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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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Twice in the last few months I’ve encountered writers taking note of this shift, and both have made a similar (and provocative) point: The decline of cults, while good news for anxious parents of potential devotees, might actually be a worrying sign for Western culture, an indicator not only of religious stagnation but of declining creativity writ large.
The first writer is Philip Jenkins, a prolific religious historian, who argues that the decline in “the number and scale of controversial fringe sects” is both “genuine and epochal,” and something that should worry more mainstream religious believers rather than comfort them. A wild fringe, he suggests, is often a sign of a healthy, vital center, and a religious culture that lacks for charismatic weirdos may lack “a solid core of spiritual activism and inquiry” as well.
The second writer is Peter Thiel, the PayPal co-founder, venture capitalist and controversialist, who includes an interesting aside about the decline of cults in his new book, “Zero to One” — officially a book of advice to would-be entrepreneurs, but really a treatise on escaping what he regards as the developed world’s 40-year economic, technological and cultural malaise.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Philosophy Psychology Religion & Culture Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
[This week]...the only person ever banned by the United States because of alleged religious freedom violations—India’s newly-elected prime minister, Narendra Modi—will begin a four-day tour on American shores.
After Modi failed to prevent the riot deaths of 1,000 Muslims in 2002 while he was chief minister of the western state of Gujarat, the State Department leaned on a little-known provision in the International Religious Freedom Act that says foreign officials responsible for “severe violations of religious freedom” shouldn’t be admitted to America. The Wall Street Journal offers more details.
The visa restriction might have been permanent, but this summer Modi was elected to the most powerful political position in India. He’ll meet with President Obama and major business corporations during his visit from September 26-30. One American legal group filed suit against Modi this week, though the move is largely seen as symbolic, reports Reuters.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Law & Legal Issues Psychology Religion & Culture Violence * Economics, Politics Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Asia India
Inmates in suicide-proof gowns scream and bang on their cell doors one floor below Terri McDonald’s office in the Twin Towers Correctional Facility. The bedlam is a reminder, if she needs one, that the mentally ill population in the largest U.S. jail system is out of control.
It’s a “shameful social and public-safety issue,” said McDonald, the assistant sheriff who runs Los Angeles County’s jails. “I believe we can do better. I believe at some point in the future we’ll look back and wonder, ‘What took so long?’”
That’s been a question for years. Conditions for mentally ill inmates in the county have been a focus of federal probes since 1997, and the number with psychiatric disorders was an issue in a recent debate over a new jail. Keeping a mentally ill person behind bars can cost more than $50,000 annually, while treatment could run two-thirds less. Criminal justice systems from Seattle to Miami with aggressive jail-diversion efforts have cut inmate headcounts -- and lowered recidivism rates.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Prison/Prison Ministry Psychology Mental Illness * Economics, Politics Economy Politics in General State Government * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
...the high divorce rate has ceased to shock or even concern many people. Divorce has become an acceptable, normal fact of life. The predominant view is that many marriages break down through no fault on the part of either spouse: they simply “grow apart.” And so—the thinking goes—one cannot expect married men and women to keep their vows to remain devoted to each other until death parts them. If marriage is a love relationship, and the love has died, is it not pointless to continue with the charade of “marriage”?
But this conventional wisdom is based on a redefinition of what marriage is. In the traditional understanding, the term “marriage” is reserved for the comprehensive union of a man and a woman—bodily, emotional, and spiritual—of the kind that would be naturally fulfilled by conceiving and rearing children together (even though in some instances that fulfillment is not reached). In the alternative view, marriage is seen as an essentially emotional and sexual relationship that, by implication, can be dissolved when the relationship is no longer emotionally fulfilling.
This false view has caused marriage to be fragile and has led to immeasurable tragedy for children, wives, and husbands. In this view, children are only extrinsic additions—burdens or benefits. And if the emotional closeness has been lost, it seems to follow that the marriage itself has simply broken down of its own accord and can be dissolved. This view has led to the rising divorce rates we’re seeing reported.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children History Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Psychology Religion & Culture Sociology * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Finally, people behave better if they know their friends are observing. Friendship is based, in part, on common tastes and interests, but it is also based on mutual admiration and reciprocity. People tend to want to live up to their friends’ high regard. People don’t have close friendships in any hope of selfish gain, but simply for the pleasure itself of feeling known and respected.
It’s also true that friendship is not in great shape in America today. In 1985, people tended to have about three really close friends, according to the General Social Survey. By 2004, according to research done at Duke University and the University of Arizona, they were reporting they had only two close confidants. The number of people who say they have no close confidants at all has tripled over that time.
People seem to have a harder time building friendships across class lines. As society becomes more unequal and segmented, invitations come to people on the basis of their job status. Middle-aged people have particular problems nurturing friendships and building new ones. They are so busy with work and kids that friendship gets squeezed out.
Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story
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So..[if I could live in a] fantasy world in which I have $500 million, I’d try to set up places that would cultivate friendships.
Read it all.
Fewer than one in five adults worldwide can be considered thriving -- or strong and consistent -- in levels of purpose well-being, as measured by the inaugural Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index in 2013. Residents living in the Americas are the most likely to be thriving in this element (37%), while those in Asia and the Middle East and North Africa are the least likely (13%).
The Global Well-Being Index measures each of the five elements of well-being -- purpose, social, financial, community, and physical - through Gallup's World Poll. Purpose well-being, which is defined as people liking what they do each day and being motivated to achieve their goals, was the lowest performing element of the five elements of well-being. Global results of how people fare in 135 countries and areas in this element, as well as the four other elements, have been compiled in the State of Global Well-Being report.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Globalization Marriage & Family Psychology Sociology * Economics, Politics Economy Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market Personal Finance * Theology Anthropology
Consider also the reasons given by Francis and Anne which are partly personal fears and partly about a false altruism. Not wanting to ‘watch the slow decline of a partner’; fear of going to a nursing home; ‘too many people on this earth’- making more pension money available for others; not wanting to ‘dig into our savings’ and not being able to do the things they could at an earlier age. Add this to John Paul’s clear point that he didn’t want to look after them, and it’s almost a ‘perfect storm’ of lack of imagination, lack of a willingness to care and to look towards other alternatives.
There is also an insidious cultural side to this affair evident in the reporting at Moustique. There is no alternate voice here; no suggestion that promoting this story might have a deleterious effect upon others. No help lines promoted, no questioning in any constructive way. The social question, as always, is about the cart and the horse – is the media effectively pushing the issue or is it, as it may claim, simply reflecting the vox populi?
This is not a ‘celebration of choice’; far from it. It is a rationalization devoid of humanity and created, in the first instance by the legal possibility of euthanasia. It is then abetted by whatever it is in that family and that society that confirmed and supported the kind of dysfunction that allowed the children to confirm and assist instead of saying a clear, No, and offering every alternate support, no matter what the cost.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Aging / the Elderly Children Health & Medicine Law & Legal Issues Life Ethics Marriage & Family Media Psychology Suicide Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Europe Belgium * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Secularism * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
If the church upholds this kind of decision, it is endorsing cruelty, discrimination and exclusion. Pope Francis’ view is that this is exactly the kind of thing that requires the church to exercise mercy not rigidity. But allowing a married gay couple to sing in the choir as an act of “mercy” would merely further expose the fragility of the church’s thirteenth century views of human sexuality. It would put the lie to the otherness of gay people; to the notion that it is essential or even possible for a tiny minority to live entirely without intimacy or love or commitment. It also reveals that gay men have long been a part of the church – and tolerated, as long as they lied about their lives and gave others plausible deniability with respect to their sexual orientation. It is an endorsement of dishonesty.
None of this is compatible with the core moral teachings of the church – about fairness, truth, compassion, forgiveness, mercy and inclusion. And this is clear to large numbers of Catholics – especially the younger generation who will rightly view this kind of decision as barbaric and inhuman. There is only so much inhumanity that a church can be seen to represent before its own members lose faith in it. I recall the feelings of my own niece and nephew who lost a huge amount of respect for the church when they heard a homily denouncing the civil marriage of their own uncle. I notice the outcry among Catholic high school students when a teacher was fired for the very same reason. When a church responds to an act of love and commitment not by celebration but by ostracism, it is not just attacking a couple’s human dignity; it is also attacking itself.
Read it all.
I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Media Psychology Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
...in early August, a 27-year-old priest who had just begun working at the parish summoned them to a meeting, according to local news reports. And at that meeting, he told them that they could no longer be choir members, perform any other roles like that or, for that matter, receive communion.
If they wanted those privileges restored, there was indeed a remedy, which the priest and other church officials spelled out for them over subsequent conversations. They would have to divorce. They would have to stop living together. And they would have to sign a statement that marriage exists only between a man and a woman.
Translation: Renounce a love fortified over 30 years. Unravel your lives. And affirm that you’re a lesser class of people, barred from the rituals in which others blithely participate.
Read it all.
I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Media Psychology Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Theology
A father’s level of education is the strongest factor determining a child’s future success at school, creating a self-reinforcing cycle of poverty and lack of achievement passed down from parents to children in Britain, according to research.
The report from the Office for National Statistics claims that children are seven and a half times less likely to be successful at school if their father failed to achieve, compared with children with highly educated fathers.
A mother’s education level was important to a lesser degree, with a child approximately three times as likely to have a low educational outcome if their mother had a low level of education.
Read it all.
Doubtless, death is a loss. It deprives us of experiences and milestones, of time spent with our spouse and children. In short, it deprives us of all the things we value.
But here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.
Americans seem to be obsessed with...a valiant effort to cheat death and prolong life as long as possible. This has become so pervasive that it now defines a cultural type: what I call the American immortal.
I reject this aspiration. I think this manic desperation to endlessly extend life is misguided and potentially destructive. For many reasons, 75 is a pretty good age to aim to stop....
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Children Health & Medicine Law & Legal Issues Life Ethics Marriage & Family Psychology Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Eschatology Ethics / Moral Theology
What prompted you to write this book?
I went to a basketball game a couple years ago, and the crowd was screaming, “Overrated! Overrated!” at the other team. It’s not that I’ve heard people scream that when I’m preaching, but the possibility of being “overrated” myself is something I’ve sensed throughout my life.
For example, I’ve been speaking, writing, blogging, and preaching about justice. It’s easy to fall in love with the idea. But something gets lost in the actual practice and application. When I started sensing this, I personally felt exposed and began to see the problem in the larger church....
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Stewardship * Culture-Watch Globalization Law & Legal Issues Poverty Psychology Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Anthropology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)
Study after study has confirmed that those who are involved in religion and those who are married are healthier, physically and mentally happier and live longer than those who are not.
"The health benefits of marriage are so strong that a married man with heart disease can be expected to live, on average, 1,400 days (nearly four years) longer than an unmarried man with a healthy heart," said Dr. Scott Haltzman, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.
