’s about-face as too fleeting and changeable to derail a decision on the merits. Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Breyer, by contrast, concluded that the change eliminated any need for the court to intervene, at least for now. That is a reasonable position (though we disagree with it) — and it does not indicate any fundamental disagreement with the five justices in the majority about the need to protect civil liberties even in a time of emergency.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Channing Moore Williams

O God, who in thy providence didst call Channing Moore Williams to the ministry of this church and gave him the gifts and the perseverance to preach the Gospel in new lands: Inspire us, by his example and prayers, to commit our talents to thy service, confident that thou dost uphold those whom thou dost call; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in Asia, Church History, Missions, Spirituality/Prayer

A Prayer to Begin the Day from Henry Stobat

O God, Father of mercies, who didst so love the world that thou didst give thine only begotten Son to take our nature upon him for us men and for our salvation: Grant to us who by his first coming have been called into thy kingdom of grace, that we may always abide in him, and be found watching and ready when he shall come again to call us to thy kingdom of glory; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Advent, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

Thy testimonies are my delight,
they are my counselors.

–Psalm 119:24

Posted in Theology: Scripture

(Stephen Noll) Covid19 Vaccine: Are Clergy First Responders, or Last?

I am in my 75th year, a bellwether of the Baby Boom generation, and I am looking forward to getting my Covid-19 vaccinations as soon as possible.

I am also a retired priest. Most of my ordained colleagues are younger than I and are serving active congregations.

So who goes first?

The Centers for Disease Control is apparently drawing up priority guidelines as to “essential” recipients, and it is thought that the elderly and “first responders” will go to the head of the line. I have heard no mention of clergy being on the list of essential workers.

It is, I suppose, not surprising that in a secular society, clergy are considered non-essential, but what surprises me is that there has been no call from church leaders in this matter. All too frequently there has been a sheepish plea for compliance with regulations restricting worship, even when secular bodies are exempted from them. The Supreme Court just struck down such a provision in New York as a violation of the free practice of religion, which is good, but such a decision lacks the rationale that religion – and Christianity in particular – is a matter of the life of the immortal soul, not just the body.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Religion & Culture

(1st Things) Rowan Williams–The Joy of Jonathan Sacks

Just over twelve years ago, Sir Jonathan Sacks, as he then was, gave an address to the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops—the first Jewish speaker to be invited to this event. He spoke with all the energy and clarity he invariably displayed as a lecturer, and had a palpable effect on all. The atmosphere of the conference was a bit fragile—a lot of absentees, frustration on the part of many that we were not planning to pass resolutions, even a cynicism that the event was an exercise in evading unwelcome decisions. We were discussing the idea of an Anglican “covenant” to affirm the vision (and the limits) of our shared identity, often with more heat than light.

Jonathan (unprompted by the organizers) spoke precisely about covenant, and transformed the word for us. From the Jewish point of view, he said, a covenant could be a “covenant of fate,” a solidarity grounded in shared trauma and pain, or a “covenant of faith,” the free decision to risk mutual commitment and to be implicated in one another’s acts and sufferings. The unchosen common experience of slavery in Egypt was the foundation of one profound strand in Jewish identity; but only at Sinai, when Israel says yes to God’s invitation to seal the human side of the covenant, is the full nature of covenantal identity established, as the people make their promise to one another as they do to God.

He had spelled out some of this a year or so earlier in what is surely one of his best books, The Home We Build Together. In it, he explains how social solidarity cannot be secured just by the market, or just by the coercive authority of the state; it needs the conscious investment of covenanting with one another for the common good. This is significantly more than just a social “contract” because it presupposes a continuing sympathetic regard for one another, a willingness to make constant adjustments to maximize the well-being of the community as a whole. It needs attention, flexibility, and, above all, loyalty.

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Judaism, Religion & Culture

(RNS) Robert Putnam thinks religion could play a role in healing divisions

Given the huge decline in churchgoing beginning in the 1960s, can religion play a role in turning things around like it did at the beginning of the 20th century?

Garrett: I definitely think there’s a role for religion to play. But religion will have to be innovative in meeting the moment. We have seen some religious innovation aimed at combating the decline in churchgoing — in such things as megachurches, for example. But some of those megachurches are characterized by a theology that is highly individualistic — the prosperity gospel — the idea that God blesses the righteous with riches for themselves. That’s been used to draw people back into religion, but it’s reflective of the destructive, highly individualistic drift over the past half-century, which we chronicle in the book.

For religion to play a role in another upswing, it’s going to have to find a way to speak to a changed social landscape and to remind us our religious traditions speak directly to the situation we find ourselves in today — a situation where we need to take better care of our most vulnerable. We need to think about how we organize a society more fairly. There are great templates in every great religion for how to do this but we have to choose that religious narrative. There’s a moment here where our religious leaders have the ability to shape a religious narrative in order to inform our social problems. We’re seeing some early signs of that happening. For example, the Rev. William Barber, who is organizing “moral marches on Washington” and taking up the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign.

Putnam: King moved America from the bottom up as well as the top down. He did it above all by using the Exodus narrative. He knew it appealed well beyond the Black church he was in himself. The point is religious narratives and religious symbols have a huge power to move lots of people.

Read it all.

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