"This longer life expectancy is even longer for a married man who has cancer or is 20 pounds overweight compared to his healthy but unmarried counterpart," Haltzman added. "The advantages for women are similar."
Read it all.
In the eight years since, Facebook’s News Feed — that LED-lit window through which we glimpse news, memes and snatches of other people’s lives — has not exactly gotten less controversial. But the nature of that controversy has fundamentally changed. Where early college users raged against sharing, and seeing, too much information — of being subsumed, in effect, by the social media noise — our anxieties today frequently involve getting too little of it. Facebook’s latest changes to the News Feed, announced just last week, are essentially tooled to give users more content, more quickly.
Both concerns relate to control. Whether we see too much content or too little, everything we see in Facebook’s News Feed is determined by an algorithm — an invented mathematical formula that guesses what you want to see based on who posted it, where it came from, and a string of other mysterious factors known only to the programmers and project managers who work on it.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Globalization Media Psychology Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Gallup's Economic Confidence Index is the average of two components: Americans' views of current economic conditions and their opinions on whether the economy is getting better or worse. Last week, 18% of Americans said the economy was "excellent" or "good," while 35% said the economy was "poor," resulting in a current conditions index score of -17. Over the past four weeks, the current conditions index has fallen one point per week.
Meanwhile, 38% of Americans last week said the economy was "getting better," and 57% said it was "getting worse." This resulted in an economic outlook score of -19, down three points from the week before, but similar to several prior weeks.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Psychology * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007-- The U.S. Government
Everyone knows that success in the marketplace requires skills and habits that are usually acquired through good schools, strong families, active citizenship, and even solicitous and judgmental churches. Those relational institutions, however, are threatened, in different ways, by the unmediated effects of both the market and big, impersonal government. We also know that most people find that worthy lives are shaped by both love and work, and that the flourishing of love and work are interdependent. We even know that love and work are both limits on government, even as we know that middle-class Americans who have good jobs, strong families, and "church homes" are also our best citizens.
What we really know should point our political life in rather definite directions. Does our familiar political vocabulary provide us what we need to articulate those directions? Or does it confuse us more in this already confusing time? We have every reason to wonder whether even conservative Americans have access to a plausible account of the reality of our personhood, an account that could serve as the foundation of a public philosophy that would properly limit and direct a sustainable political life for free persons. What we lack most is an authentically empirical theory adequate to the complexities of American life in our time.
The natural inclination of any conservative is to seek out such a theory in our deep and diverse tradition of liberty, rather than invent one out of whole cloth. And if our search is guided by a sense of how our changing circumstances require us to reflect on the relational character of the human person, our tradition will not disappoint. But we have no choice but to look beyond the most familiar fixtures of that tradition toward some neglected American theorists of liberty who have highlighted the shortcomings of an overly individualistic understanding of American life. Complacently excessive individualism is the opiate of the American "public intellectuals" of our time.
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God may not be dead, but considering the imago Dei in philosophical discourse and public policy certainly is. Not only that, but the rational reasons for acknowledging the exceptional dignity of humans are wrongly denigrated as merely reflecting our religious past in which rigid moralism supposedly trumped reason.
Today’s dominant cultural voices argue that an individual’s moral worth should be predicated upon his or her individual capacities of the moment. This view is most acutely expressed in bioethics, the field that wields tremendous influence over health-care public policies and in the ethical protocols of medicine.
The potential that denying human dignity has to oppress, exploit, harvest, and kill the weakest and most vulnerable among us hangs in the air like malodorous evidence of a ruptured sewer line.Read it all.
A group of girls at Grand Prairie High School, in North Texas, nastily pranked their classmate, 17-year-old Lillian Skinner, by falsely telling her she’d been nominated for homecoming queen. When Skinner’s two longtime friends, Anahi Alvarez and Naomi Martinez, who actually were nominated, heard about the prank they vowed to do something to help their friend.
Do not miss it--watch it all and you can Read about it there also.
(Please note that the above headline is the one given by NPR to the piece as it appear on thier main page--KSH).
Believing in God isn't like believing, correctly or incorrectly, that there are brick houses on Elm Street. What's at stake is not a simple proposition whose meaning is understood and whose truth is up for discussion. God is an idea that is made intelligible, to the degree that it is intelligible, only thanks to the stories we tell about Him or about ourselves and our history. Believing in God is more like believing that a story is true, or that a story is compelling or worthwhile or worth learning or caring about, than it is like believing some fact.
Herodotus said that history is the history of lies. This is a bit of an overstatement. But I get the point. History is made up of stories and stories are often slightly less than, or maybe slightly more than, the truth.
A story teller, like a bank teller, aims at a good count, a well balanced, transparent accounting. And the value of a good story doesn't ever consist in its matching all the facts....
Read or listen to it all.
“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”
--M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Travelled
Having served in urban ministry for over 30 years, I see our attention shifting away from planting churches in areas of poverty. In a time of economic struggle many urban churches have had to close their doors—both front and side. It’s possible to conclude that our past efforts were ineffective and created dependency. But every pastor I know who has worked in such ministries talks about lives changed for the better and leaders who were nurtured because the church was there with open doors. I fear we are giving up on such places.
Some of the most creative church starts today are what we call emergent communities. The ones that get the most attention are doing wonderful and essential work, especially in reaching people who have felt alienated from the church. Yet many of these people are the disaffected children of the demographic we’ve always served. We need more of these communities, but we also need to take some of that out-of-the-box vision and focus it on addressing the prevailing poor-door reality of our church.
Whenever I visit our congregation’s vice president and her family of four, I sit on the chair facing the lower bunk of their bed; the space is so tight that our knees touch. The parents sleep on the bottom bunk and the daughters (in college and high school) share the top. They live in a building where families of Mexican immigrants are squeezed into single-room cubicles without kitchen or closet and use a bathroom in the corridor with dozens of other people. This building sits in the shadow of a gleaming high-rise where the penthouse sold for millions. When I say, “in the shadow,” I mean on the same block, in eyesight of public housing projects and rent-stabilized middle-income apartments.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Poverty Psychology Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Personal Finance * Theology Anthropology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology
The College of Bishops of the Church of England has met for three days. Two of the days were devoted to the first of a series of shared conversations in the Church of England on Sexuality, Scripture and Mission.
The context and process for the conversations were set out in a paper to General Synod by the Bishop of Sheffield on 26 June 2014 available here which also identified two outcomes for the process.
The first is to enable the Church of England to reflect, in light of scripture, on the implications of the immense cultural change that has been taking place in society on issues of sexuality. How can the Church "proclaim the gospel afresh in every generation" as a missionary church in a changing culture ?
The second objective is to create space and an environment for the Church of England to live together as a family who disagree with one another. Recognising that this was the experience of the first disciples and apostles who went on to proclaim the Gospel across the world, how can the Church ensure that those with differing views on sexuality continue to share together a place of common baptism and faith ?
Read it all and listen to the podcast linked at the bottom as well.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Psychology Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
Western society is currently experiencing what can only be described as a moral revolution. Our society’s moral code and collective ethical evaluation on a particular issue has undergone not small adjustments but a complete reversal. That which was once condemned is now celebrated, and the refusal to celebrate is now condemned.
What makes the current moral and sexual revolution so different from previous moral revolutions is that it is taking place at an utterly unprecedented velocity. Previous generations experienced moral revolutions over decades, even centuries. This current revolution is happening at warp speed.
As the church responds to this revolution, we must remember that current debates on sexuality present to the church a crisis that is irreducibly and inescapably theological. This crisis is tantamount to the type of theological crisis that Gnosticism presented to the early church or that Pelagianism presented to the church in the time of Augustine. In other words, the crisis of sexuality challenges the church’s understanding of the gospel, sin, salvation, and sanctification. Advocates of the new sexuality demand a complete rewriting of Scripture’s metanarrative, a complete reordering of theology, and a fundamental change to how we think about the church’s ministry.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Marriage & Family Philosophy Psychology Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
The withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan means that fewer American soldiers are in harm's way. But new data from the Department of Defense suggests that the drawdown has done little to solve the serious problem of military suicides. The rate of military self-inflicted deaths has stayed roughly the same even as combat deaths have fallen.
Last year alone, 475 active service members took their own lives according to a report published last week by the Department of Defense. In the same year, 127 soldiers lost their lives in the line of duty reported icasualties.org — a website that has been documenting war deaths since the Iraq War in 2003. That's the lowest level since 2008.
The same Department of Defense report said that 120 personnel took their own lives in the first quarter of 2014, a rate of nearly one soldier every day. That compares with 43 soldiers who lost their lives on the front line between January 1 and September 11, 2014.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Health & Medicine Psychology Suicide * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
After I published a story about my grandmother’s dilemma on July 24 last year, I received hundreds of emails and letters from readers worldwide. Some wrote about struggles they’d experienced with their relatives. Others were anxious about their parent-care challenges ahead.
“I have never cried when reading a Bloomberg story,” wrote one reader. “I am going to make sure to talk with my grandmother about what she wants when she reaches that point.”
The story was also read by medical professionals. Kojiro Tokutake, a Japanese gastroenterologist, shared his story about his own internal conflict about the value of tube feeding. His experiences formed the basis of another story that I published.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Aging / the Elderly Children Health & Medicine Law & Legal Issues Life Ethics Marriage & Family Psychology Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Asia Japan * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Americans' trust in each of the three branches of the federal government is at or near the lows in Gallup's trends, dating back to the early 1970s. Americans' trust in the legislative branch fell six percentage points this year to a new low of 28%. Trust in the executive branch dropped eight points, to 43%, and trust in the judicial branch, at 61%, is also the lowest measured to date.
The data are part of Gallup's annual update on trust in government, conducted in the Sept. 4-7 Governance poll. Gallup previously documented that Americans' trust in the federal government to handle both domestic and international problems slid to new lows this year.
Americans have generally had the least trust in the legislative branch, consisting of the House of Representatives and the Senate, but never lower than the 28% who do so now. The prior low was the 31% measured in 2011, shortly after Congress and the president engaged in contentious debt-ceiling negotiations.
Trust in the legislative branch had recovered slightly during the previous two years, to 34%, but is down significantly this year....
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Psychology * Economics, Politics Economy The U.S. Government Politics in General City Government House of Representatives Office of the President Senate State Government Supreme Court * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
The 19th was a century of national consolidations — in the United States, Italy (the Risorgimento under Cavour), Germany (Bismarck hammered together numerous principalities and other entities) and Belgium, which was invented from various odds and ends. The 20th century, however, brought the breakup of empires — the British, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, Russian and then Soviet empires. The disintegrative impulse continues in, among other places, Spain, where Catalonians are asserting their particularities as Basques have long done.
Were Scotland now to become a sovereign nation, as it was until 1603, it would have a GDP ranking 16th among what would then be the 29 nations of the European Union (just behind Ireland and ahead of the Czech Republic) and would be the 20th-most populous. And the United Kingdom would have to redesign its flag, the Union Jack....
Scotland’s Royal Arms banner, emblazoned with a lion rampant, flies over Balmoral Castle when the Queen is not there. Which means it could be used even more after Thursday.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Psychology Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK --Scotland * Theology
If the nation’s economy is on the mend, the voters of 2014 aren’t feeling it.
Despite continued signs of a halting but persistent national comeback, midterm voters remain frustrated and unhappy with the state of the economy, according to the latest POLITICO poll of likely voters in 2014 battleground states. Many appear to blame President Barack Obama: 57 percent of these voters disapprove of his economic leadership.
By every measure in the survey, a gloomy mood still pervades the electorate when it comes to kitchen-table issues: Just 23 percent say their personal financial situation has improved over the past year, versus 30 percent who say it has gotten worse.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Psychology * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Housing/Real Estate Market Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market Personal Finance Politics in General House of Representatives Office of the President Senate * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
HIRSCH: I was completely shocked when Gabriel died and I tried to go back to work after a while and I couldn't really function at work and so in order to alleviate my grief I began to write a document in which I wrote down everything I could remember about Gabriel. I suddenly became desperate that I would forget things because I'd lost him so suddenly, so completely. It all was sort of a blur and I wanted to remember and I began to talk to my partner, to my ex-wife, to my sisters, to my mother, to Gabriel's friends and every day I went to a coffee shop and I basically tried to tell the story of Gabriel's life....
GREENE: You've said though that poetry is not a protection against grief.
HIRSCH: On the contrary, poetry takes courage because you have to face things and you try to articulate how you feel. I don't like the whole language of healing which seems to me so false. As soon as something happens to us in America everyone begins talking about healing, but before you heal you have to mourn and I found that poetry doesn't shield you from grief but it does give you an expression of that grief. And trying to express it, trying to articulate it gave me something to do with my grief.....
GREENE: Talking about - mourning and grief it makes me want to hear another passage from your poem. It's on page 73, and it starts with, I did not know the work.....
HIRSCH: (Reading) I did not know the work of mourning is like carrying a bag of cement up a mountain at night. The mountaintop is not in sight, because there is no mountaintop. Poor Sisyphus Greif. I did not know I would struggle through a ragged underbrush without an upward path. Because there is no path, there is only a blunt rock with a river to fall into and time with its medieval chambers. Time with its jagged edges and blunt instruments. I did not know the work of mourning is a laborer in the dark we carry inside ourselves. Though sometimes when I sleep I'm with him again and then I wake. Poor Sisyphus Greif. I'm not ready for your heaviness cemented to my body. Look closely and you will see almost everyone carrying bags of cement on their shoulders. That's why it takes courage to get out of bed in the morning and climb into the day.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Children Drugs/Drug Addiction Marriage & Family Poetry & Literature Psychology * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Pastoral Theology
Growing into a full humanity requires cultivating virtues that temper one another. Some are associated with adulthood—courage, tenacity, autonomy. Others are more closely associated with childhood—curiosity, humility, generosity.
So, yes: only engaging in “juvenile” culture could shape us in bad ways. (And here at CT, anyhow, we try to take part in both—so go read about the Dardennes brothers’ new film when you’re done here.) But only engaging in “grown up” culture can, too, as can reflexively defending sophisticated products and rejecting simpler ones.
As Scott points out, the kind of culture creative output that results from our cultural shift doesn’t merely mean we end up with “juvenile” culture and fart jokes and boy-men and girl-women. It also means we end up with a lot of “childish” culture.
Or maybe “childlike” is a better term.
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Since the Jennifer Lawrence photo hack, Internet security has come under scrutiny. But why do many young women feel the need to take and share nude selfies in the first place? Don’t get me wrong: I think hackers are morally reprehensible and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But I also think that we need to build an alternative to the dogma “If you’ve got it, flaunt it.” Young women are told that it’s a sign of being proud of your sexuality to “sext” young men—a philosophy that has turned girls into so many flashing beacons, frantic to keep the attention of the males in their lives by striking porn-inspired poses.
Today if you watch the famous Algerian-French singer Enrico Macias singing to his late wife, Suzy, about how he “won her love,” their dynamic seems as if it’s from another planet. Some might watch this decades-old video and imagine her passivity indicates that she wasn’t empowered. But I see something else in her shy manner and dancing eyes: a drama between them that was not for the public to see. The words of his song are certainly moving—“In the exile’s nights, we were together/ My son and my daughter are truly from you/ I spent my life … waiting for you”—and yet there was even more than what those beautiful lyrics revealed.
The pressure on girls today to take sexy selfies comes out of a culture that routinely equates modesty with shame, instead of recognizing it for what it really is: an impulse that protects what is precious and intimate.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Psychology Sexuality Teens / Youth Women * General Interest Photos/Photography * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
More than half of China’s citizens expect their country to be at war with Japan in as little as six years, according to a new public opinion poll that finds a widening sense of mistrust and hostility between the two countries.
53 percent of Chinese respondents and 29 percent of Japanese respondents expected a war to break out by the year 2020, according to a joint survey conducted by newspaper China Daily and Genron, a Japanese NGO.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Psychology * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Asia China Japan
Gallup's U.S. Economic Confidence Index remained at -17 in the first week of September, the same score as in the last week of August. For the sixth week in a row, index readings have not strayed from a narrow range of -15 to -17.
After the index took a tumble in late July, dropping briefly to -21 -- the lowest weekly reading it has seen in 2014 so far -- it recovered quickly, climbing to -15 in the week ending Aug. 3, and has held near that level since. For the year to date, the weekly index has averaged -16.
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Thanks to the Jay report, however, we can say that the Hodges rejoinder is not entirely true. The Rotherham problem—which we’ll call Childhood Sexual Exploitation, or CSE, because everyone uses that jargon—was the subject of repeated scrutiny throughout the period when 1,400 girls fell victim to it, not only by the local government itself but also by social services, private charities and their consultants, the National Health Service (NHS), and the police. The girls were abandoned only partly because so many made a cowardly choice to let a crime go unreported when they could not think of a “non-racist” way to describe it. They were also abandoned because of the way that these agencies tried to do good. The process of “caring for children” was already bad; the distortions and systematic mendacity encouraged by the ideology of multiculturalism and racial and gender theorizing made it worse.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Psychology Religion & Culture Sexuality Teens / Youth Violence Women * International News & Commentary England / UK * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
ike many Americans, I have changed my mind on gay marriage—though my change of mind has gone the opposite way of most. My support for gay marriage was early and enthusiastic. In high school I wrote a research paper titled “Gay Marriage as a Constitutional and Human Right.” I was earnest and impassioned, motivated by a desire to see justice done and unsure of how or why anyone could disagree.
I triumphantly quoted J. S. Mill’s On Liberty, and cited Socrates in Plato’s Apology, about the limits of religious views on civic matters and the growth of our national wisdom, respectively. The arguments seemed clear. I agreed with Jon Meacham, “society can no more deny a gay person access to the secular rights and religious sacraments because of his homosexuality than it can reinstate Jim Crow.”
Then something changed. As I entered college, I found myself being drawn from social democratism to conservatism thanks to Roger Scruton, and from skepticism back to the Catholic Christianity of my upbringing thanks to Pascal, Chesterton, and David Bentley Hart. But I still held to the consent-based or revisionist view of marriage, rather than the conjugal view defended by Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, and Robert P. George. The turning point came when I read a paper by Scruton and Phillip Blond. They distinguished how a romantic union between two individuals of the same sex could have the same level of intensity as that between two individuals of the opposite sex. Yet they said that the conjugal view of marriage did not see exclusivity of romance as the telos of marriage. Rather, it “extends beyond the individuals who marry to the children they hope to create and the society they wish to shape.”
I came to realize the institution of marriage is not merely a private contract between two partners....
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Divorcing parents who try to maintain an amicable relationship for the sake of their children are doing nothing to help them, a major study suggests.
The impact of the split on youngsters is the same whether or not the mother and father keep cordial links, it found.
The findings undermine a Government-backed consensus that the harm caused to children by separating parents can be limited if the couple remain friends.
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Before relocating to Nashville, I was ministering in an area of New York City with a high concentration of men and women who worked in finance. When the Great Recession hit in 2008, and as financial institutions crashed and careers were ruined, many people expressed a feeling that they'd not only lost money and a career, but also a sense of self. When you work on Wall Street, you begin to believe you are what you do, and you are what you make. "What is she worth?" is a question taken quite literally. The metrics of human value are measured in terms of salaries and bonuses. When the salary and bonus disappear, so does the person's worth. This becomes true not only in your peers’ eyes but also in your own. One multibillionaire lost half his net worth in the crash. Though he was still a multibillionaire, and though nothing about his quality of life had changed, he committed suicide. The shame of losing rank in the pecking order of the financial world turned him completely inward and caused him to self-destruct.
Kelly Osbourne, the famous daughter of Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne, disappeared from the public eye for an extended season. In 2010 she reappeared during Fashion Week with a new look and a new body. She'd lost 42 pounds, causing her new and curvy figure to become a major headline. When a journalist asked what motivated her to lose so much weight, she said she hated what she saw whenever she looked into the mirror. Osbourne measured her own value in comparison to other women, and was undone by the comparisons. Why don’t I look like this girl or that girl? she'd ask herself. But her shame wasn't only internal. It was also reinforced externally by a culture that says (absurdly) that thin has value and full-bodied is worthless. “I took more hell from people for being fat,” she remarked, “than I did for being an absolute raging drug addict.”
What if there were a way to divorce ourselves from cultural pressures to be rich and beautiful? What if we no longer felt a need to prove ourselves, to validate our own existence in the world’s eyes and in our own? What if we began actually believing God has not called us to be awesome but to be humble, receptive, faithful, and free? What if our secret battle with shame was neutered, freeing us to turn our attention away from ourselves and toward our neighbors?
This is my greatest joy as a Christian pastor.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Pastoral Care * Culture-Watch Psychology Religion & Culture * Theology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
As the Taskforce for Reimagining The Episcopal Church (TREC) has progressed in our work, we have come to see the raising and unbinding of Lazarus as a helpful way of understanding this moment in the life of The Episcopal Church. We believe Jesus is calling our church to new life and vitality, but the church is held back by its bindings—old ways of working that no longer serve us well.
We write this as we begin the final months of our work, to give you an update about our thinking and emerging recommendations for your prayerful consideration and feedback. We will publish our final report and specific legislative proposals in December 2014....
The Episcopal Church’s structures and governance processes reflect assumptions from previous eras that do not always fit with today’s contexts. They have not adapted to the rapidly changing cultural, political, and social environments in which we live. The churchwide structures and governance processes are too disconnected from local needs and too often play a “gating” or regulatory role to local innovation. They are often too slow and confusing to deal decisively with tough and urgent tradeoffs or to pursue bold directions that must be set at the churchwide level. Our study and observations would suggest, for example, that:
■ General Convention has historically been most effective in deliberatively discerning and evolving the church’s position on large-scale issues (e.g., prayer book revision, reform of clergy formation and discipline canons, women’s ordination, same sex blessings). This should continue to be the primary role of General Convention....
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Psychology Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology
Decades ago, baby boomers and older Gen Xers pushed to create churches centered on the young, nuclear family. Sadly, this ministry model now excludes many of us. Having outgrown the local church’s core programs, we’re left to usher, teach fourth-grade Sunday school, or attend committee meetings. At times, I can’t help thinking: Been there, done that. Got the Christian T-shirt to prove it.
While local churches work to reach a younger generation, some of their graying members are stepping away. In our 50s, 60s, and beyond, we face a new set of challenges: relationship shifts, loneliness, health risks, divorce, and death. Boomers have begun attending church less frequently, according to Barna Research, while Gen Xers registered a significant uptick in those with no church affiliation.
I recently took an informal survey on my blog, and heard from nearly 500 believers about their church experiences as they’ve gotten older. Most stayed involved, using their extra empty-nester time to serve and continue their relationships with other congregants. But a little less than half said they’d scaled back their involvement from what it had been a decade ago. Those who had downshifted or left cited weariness with church politics, increased career demands, significant time devoted to caring for parents or grandchildren, health issues, and a sense that they’d somehow outgrown their church. “I’m tired of the same programs year after year,” one said. “I want deeper relationships with fewer people, more spiritual exercises like prayer and meditation than the canned studies offered.”
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Children Marriage & Family Middle Age Psychology Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Pastoral Theology
Judged in theological terms, the Osteen message is the latest and slickest version of Prosperity Theology. That American heresy has now spread throughout much of the world, but it began in the context of American Pentecostalism in the early twentieth century. Prosperity theology, promising that God rewards faith with health and wealth, first appealed to those described as “the dispossessed” — the very poor. Now, its updated version appeals to the aspirational class of the suburbs. Whereas the early devotees of Prosperity Theology prayed for a roof over their heads that did not leak, the devotees of prosperity theology in the Age of Osteen pray for ever bigger houses. The story of how the Osteens exercised faith for a big house comes early in Joel Osteen’s best-seller, Your Best Life Now.
According to Osteen, God wants to pour out his “immeasurable favor” on his human creatures, and this requires a fundamental re-ordering of our thinking. “To experience this immeasurable favor,” Osteen writes, “you must rid yourself of that small-minded thinking and start expecting God’s blessings, start anticipating promotion and supernatural increase. You must conceive it in your heart before you can receive it. In other words, you must make increase in your own thinking, then God will bring those things to pass.”
There is nothing really new in this message. Anyone familiar with the New Thought movement and later books such as Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich will see a persistent theme. The important issue is this — Prosperity Theology is a false Gospel. The problem with Prosperity Theology is not that it promises too much, but that it aims for so little. What God promises us in Christ is far above anything that can be measured in earthly wealth — and believers are not promised earthly wealth nor the gift of health.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Psychology Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Christology Soteriology Theology: Scripture
I was fortunate, in my own life, to have a bold counseling professor tell me what he saw—immaturity, arrogance, insecurity. We live in a culture of affirmation, and I believe in affirming young men and women entering ministry or leadership positions. But not without some honest feedback—about their relational patterns, hidden insecurities, and messianic dreams.
Spiritual health is not about climbing some moral ladder, but about what Jesus calls "purity of heart." This means that our inner life matches our outer. Remember, this was the problem of the religious leaders in Jesus' day. They were hypocrites, play-actors, doing life on stage but hollow within.
It takes time and suffering for growth to happen. This is why the poor, broken, and unclean seem to be privileged in the New Testament—they've already hit bottom. Our humiliations breed depth, grace, forgiveness, strength, courage, curiosity, and hope—all the attributes that make healthy leaders. Otherwise we'll quickly experience what happens to anyone living a lie: We'll get caught, fall, or alienate everyone we love.
Read it all (my emphasis).
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Laity Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Psychology Religion & Culture * Theology Anthropology Christology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)
...to demand that a work be “relatable” expresses a different expectation: that the work itself be somehow accommodating to, or reflective of, the experience of the reader or viewer. The reader or viewer remains passive in the face of the book or movie or play: she expects the work to be done for her. If the concept of identification suggested that an individual experiences a work as a mirror in which he might recognize himself, the notion of relatability implies that the work in question serves like a selfie: a flattering confirmation of an individual’s solipsism.
To appreciate “King Lear”—or even “The Catcher in the Rye” or “The Fault in Our Stars”—only to the extent that the work functions as one’s mirror would make for a hopelessly reductive experience. But to reject any work because we feel that it does not reflect us in a shape that we can easily recognize—because it does not exempt us from the active exercise of imagination or the effortful summoning of empathy—is our own failure. It’s a failure that has been dispiritingly sanctioned by the rise of “relatable.” In creating a new word and embracing its self-involved implications, we have circumscribed our own critical capacities. That’s what sucks, not Shakespeare.
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As usual with Facebook, this is not the whole story. For one, it has begun tracking users’ browsing history to identify their interests better. Its latest mobile app can identify songs and films playing nearby, nudging users to write about them. It has acquired the Moves app, which does something similar with physical activity, using sensors to recognise whether users are walking, driving or cycling.
Still, if Facebook is so quick to embrace – and profit from – the language of privacy, should privacy advocates not fear they are the latest group to be “disrupted”? Yes, they should: as Facebook’s modus operandi mutates, their vocabulary ceases to match the magnitude of the task at hand. Fortunately, the “happiness” experiment also shows us where the true dangers lie.
For example, many commentators have attacked Facebook’s experiment for making some users feel sadder; yet the company’s happiness fetish is just as troubling. Facebook’s “obligation to be happy” is the converse of the “right to be forgotten” that Google was accused of trampling over. Both rely on filters. But, while Google has begun to hide negative results because it has been told to do so by European authorities, Facebook hides negative results because it is good for business. Yet since unhappy people make the best dissidents in most dystopian novels, should we not also be concerned with all those happy, all too happy, users?
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Law & Legal Issues Psychology Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Stock Market * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Like J, with his effortless mastery of big data, these children do not need adult approval before they do things; they are already masters of their world and it is the older generations who must catch up. The millennials grew up with the magical manichean world of Harry Potter and its avuncular headmaster Dumbledore; Generation Z has Katniss Everdeen, the bow-wielding heroine of The Hunger Games, who defies the totalitarian oppressors and starts a revolution.
It will be interesting to see where this generation lands politically — not Ukip, because most have social media friendships that span continents, but will they morph from single-issue activism into democratic party politics or will they, like Everdeen, overturn the existing order? If I were running a political party I would be quite worried about a generation of tech-literate, global-thinking teens raised on a diet of dystopian fiction and the Kardashians. They don’t have much reason to trust adults. And even more alarming, thanks to 3D printers — which they will have mastered long before their parents — they will be able to bypass the arms manufacturers and print their own guns.
Universities and colleges should also be quite apprehensive about Generation Z — there is a growing number of gifted teens who are beginning to wonder whether they will get anything out of university other than a mountain of debt. For the millennials the partying was worth the pain of student loans that they probably won’t pay off before they draw their pension; but for the value- conscious younger generation the idea of education for its own sake is less appealing.
After all, they have online universities and TED talks; any curious teen can probably find a decent liberal arts education online without having to spend a penny on tuition.
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Britain may be the first country to appoint an “older workers’ champion.” Last month, pensions expert Ros Altmann was given the task to challenge outdated perceptions of the elderly and rewrite the rules on early retirement.
Her key message to employers and even workers themselves: A person’s talents and experience don’t stop at age 65.
Dr. Altmann’s appointment reflects two trends in wealthier nations. More people are retiring later. And many governments are reversing policies that encourage early retirement.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Aging / the Elderly Health & Medicine Psychology * Economics, Politics Economy Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK
From the calls I got through the night, it's a revelation that people fear Ebola more than God....! Nobody calls me frantically for Godly things....(From his Facebook page)
Ebola brings death surely, but surely God gives life by grace through faith In Jesus!
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of Nigeria * Christian Life / Church Life Spirituality/Prayer * Culture-Watch Health & Medicine Psychology * International News & Commentary Africa Gambia Liberia Nigeria Sierra Leone * Theology
One of the reasons many churches struggle is they're not a friendly place for men.
Think about the worship service at your church. More than likely, there's a lot of talk about loving each other, but not much about fighting against sin or fighting for each other. There's holding hands when we sing, but not much locking arms as we get marching orders for the mission.
Yes, I'm stereotyping. But, that's what I often hear from many critics of churches. Regardless of its universal application, men need to be challenged to act like men—that's what the Bible does. We need to live out our callings as men, to be and do what God has called us to be and do.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry * Culture-Watch Men Psychology * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Evangelicals * Theology Anthropology Pastoral Theology
Clergy often face a great deal of occupational stress that in turn can lead to mental distress. In recent years denominations have been turning to peer support groups to combat these challenges, but little research exists regarding their effectiveness. This
study explores the utility of peer support groups for reducing mental distress among pastors by analyzing data from two waves of an ongoing study of United Methodist Church (UMC) clergy in North Carolina, as well as focus group data from the same population. Results indicate that participation in peer support groups had inconsistent direct and indirect relationships to mental distress (measured as mentally unhealthy days, anxiety, and depression). Focus group data indicated that the mixed results may be due to individual differences among group participants, which in turn lead to a mix of positive and negative group experiences.
Read it all (Hat tip: DP).
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Health & Medicine Psychology Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Methodist * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Before birth, it is accepted practice to inject the heart of the unborn child with potassium chloride to cause death before inducing a stillbirth, or late term there may be a partial birth abortion in which during delivery an instrument is inserted into the child's brain through the back of the neck so it also is born dead. After birth, even the birth of a baby of the same or even less maturity or gestational age, to end the life would be regarded as a criminal offence in most jurisdictions.
Anecdotally, mothers who opt not to have their child given the fatal injection before birth are placed under great pressure to use the technique to prevent the birth of a child with a disability. It is a cognitive dissonance that seems irresolvable that birth, not maturity or gestational age, is what makes the difference in status of the infant.
Cultural attitudes to disability are obviously conflictual. Public reaction appears to condemn the commissioning couple for reportedly deserting a child on the basis of disability and the inherently discriminatory attitude involved, but would presumably have accepted the killing of baby Gammy before birth at the request of the commissioning couple or the agency, if the birth mother had acquiesced.
There are many other conflicts underlying this case.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Health & Medicine Law & Legal Issues Life Ethics Marriage & Family Psychology Religion & Culture * Religion News & Commentary Other Churches Roman Catholic * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Still scarred by a recession that ended five years ago, Americans are registering record levels of anxiety about the opportunities available to younger generations and are pessimistic about the nation's long-term prospects, directing their blame at elected leaders in Washington.
A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that despite the steady pace of hiring in recent months, 76% of adults lack confidence that their children's generation will have a better life than they do—an all-time high. Some 71% of adults think the country is on the wrong track, a leap of 8 points from a June survey, and 60% believe the U.S. is in a state of decline.
What's more, seven in 10 adults blamed the malaise more on Washington leaders than on any deeper economic trends, and 79% expressed some level of dissatisfaction with the American political system.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Psychology Sociology * Economics, Politics Economy Politics in General House of Representatives Office of the President President Barack Obama Senate * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Like most people, I don’t particularly relish encounters with death. But, welcome or not, I’ve had my fair share. I’ve clasped a woman’s hand as her breathing slowed, became sporadic, and finally ceased. Through the cramped hallways of an ancient farmhouse, down which no stretcher could be maneuvered, I helped heft the sheet-wrapped body of a family’s matriarch to carry her to the waiting hearse. When a small Oklahoma church mourned a member who’d fallen asleep at the wheel, late at night, early in life, I was there, thinking of the joyless “Joy the World” the band of believers had choked out the day before that December 26th funeral. In each of these situations, the death of the young or the old, there was within me a desire to lighten the load of grief borne by the survivors, to shine a ray of life into the gloom of death.
Because of that desire, when I first heard about families opting to have a so-called “Celebration of Life” service for their departed loved ones, instead of a funeral, my interest was piqued. Perhaps here was a viable alternative. The name alone effuses a positive, uplifting appeal that “funeral” or “memorial service” can’t begin to match. Celebrations are good, right? And, life, well, who can possibly have any qualms about that? Perhaps this approach to confronting death, at least the ceremonial part of saying goodbye, would help alleviate some of the pain associated with, and expressed in, a more traditional rite. Maybe it was time to have a funeral for the funeral.
So what makes a Celebration of Life different? Rather than a focus upon the loss of a loved one, this service rewinds the present into the past, to draw the mourners back into the life lived by the deceased. It’s like a miniature, enacted biography of the person, with a focus upon those qualities, interests, and achievements that his family and friends found most endearing about him. Whereas a traditional funeral is structured around a liturgy, in this ceremony stories about the person—serious or lighthearted—take center stage. It is his funeral, after all, so shouldn’t it be about him?
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Psychology Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A.
On a fall day in 2008, the kitchen phone rang inside the Arnetts’ ranch home in Southwick. It was a state social worker, asking if they would consider taking in a “foster child with disabilities.”
The couple didn’t hesitate. They had completed foster-care training two years before, already had cared for a handful of children, and refused to turn away anyone in need.
As devout Christians, they believed God’s work requires sacrifices, including from busy families like theirs raising three boys.
But the social worker didn’t want a quick answer over the phone, insisting instead on a face-to-face visit. A week later, when she and two supervisors showed up at the Arnetts’ house, carrying files and a videotape, they wasted little time before asking, “Have you heard of Haleigh Poutre?”
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It’s not easy being a celebrity pastor these days with that pesky Internet around.
Consider the struggles of Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Faced with mounting accusations circulating online — plagiarism, misusing church funds to prop book sales, silencing anyone in his church with the temerity to question him — Driscoll has urged his followers to stay off the Web. “It’s all shenanigans anyway,” he explains.
Steven Furtick, a megachurch pastor in North Carolina, and Dave Ramsey, an evangelical finance guru, have been taking hits, too, as have the wheeler-dealers on the Preachers of L.A. reality show. This, against a backdrop of culture shifts creating strong headwinds against the leader-and-follower model typified by today’s Christian superstars.
What are a megapastor and his followers to do? Remembering the biblical admonitions against idolatry would be a good start.
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A week after my admission to my friend, I was sitting at a wedding Mass listening to the reading of a prayer written by the bride and groom. It asked that “all called to the generosity of the single or celibate . . . might inspire [name of bride and groom] by their conformity to Christ, and always find in them fiercely devoted friends, and in their house a second home.”
The prayer moved me, in part because I’d been going through my own period of loneliness, but also because it reminded me that the movement for gay marriage is absolutely right to demand that the institution be made more inclusive. Where it goes wrong is in supposing this can be done by asserting a free-floating right to marriage, rather than by insisting on the duty of every marriage to become a place of welcome. We can’t and shouldn’t redesign marriage under the illusion that it can directly include everyone. We need more than one form of solidarity.
Despite my eccentric evolution on gay marriage, I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy a certain fugitive solidarity with those whose paths differ from my own. A strange portion of the intellectual discovery and growth in friendship I’ve enjoyed these past years has come about not despite, but because of, the vexations of the gay marriage debate. Those with whom I disagree have helped me see how the strands of the Christian sexual ethic combine to form a great tapestry, the patterns of which would be much more obscure had they not prompted me to think through how sex intersects with Scripture, nature, culture. For this, I owe them a great debt. I hope that in the years to come I can do something to repay it.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Marriage & Family Philosophy Psychology Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
As you plan — or even go — on your summer vacation, think about this: More and more Americans are no longer taking a few weeks off to suntan and sight see abroad. Instead they're working in orphanages, building schools and teaching English.
It's called volunteer tourism or "volunteerism." And it's one of the fastest growing trends in travel today. More than 1.6 million volunteer tourists are spending about $2 billion each year.
But some people who work in the industry are skeptical of volunteerism's rising popularity. They question whether some trips help young adults pad their resumes or college applications more than they help those in need.
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Ricochet is a surfing superstar who helps teach the disabled to hang ten, too.
Watch it all from NBC.
The subtitle deserves to be printed just as written: Polyamorous people still face plenty of stigmas, but some studies suggest they handle certain relationship challenges better than monogamous people do.
Terri Conley, a professor of psychology and women’s studies at the University of Michigan who studies polyamory, has analyzed a sample of 1,700 monogamous individuals, 150 swingers, 170 people in open relationships, and 300 polyamorous individuals for a forthcoming study. She said that while people in “open relationships” tend to have lower sexual satisfaction than their monogamous peers, people who described themselves as “polyamorous” tended to have equal or higher levels of sexual satisfaction.
What’s more, polyamorous people don’t seem to be plagued by monogamous-style romantic envy. Bjarne Holmes, a psychologist at Champlain College in Vermont has found that polyamorous people tend to experience less overall jealousy, even in situations that would drive monogamous couples to Othello-levels of suspicion. "It turns out that, hey, people are not reacting with jealousy when their partner is flirting with someone else," Holmes told LiveScience.
Sheff agreed. “I would say they have lower-than-average jealousy,” she said. “People who are very jealous generally don’t do polyamory at all.”
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I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.
Like many people, I trust Google to find me answers to everything from the mundane to the medical. Now, after a decade in which our increasing obsession with social media brought our computers out of the study and into the living-room, more of us are turning to the internet even when our question is emotional or irrational. The result: two decades after the birth of the web, our search histories have become a mirror to every aspect of our lives.
“Someone once said that what you look for is way more telling than information about yourself – this is something Google and other search engines understood a long time ago,” says Luciano Floridi, the Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information at the Oxford Internet Institute.
“Future generations will be able to trace our interests as a society just by looking at what we were looking for. Even if we don’t find the information, it doesn’t matter. Who we are, how we represent ourselves, how the world feeding back a mirror image of ourselves shapes our idea of ourselves – this is as old as philosophy, but today has a completely new twist. The online and offline are becoming more and more blurred, and that feeds back into our self-perception.” (If that sounds pseudy, then think of the example of a recruiter Googling someone who’s applied for a job: does the person on Twitter better represent who they really are, or the person on their best behaviour in the interview room?)
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Health & Medicine Philosophy Psychology Religion & Culture Science & Technology * International News & Commentary England / UK
I think that the boggle line also tells us something about belief. We each of us have what we could call a belief continuum, with taken-for-granted obvious truths at one end (in August, it does not snow in New York City) and whacked-out possibilities at the other (the tooth fairy, a Cubs triumph in the World Series). When we draw a line between the plausible and the ridiculous — our boggle line — I think we become more confident about the beliefs on the plausible side of the line. You are, the boggle line tells you, a sensible, reasonable person. You do not believe in that. So a belief in this — well, a sensible person would take that seriously.
We know already that asserting one kind of belief shapes one’s willingness to commit to another. Benoit Monin, a professor of organizational behavior and psychology at Stanford, and his colleagues have found that when people do something that affirms their lack of prejudice, like disagreeing with blatant racism or expressing willingness, in a laboratory experiment, to hire a black person instead of a white one, that reasonable moral action seems to license them later to express views that seem racist. Seeing yourself as morally reasonable might allow you to make morally risky choices.
So perhaps rejecting the extreme position (I don’t believe in that) might make a less extreme, but still uncertain, commitment seem more plausible. Indeed, you can make a case that this is why heresy is so important. “What people do not believe is often more clearly articulated than what they do believe,” the sociologist Lester R. Kurtz wrote in 1983, “and it is through battles with heresies and heretics that orthodoxy is most sharply delineated.” The sociologists would explain that if this is true, it is because people unite most profoundly in opposition to a common enemy.
Read it all from the NY Times Op-ed.
The belief that your partner will be there for you when things go wrong lays a strong foundation for marital happiness. What creates this belief? Surprisingly, it’s not only how your spouse behaves during a crisis, but also how he or she responds when something great happens, according to Shelly Gable, Ph.D., a psychology professor at UC Santa Barbara
Got a promotion? Your spouse could respond actively or passively, constructively or destructively. The best would be active/constructive: “I know you’ve worked so hard for this! Let’s celebrate.” The worst would be active/destructive: “Wow, do you really think you can handle this extra responsibility?” Somewhere in between are a “[yawn] That’s nice, dear,” or worse, “Did you pick up my dry cleaning?”
Celebrating each other’s triumphs is a no-brainer for Atherton and Bert Drenth, a 58-year-old health care company owner and a 60-year-old service rep for hospital lab equipment in Guelph, Ontario. The couple agree that they have been “each other’s best cheerleaders,” throughout their marriage. When Bert gave Atherton the news, for example, that he’d landed a great new job, she told him, “All your hard work, integrity, reliability, and attention to detail really paid off. I am so proud of you.”
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Buried in the data [of the study] was the revelation that almost half of millennials (43 percent, and higher among the youngest subset) said they would support a marriage model that involved a two-year trial — at which point the union could be either formalized or dissolved, no divorce or paperwork required. Thirty three percent said they’d be open to trying what researchers dubbed the “real estate” approach – marriage licenses granted on a five, seven, 10 or 30-year arms, after which the terms must be renegotiated. And 21 percent said they’d give the “presidential” method a try, whereby marriage vows last for four years but after eight you can elect to choose a new partner.
In total, nearly half of all of those surveyed, ages 18 to 49 – and 53 percent percent of millennials — thought marriage vows should be renewed, and nearly 40 percent said they believed the “till death do us part” vow should be abolished. In other words: Beta marriages! Unions you can test and deglitch, work out kinks or simply abandon course without consequence. “This is a generation that is used to this idea that everything is in beta, that life is a work in progress, so the idea of a beta marriage makes sense,” the study’s author, Melissa Lavigne-Delville, told me. “It’s not that they’re entirely noncommittal, it’s just that they’re nimble and open to change.”
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If ever a kitchen appliance captured the zeitgeist, this is it: you can now eat your own face, thanks to a selfie toaster.
The toasters are custom built to scorch a particular image into a piece of bread. They cost $75 (£45), and to order one you must send a picture of yourself to the manufacturer.
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At no time in my life have I felt more palpable anxiety than at the beginning of my experience of clinical pastoral education in seminary. My first visit with a hospital patient went something like this: I said, “Hi. I’m the chaplain on the floor today. What’s your name?” The patient said: “Oh—well, nice to meet you. I hope you have a wonderful day.” And then I hightailed it out of the room.
Thanks to clinical pastoral education, I did get better at this ministry. I learned how to sit in silence when necessary, how to offer prayers, how to be part of difficult conversations in fruitful ways.
Core to my learning was writing up and discussing verbatims—written records of conversations in the clinical setting that approximated the verbal back and forth of visits with patients. In reviewing verbatims, pastoral interns learn how to share and invite people into more meaningful conversations.
The helpfulness of that experience has inspired the idea of another sort of clinical endeavor. The type of conversation that frequently terrifies me now is a little different, but I am no less awkward and no less in need of something like a verbatim to help me with it. Call the course I need CEE: clinical evangelistic education.
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he divorce statistics for modern Western societies are catastrophic. They show that marriage is no longer regarded as a new, independent reality transcending the individuality of the spouses, a reality that, at the very least, cannot be dissolved by the will of one partner alone. But can it be dissolved by the consent of both parties, or by the will of a synod or a pope? The answer must be no, for as Jesus himself explicitly declares, man cannot put asunder what God himself has joined together. Such is the teaching of the Catholic Church.
The Christian understanding of the good life claims to be valid for all human beings. Yet even Jesus’s disciples were shocked by their Master’s words: Wouldn’t it be better, then, they replied, not to marry at all? The astonishment of the disciples underscores the contrast between the Christian way of life and the way of life dominant in the world. Whether it wants to or not, the Church in the West is on its way to becoming a counterculture, and its future now depends chiefly on whether it is able, as the salt of the earth, to keep its savor and not be trampled underfoot by men.
The beauty of the Church’s teaching can shine forth only when it’s not watered down. The temptation to dilute doctrine is reinforced nowadays by an unsettling fact: Catholics are divorcing almost as frequently as their secular counterparts. Something has clearly gone wrong. It’s against all reason to think that all civilly divorced and remarried Catholics began their first marriages firmly convinced of its indissolubility and then fundamentally reversed themselves along the way. It’s more reasonable to assume that they entered into matrimony without clearly realizing what they were doing in the first place: burning their bridges behind them for all time (which is to say until death), so that the very idea of a second marriage simply did not exist for them.
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The arguments against assisted suicide are strongly held. Many people object on moral or religious grounds, while some doctors say that it conflicts with their oath to “do no harm”. Opponents add that vulnerable people may feel pressure to spare their carers the burden—or, worse, may be bullied into choosing suicide. And there is a broader argument that allowing assisted suicide in some cases will create a slippery slope, with ever more people being allowed (or forced) to take their own lives, even for trivial reasons.
But the arguments in favour are more compelling. In a pluralistic society, the views of one religion should not be imposed on everybody. Those with a genuine moral objection to assisted suicide need not participate. What a doctor sees as harm a patient may see as relief; and anyway it is no longer standard for medical students to take the Hippocratic oath. The hardest argument concerns vulnerable people: they may indeed feel pressure, but that is simply a reason to set up a robust system of counselling and psychiatric assessment, requiring the agreement of several doctors that a patient is in their right mind and proceeding voluntarily.
It is also true that as some countries relax their restrictions on assisted suicide, the practice will become more common and there will probably be pressure for other restrictions to be removed. But there is nothing unusual in this. Moral absolutes are rare. When faced with dilemmas societies draw boundaries and carve out exceptions.
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A woman in her late 20s came to see me recently because her back hurt. She works at a child care center in town where she picks up babies and small children all day long.
She felt a twinge in her lower back when hoisting a fussy kid. The pain was bad enough that she went home from work early and was laid out on the couch until she came to see me the next day.
In my office she told me she had "done some damage" to her back. She was worried. She didn't want to end up like her father, who'd left his factory job in his mid-50s on disability after suffering what she called permanent damage to his back.
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As Merrick shares, “What I found helpful is to read those people who are being discussed and try and understand what they’re saying,” for two reasons:
You become a better thinker by honing your argument.
You become a more generous, thoughtful thinker.
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Have you ever heard a sermon about body image?
Aside from the occasional side comment, I've never heard body image given substantial treatment from the pulpit or serious attention from leaders in the church, which is surprising since body image is not a marginal issue in our culture.
Statistics vary, but research shows that somewhere between 80 percent and 90 percent of women are dissatisfied with their bodies. Although the percentage of women with severe eating disorders is between 0.5 percent and 3.7 percent, roughly 3 out of 4 engage in some form of disordered eating.
And in 2013, women had more than 10.3 million surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures, signifying a 471 percent increase since 1997. The top procedures were breast augmentation, liposuction, tummy tuck, breast lift, and eyelid surgery.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained Preaching / Homiletics * Culture-Watch Health & Medicine Psychology * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
In the past ten years, the number of teenagers with depression has doubled, according to the mental health charity YoungMinds. If you listen to parents of teenagers, they all seem to have a story of someone they know – a family at a loss about how to deal with their child’s depression. The figures seem to back up the anecdotal evidence. One in ten children and young people aged between five and sixteen suffers from a diagnosable mental-health disorder – the easiest way to imagine this is around three children in every class in Britain. Around 7 per cent of British teenagers have tried to kill or harm themselves, yet only 6 per cent of the mental health budget is spent on under- eighteens. One of the most alarming statistics is the number of admissions to A&E departments for self-harm: over the past ten years, it has increased by 68 per cent. One expert tells me there is an “epidemic” of cutting.
Without help, the majority of children with mental-health problems go on to become mentally ill as adults. This is, Marjorie Wallace, the chief executive of the charity SANE, tells me, “the age of desperation”.
“If you really listen to what some of these young people are saying, there is a huge element of despair,” says Wallace. “Growing up has always been difficult, but the sense of desperation? That is new. There is a degree of alienation in this generation. There is no sense of belonging. They are much more isolated, partly due to social media. They are not connected to community, to families, to siblings, and that brings more disillusionment.” For Wallace, the dramatic rise in reports of self-harm is indicative of the amount of distress. “It is not a cry for help. It’s to stop themselves from doing something much worse.”
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We live in intolerant times. A former Secretary of State is disinvited from speaking on campus. Corporate leaders are forced to resign because of their views on marriage. People are forced by the courts to violate their consciences. A prominent Senate leader calls Tea Party activists “anarchists” and, in a speech reminiscent of McCarthyism, brands the businessmen-philanthropist Koch brothers “un-American.” The Internal Revenue Service—harking back to the Johnson and Nixon eras—is accused of targeting individuals and groups for their political views. And government leaders routinely ignore laws they are sworn to uphold.
This is more than intolerant. It is illiberal. It is a willingness to use coercive methods, from government action to public shaming, to shut down debate and censor those who hold a different opinion as if they have no right to their views at all.
Read it all and read part two there also.
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My Lords, this present Bill is not about relieving pain or suffering. It makes that quite clear in its definition of a terminally ill patient to include those whose progressive illness can be relieved but not reversed. This bill is about asserting a philosophy, which not only Christians, but also other thoughtful people of goodwill who have had experience in care for the dying must find incredible: that is, the ancient Stoic philosophy that ending one’s life in circumstances of distress is an assertion of human freedom. That it cannot be. Human freedom is won only by becoming reconciled with the need to die, and by affirming the human relations we have with other people. Accepting the approach of death is not the attitude of passivity that we may think it to be. Dying well is the positive achievement of a task that belongs with our humanity. It is unlike all other tasks given to us in life, but it expresses the value we set on life as no other approach to death can do.
We need time, human presence and sympathy in coming to terms with a terminal prognosis. To put the opportunity to end one’s life before a patient facing that task would be to invite him or her to act under their influence rather than dealing with them.
It is possible to think abstractly that one’s early death would be welcome to one’s nearest family and would spare them trouble. But in fact the best service one could do for them would be to accept their care, and to show appreciation of them at the end of one’s life.
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Many, including former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, argue that it would have been the “compassionate” and “caring” thing to do. How difficult it would have been for Denise to argue with me if she was made to feel that she was a “burden” to myself and others. Had assisted dying been legal, I daresay the medics might have agreed with me, and the pressure on her, though subtle, would have been unbearable.
That is one of the many reasons I believe Lord Carey’s arguments to be so profoundly misguided and dangerous. He quotes a dying woman parishioner of his who whispered in his ear before she died that, “It is quality of life that counts, not length of days”. Well, maybe – but who is to decide, when, and on what grounds?
Denise’s quality of life at the time of her prognosis and following it was poor by any standards. However, against the odds the chemo did have an effect and the tumour shrank for a while. Had assisted dying been legal, we might never have had the opportunity to enjoy the precious months together that we were given as the more debilitating effects of the treatment wore off. The despair of the moment would have determined our actions. What a tragedy that would have been.
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One in three cases of Alzheimer's disease worldwide is preventable, according to research from the University of Cambridge.
The main risk factors for the disease are a lack of exercise, smoking, depression and poor education, it says.
Previous research from 2011 put the estimate at one in two cases, but this new study takes into account overlapping risk factors.
Alzheimer's Research UK said age was still the biggest risk factor.
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Father Michael Lapsley is an Anglican priest who was sent to South Africa during the institutionalized racial segregation of apartheid. He became a chaplain to Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress and a target of the white supremacy government. One day Lapsley opened a package that turned out to be a bomb. He lost both hands and one eye in the attack on his life, but his faith survived. He now uses his wounds to connect with those who have experienced trauma and help them find healing.
Read or watch and listen to it all.
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"On a sunny day in September, 1972, a stern-faced, plainly dressed man could be seen standing still on a street corner in the busy Chicago Loop. As pedestrians hurried by on their way to lunch or business, he would solemnly lift his right arm, and pointing to the person nearest him, intone loudly the single word, ‘GUILTY!’"Then, without any change of expression, he would resume his stiff stance for a few moments before repeating the gesture. Then, again, the inexorable raising of his arm, the pointing, and the solemn pronouncing of the one word, ‘GUILTY!’--Karl Menninger, "Whatever Became of Sin?" which you may find in The Rotarian of January 1974 there, his emphasis (These are also the words at beginning of his famous book of the same title)
"The effect of this strange j’accuse pantomime on the passing strangers was extraordinary, almost eerie. They would stare at him, hesitate, look away, look at each other, and then at him again; then hurriedly continue on their ways.
"One man, turning to another who was my informant, exclaimed: ‘But how did he know?’ "No doubt many others had similar thoughts. How did he know, indeed?
Bad stats. When will we learn? Is anybody willing to own it?
Thankfully, at least one person is.
Tyler Charles. Charles is author of the original piece in RELEVANT magazine.
On Monday of this week, Tyler Charles wrote a helpful mea culpa over at High Calling. In it, he admitted what he called his own "amateur" journalism and confessed to being guilty of "hyping bad stats."
In the recent article, Charles confessed, "the statistics upon which my entire article hinged were, how should I say this, um...iffy. At best… the data had been extrapolated from a study designed to determine something completely different."
Charles explains, "after closer examination, the sample size was too small to legitimately make the claims I had clearly and consistently made." Charles stepped forward because "I couldn't justify the conclusions my article suggested."
Read it all from Christianity Today.
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A Sudanese court in May sentences a Christian woman married to an American to be hanged, after first being lashed 100 times, after she refuses to renounce her Christian faith.
Muslim extremists in Iraq demand that Christians pay a tax or face crucifixion, according to the Iraqi government.
In Malaysia, courts ban some non-Muslims from using the word “Allah.”
In country after country, Islamic fundamentalists are measuring their own religious devotion by the degree to which they suppress or assault those they see as heretics, creating a human rights catastrophe as people are punished or murdered for their religious beliefs.
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The sex into which we have been born (assuming that it is physiologically unambiguous) is given to us to be welcomed as a gift of God. The task of psychological maturity–for it is a moral task, and not merely an event which may or may not transpire–involves accepting this gift and learning to love it, even though we may have to acknowledge that it does not come to us without problems. Our task is to discern the possibilities for personal relationship which are given to us with this biological sex, and to seek to develop them in accordance with our individual vocations.--Oliver O'Donovan Begotten or Made?: Human Procreation and Medical Technique (Oxford: Oxford University Pres, 1984) which was found here.
Those for whom this task has been comparatively unproblematic (though I suppose that no human being alive has been without some sexual problems) are in no position to pronounce any judgment on those for whom accepting their sex has been a task so difficult that they have fled from it into denial. No one can say with any confidence what factors have made these pressures so severe.
Nevertheless, we cannot and must not conceive of physical sexuality as a mere raw material with which we can construct a form of psychosexual self-expression which is determined only by the free impulse of our spirits. Responsibility in sexual development implies a responsibility to nature–to the ordered good of the bodily form which we have been given. And that implies that we must make the necessary distinction between the good of the bodily form as such and the various problems that it poses to us personally in our individual experience. This is a comment that applies not only to this very striking and unusually distressing problem, but to a whole range of other sexual problems too.
3. Encourage everyone to “take a step back”
There comes a point in most meetings where everyone is chiming in, except you. Opinions and data and milestones are being thrown around and you don’t know your CTA from your OTA. This is a great point to go, “Guys, guys, guys, can we take a step back here?” Everyone will turn their heads toward you, amazed at your ability to silence the fray. Follow it up with a quick, “What problem are we really trying to solve?” and, boom! You’ve bought yourself another hour of looking smart.
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I don’t need to remind you of the widespread concern about the ill-treatment of the aged and those at the end of life in some of our care homes and hospitals - and this in spite of the many dedicated people working in these fields of care. It seems all the more incomprehensible, then, that we would be considering a change in the law to diminish the protection given to those most vulnerable.
Next month a Bill to legalize “assisted suicide” for those at the end of life will begin its passage through Parliament. This legislation will be presented as a “compassionate” measure, whose sole aim is to relieve the suffering of the sick and the aged. Yet, it is far from compassionate to remove the legal protections provided for some of the most vulnerable members of society. The proposed change to our laws will license doctors to supply lethal drugs to assist the deaths of those expected to live for six months or less. If Parliament allows exceptions to the laws which protect the very sanctity of human life, it would be impossible to predict where this will end. In 1967, the politicians who legalised the killing of unborn children in limited and exceptional circumstances did not foresee how violating the sanctity of human life would lead to the wanton destruction of millions of lives. It is not surprising that many vulnerable people, including those with disabilities, are today worried by Lord Falconer’s “assisted dying” Bill. It might sound reasonable to speak of “choicesat the end of life” - as the campaigners for euthanasia do - but what choice will be left for many?
Read it carefully and read it all.
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Of course choice is good. I aspire to more of it and so do people who have enjoyed much less of it than I have. Offer me more choice, at least in theory, and I'll say Yes. I'll answer your loaded opinion poll and tell you I am in favour of this choice and that choice because who, in this culture, can be against more choice without being a heretic? But talk about choice on that day in the future when I am wholly dependent on the people around me, when my life is almost over and I have far more chance of pleasing others by getting out of their way quietly than of making much difference to my own situation, and my choice won't be about me, it will be about them. And those last days of life, surely, are precisely the moment when choices ought to be about the one approaching the end - and no one else.
How many Parliamentarians who will shortly debate the Falconer Bill on assisted suicide are people with wide enough life experience to empathise with those who see more choice as a threat and not a blessing? How many subscribers to the BMJ put themselves, day by day, into the shoes of people for whom consumer choice is someone else's luxury, even if their editor chooses to use his journalistic position to make a ruling on behalf of ethicists everywhere?
Some of them, to be sure - maybe many of them. Will they encourage the rest to dig deep into their imaginations, to empathise with people who are not articulate, who are used to being done unto, and who have lived on the receiving end of other's choices all their lives?
They are in Parliament to govern on behalf of all citizens. The weak. The poor. The vulnerable. The dying. The ones who don't want to be a nuisance. The ones who do not regard choice as an unalloyed good, as well as the people who are used to choosing. And the medical profession too - despite the sweeping assertions of the BMJ about the nature of ethics, are also in business for those people.
Will the Parliamentarians and the medics empathise beyond their own kind? I hope so. I do hope so.
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Justin, who has cerebral palsy and was born missing parts of his brain, also has a seizure disorder, which has gotten worse lately. He's often silent during his seizures, which means he has to sleep with his parents so they can tell when he needs help. Judy says caring for Justin is a lot like taking care of a newborn....Except Justin is not a baby. He just turned 16 and weighs 100 pounds. He can't talk, he can't walk and he'll always require around-the-clock care. Like the estimated 17 million people in the U.S. taking care of their special-needs kids, Judy's days largely consist of making sure Justin's needs are met....
The faith community is a major source of support for James and Judy Lee. Every Sunday the family attends Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Sacramento. James welcomes people's empathy, but he rejects their pity. He recalled a man at a support group once asking him if he hated God because of Justin's disability.
"I said, 'No, I'm actually thankful that He chose us to take care of Justin,' " he says.
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The term LGBT, representing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, has been in widespread use since the early 1990s. Recent additions - queer, "questioning" and intersex - have seen the term expand to LGBTQQI in many places. But do lesbians and gay men, let alone the others on the list, share the same issues, values and goals?
Anthony Lorenzo, a young gay journalist, says the list has become so long, "We've had to start using Sanskrit because we've run out of letters."
Bisexuals have argued that they are disliked and mistrusted by both straight and gay people. Trans people say they should be included because they experience hatred and discrimination, and thereby are campaigning along similar lines as the gay community for equality.
But what about those who wish to add asexual to the pot? Are asexual people facing the same category of discrimination. And "polyamorous"? Would it end at LGBTQQIAP?
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I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.
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If you have a job, you know some people take their job titles way too seriously. Many of them just sit around and do the bare minimum all day long.
Whether you’re a sales associate taking on a retail position at a high-end store, or a director at a major corporation, there’s a high chance you should just be called a more simplified name rather than whatever your business card says you are.
In a recent photo series released by Someecards, we’re all exposed to the harsh reality of what our job titles actually entail.
These are really good and deserve a careful look--KSH.
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Britons spend more than 130 million hours per week working from cafés, dubbed “coffices” by some, while more than one in four workers would choose to work there if they had the option, according to a survey by O2 Business.
New legislation, which takes effect today, will give workers the right to request more flexible working arrangements, but more than half of those surveyed by O2 were unaware of the changes.
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How shocking: Facebook had the temerity to conduct an experiment on its users without telling them and now the results have been published in the Proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Actually, no one should be surprised.
For a week in 2012, the social network's staff scientist Adam Kramer and two collaborators used algorithms to doctor the news feeds of 689,003 English-speaking Facebook users. They reduced the number of posts containing "positive" and "negative" words, tracked their lab rat users' own posts, and found that their mood was influenced by that of the news feed. The term, well-known to psychologists studying real-world communications, is "emotional contagion."
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Why are people dishonest? From Main Street to Wall Street, at home and at work, questionable behavior defies people’s best intentions. Now experts in the social sciences are examining why people so often behave contrary to their own ethical aims and what can be done about it, especially in the world of business. “What we find is that when people are thinking about honesty versus dishonesty,” says Dan Ariely, a professor of behavioral economics at the Duke University Fuqua School of Business, “it’s all about being able, at the moment, to rationalize something and make yourself think that this is actually okay.”
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French law now contains guidelines for palliative care, discontinuing life support and other matters. Yet the debate surrounding Mr Lambert’s case differs little from the debate over Humbert.
In urging patience, the European Court acted responsibly. Few of the desperately ill are truly incommunicado or lack any kind of “living will” or directive. And drawing up rules for securing the “dignity” of patients is a dangerous business in the best of cases. Death by natural causes, as we have always understood it, involves many things we consider undignified.
Assertions that the patient “wouldn’t have wanted to suffer” can offer too much leeway to doctors and relatives. The danger is that we will turn the “end of life” into an excuse for making exceptions to our medical and moral common sense.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Aging / the Elderly Health & Medicine Law & Legal Issues Life Ethics Marriage & Family Psychology Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary England / UK Europe France * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Ms. Ibrahim's story bears uncanny parallels to another Christian story involving young African mothers who did become Christian martyrs, during the early third century: the story of Felicitas and Perpetua, executed for their faith in the Roman port city of Carthage in today's Tunisia. Vibia Perpetua was a well-educated young woman, not unlike Ms. Ibrahim, who is trained as a doctor. Felicitas was a slave in an advanced state of pregnancy when she was thrown into prison along with Perpetua and other Christians to await their deaths by wild animals in the Carthage arena. Perpetua, like Ms. Ibrahim, went to prison along with a baby son. Felicitas, like Ms. Ibrahim, bore a baby daughter before her execution date.
The most dramatic parallel is the simple affirmation that Ms. Ibrahim gave in court that led to her death sentence: "I am a Christian." Those also were Perpetua's words, as they were of many martyrs in Roman times. Like Perpetua, Ms. Ibrahim, who was brought up in the Ethiopian Orthodox faith of her mother, also refused to recant.
This isn't just a matter of ancient and modern coincidences. More significantly, the Roman world of the third century was strikingly like today's secularized West in its contempt for Christians and indifference to their persecution.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch History Law & Legal Issues Prison/Prison Ministry Psychology Religion & Culture Violence Women * International News & Commentary Africa Sudan --South Sudan * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
[The following are]... separate steps people [can] take to improve their own morale:
Invest in relationships with people who know you that you trust, who are heading towards the same goals. People who can cheer you on and vice versa. People who will celebrate your successes and stand with you in the inevitable failures, those who you can tell what is under the mask. A virtual team with mutual respect.Read it all (subscription called for).
Set some life goals that reflect the most significant current spheres of life. Work, family, hobbies, studies, etc., and give them some measurable values. Not New Year resolutions, more intentional investments in the things that matter.
Take seriously personal and professional investment. The clearest positive trend in the ‘FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to work for 2013’ research document highlights employee development, with staff being given on average 66 hours per year of professional development.
Guard against compassion fatigue. Our emotional resources are not infinite and in a caring profession we cannot take on all the cares of the world despite the information superhighway telling us everything we need to know about things we can worry about. Respond well to a limited number of needs.Find people, publications or websites that have a ‘can do’ air about them. I was on a mission stand at an event recently where Jackie Pullinger was speaking. After the event I overheard a number of people saying things like, ‘she made me feel that mission was possible, that I could play a part’.
Be intentional about eating and sleeping well.
And finally, rely on God.
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When I share these [sobering] statistics [on the discontent and discouragement among parish minsiters and their families] with pastors, they slowly, knowingly nod their heads.
Yet when I share these statistics with non-clergy, they are shocked: “How can this be? I had no idea!” A widespread Super Pastor mentality has led us to believe that pastors never struggle, never doubt, never get discouraged, and never wrestle with feelings of failure — just because they’re pastors.
Read more in Briggs' recent book Fail.Read more in J.R. Briggs’ latest book.
But pastors are people, too. Ministry is a significant calling and it is involves broken, sinful, and scandalously ordinary people God calls and uses to shepherd souls. These broken ordinaries are called pastors.
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They’re living at home in growing numbers. They're not buying homes, which creates ripple effects throughout the housing market. They’re having more babies out of wedlock than in it. Why can’t millennials get it together?
The first and most obvious answer is “jobs.” If you can’t find a stable job, it’s hard to move out of Mom’s basement. It’s hard to commit to a mortgage or a spouse. It's hard, in other words, to launch into the middle-class life that constitutes the American Dream.
Millennials are some of the biggest victims of the financial crisis. Those without a college degree face high rates of unemployment, while those who have a sheepskin are more and more likely to be underemployed in a job that doesn’t require their degree. Even if the student loan crisis has been overstated, the rising cost of college tuition certainly doesn’t help.
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Even we Christians seem to have sidelined joy in entertainment to explore the bleaker side of reality. We find ourselves praising sad standups for what they can teach us about our faith. We binge-watch shows like Breaking Bad, House of Cards, and Mad Men for the way their broken characters and their brutal worlds will reveal the dark side of human nature. Yes, we've seen how recent heavy dramas can show us the real weight of sin and the moral consequences of our decisions, but these kinds of programs can't become our only tv obsessions.
Just as we proclaim a God of grace and justice, of love and law, Christians need balance in our pop culture engagement. So do our neighbors. We need the light of the funny, silly, and joyful to glow in the dark. Shiny-happy shows don't tell the full truth, but neither do shows that punch us in the face. We've spent enough time embracing suffering and being skeptical of joy and happiness. All the more so if, as C.S. Lewis said, "Joy is the serious business of heaven."
Fallon's spirit is no shtick. His joy has been there all along. As a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 1998 to 2004, he notoriously broke character, holding back laughter in the background of a sketch or cracking a smile in the middle of a punch line. His critics cite these incidents as weaknesses. I think they prove how much he likes his job.
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RNS: In my experience, redemption for evangelicals means “work harder,” do more good stuff, and stave off bad behavior. But this isn’t your message, is it?
MC: No, because redemption isn’t you working harder. Redemption is you having been saved from your error by someone else. In fact, you don’t possess the ability to redeem yourself in any way. This is the great lie of moralistic deism, that you can be good enough. Men from the Bible–from the prophet Isaiah to Jesus’ teaching on the Sermon on the Mount–teach that you cannot be righteous enough to save yourself. One of the more terrifying verses in the Bible is when Jesus said to a crowd, “Unless your righteousness supersedes the Pharisees, you have no part of the Kingdom of Heaven.”
The Pharisees were tithing their mint and dill and were more righteous, externally speaking, than anyone reading this has even tried to be. Jesus is exposing the truth that you and I will never be good enough, that all of our righteous deeds are worthless. So, this can’t be the message of redemption because the Scriptures are clear that redemption doesn’t work that way.
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Along with the Jaw III headline, former English referee Graham Poll, who is widely regarded as one of the best modern referees, argued that Suarez, "should not be allowed to kick another ball in this World Cup tournament".
"Referee Marco Rodriguez clearly missed the coming together of Suarez and Italian Giorgio Chiellini," Poll said. "And replays are clear enough to me for the Uruguayan to be charged by FIFA's disciplinary panel."
Adding to the discontent of the English press at the despicable behaviour of Suarez, Everton boss Roberto Martinez chimed into the conversation on ESPN and questioned whether the 2013-14 EPL player of the season is in the right state of mind to be playing football given his brain explosions of late.
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Researchers took pains to document the rise and fall in social status, periodically interviewing the subjects as well as those who they felt knew them best, usually close friends. About 20 percent of the group fell into the “cool kid” category at the study’s outset.
A constellation of three popularity-seeking behaviors characterized pseudomaturity, Dr. Allen and his colleagues found. These young teenagers sought out friends who were physically attractive; their romances were more numerous, emotionally intense and sexually exploring than those of their peers; and they dabbled in minor delinquency — skipping school, sneaking into movies, vandalism.
As they turned 23, the study found that when compared to their socially slower-moving middle-school peers, they had a 45 percent greater rate of problems resulting from alcohol and marijuana use and a 40 percent higher level of actual use of those substances. They also had a 22 percent greater rate of adult criminal behavior, from theft to assaults.
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In your first column for Christianity Today, you noted that George Herbert helped guide you into the Anglican tradition. How exactly did that happen?
I was raised Southern Baptist and have been a believing Christian since childhood. But for several years during college and afterward, I felt I was still looking for the right ecclesial home. My first exposure to the Anglican tradition was when I attended a Maundy Thursday service during my freshman year of college. I was simultaneously put off by what felt, at that time, like excessive formality, and attracted to what seemed like a form of worship with integrity, mystery, and depth. Eventually I was confirmed in the Church of England, by then-Bishop of Durham Justin Welby. By that time, I had developed theological reasons for becoming Anglican — reasons that had to do with Anglicanism’s identity as “catholic” and “reformed.” But initially, Anglicanism represented more of a sensibility than a theology. It nurtured in me something I didn’t initially have or want: a taste for beauty in liturgy and church art, and an inclination toward theological reticence and reverence.
What thinkers of the Church, present or past, are you most excited about?
I’m very interested in the work that a celibate lesbian Roman Catholic named Eve Tushnet is doing. Her first book is coming out this fall from Ave Maria Press (Gay and Catholic: Accepting My Sexuality, Finding Community, Living My Faith). I’ve been reading Eve’s blog for years, and I think she’s one of the sharpest cultural critics around, in addition to being one of our most provocative and helpful Christian voices on the theology of friendship.
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[NEDA] ULABY: Shows [like many at present] where nearly everyone on the planet sickens and dies appeal to scholar Nancy Tomes.
NANCY TOMES: Oh, I couldn't be happier.
ULABY: Tomes studies the history of epidemics. She wrote a book called "The Gospel Of Germs." She says science-fiction and horror often reflect contemporary fears. So during the Cold War, for example, we saw movies about big, scary, nuclear-related monsters. Now she says we worry about our bodies turning against us. In an age of gluten allergies, genetically modified food and mad cow disease.
TOMES: From what you buy in the grocery store, to what you may be breathing when you walk down the street.
ULABY: Not to mention the viral spread of terror cells in viruses attacking our computers.
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Canadian surgeons are confident they could soon perform what has never before been attempted anywhere in the world — face transplants in children.
The highly complex surgeries, which have so far only been performed in adults, are now “technically feasible” in children and could be life transforming for those with devastating facial deformities and disfigurements for whom no other reconstructive alternatives exist, a team from Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children reports in the journal, Plastic Surgery.
But the risky surgeries are fraught with profound ethical and moral challenges, including issues surrounding personal identity, informed consent and the possibility of “future resentment,” the team writes.
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The government and media alliance advancing the transgender cause has gone into overdrive in recent weeks. On May 30, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services review board ruled that Medicare can pay for the "reassignment" surgery sought by the transgendered—those who say that they don't identify with their biological sex. Earlier last month Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that he was "open" to lifting a ban on transgender individuals serving in the military. Time magazine, seeing the trend, ran a cover story for its June 9 issue called "The Transgender Tipping Point: America's next civil rights frontier."
Yet policy makers and the media are doing no favors either to the public or the transgendered by treating their confusions as a right in need of defending rather than as a mental disorder that deserves understanding, treatment and prevention. This intensely felt sense of being transgendered constitutes a mental disorder in two respects. The first is that the idea of sex misalignment is simply mistaken—it does not correspond with physical reality. The second is that it can lead to grim psychological outcomes.
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