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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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(Alert readers are asked to note that the title above is the one used in the paper's National edition in print this past week--KSH.
A machine that administers sedatives recently began treating patients at a Seattle hospital. At a Silicon Valley hotel, a bellhop robot delivers items to people’s rooms. Last spring, a software algorithm wrote a breaking news article about an earthquake that The Los Angeles Times published.
Although fears that technology will displace jobs are at least as old as the Luddites, there are signs that this time may really be different. The technological breakthroughs of recent years — allowing machines to mimic the human mind — are enabling machines to do knowledge jobs and service jobs, in addition to factory and clerical work.
And over the same 15-year period that digital technology has inserted itself into nearly every aspect of life, the job market has fallen into a long malaise. Even with the economy’s recent improvement, the share of working-age adults who are working is substantially lower than a decade ago — and lower than any point in the 1990s.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization History Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Dan Taylor stood up in front of 13,000 people earlier this year and made them laugh. As the opener for comedy legend Russell Peters, Taylor was the envy of almost every comic in the industry. The next Sunday he stood in front of 300 people and preached, like he does most Sundays.
Pastor by day, comic by night, Dan Taylor of Edmonton, Alberta is making waves in the Canadian comedy scene after being named Edmonton’s top comic by Sirius XM satellite radio network. It also nabbed him the opportunity to open for Peters in Edmonton.
The recent exposure has shot Taylor to the top of Canadian comic lists, an opportunity he is using to minister not only to audiences, making people laugh in a way that honours God, but also back stage, being good at the craft and living a life of integrity.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture * General Interest Humor / Trivia * International News & Commentary Canada * Theology Anthropology Theology: Scripture
Regulations for controversial techniques to create three and four-parent babies have been published.
MPs and Peers will vote early in the new year on allowing the two procedures, Maternal Spindle Transfer (MST) and Pro-Nuclear Transfer (PNT).
MST involves replacing the nucleus in a healthy donor egg with the nuclear DNA from the prospective mother – resulting in a child with DNA from three parents....
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Health & Medicine Law & Legal Issues Life Ethics Marriage & Family Science & Technology * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Assembly Members (AMs) were asked to vote on whether they supported the principles of the Assisted Dying Bill.
The answer was a clear and refreshing “No” - it does not support it. Only 12 Assembly Members voted to support it, 21 voted against doing so; 20 abstained.
It was heartening to watch the quality of this debate from the public gallery.
I was particularly impressed by the understanding which many Members showed of a Bill that goes to considerable lengths to dress up what it is proposing in reassuring language (for example, by describing the lethal drugs it would supply to terminally ill people as ‘medicines’) yet makes no effort, beyond stating a handful of vague eligibility conditions, to provide for any serious safeguards to protect vulnerable people from harm.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Aging / the Elderly Health & Medicine Law & Legal Issues Life Ethics * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK --Wales * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
There is little doubt that those in favour of changing the law on assisted suicide have talked up a storm. In spite of peers expressing very mixed opinions during debates on the Assisted Dying Bill, the casual observer might be forgiven for thinking that all that remains to be done is to find effective safeguards ensuring that vulnerable individuals are not pressured into requesting assistance for ending their own lives; otherwise the matter is a done-deal. Leaving to one side, the rather important point that finding effective safeguards is proving as elusive as finding the Holy Grail, recent announcements from the medical profession have helped to bring some much-needed perspective to the debate.
The Royal College of Physicians’ recent announcement that, in the light of a thorough survey of its members, it will continue to oppose a change in legislation, is significant...
Read it all and follow the links.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Aging / the Elderly Health & Medicine Law & Legal Issues Life Ethics Psychology Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Read it all (HT: Anglican Journal).
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Anglican Church of Canada Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion) Same-sex blessings * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * International News & Commentary Canada * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
I' ve worked up a good lather in the so-called “culture war” around homosexuality and same-sex marriage for about two decades now. And I’m just as committed to the Christian view on sexuality as I am to engaging the issue in spirited and civil debate. However, to debate the issue seriously and truthfully, we must seek an honest picture of what our opponents actually believe — working from what we think they believe is neither helpful nor respectful.
While there are people of many diverse beliefs and convictions — including gay and lesbian people — who oppose same-sex marriage, here are 10 foundational truths that inform the traditional, orthodox Christian belief.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Marriage & Family Psychology Religion & Culture Sexuality --Civil Unions & Partnerships * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Theology: Scripture
This school and the Oakland Unified School District are at the forefront of a new approach to school misconduct and discipline. Instead of suspending or expelling students who get into fights or act out, restorative justice seeks to resolve conflicts and build school community through talking and group dialogue.
Its proponents say it could be an answer to the cycle of disruption and suspension, especially in minority communities where expulsion rates are higher than in predominantly white schools.
Oakland Unified, one of California's largest districts, has been a national leader in expanding restorative justice. The district is one-third African-American and more than 70 percent low-income. The program was expanded after a federal civil rights agreement in 2012 to reduce school discipline inequity for African-American students.
At Edna Brewer Middle School, the fact that students are taking the lead — that so many want to be part of this effort — shows that it's starting to take root.
Read it all.
Global life expectancy for men and women has increased by about six years over the past two decades, according to the one of the most comprehensive studies of global health done so far.
The rise in global life expectancy is mainly the result of dramatic advances in health care. In richer countries longer lifespans are spurred by a big drop in deaths related to heart disease, while poorer countries have seen big declines in the death of children from ailments such as pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria.
But there are worrying signs, too. While global deaths from infectious disease dropped by about 25% over the past two decades, the number of deaths linked to noncommunicable diseases has jumped by about 40%. Noncommunicable maladies, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes, tend to be chronic in nature and often more expensive to treat.
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Scientists at the University of British Columbia searching for ways to slow the deterioration of blood vessels may have stumbled on to the key to youthful skin.
While exploring the effects of the protein-degrading enzyme Granzyme B on blood vessels during heart attacks, professor David Granville couldn’t help but notice that mice engineered to lack the enzyme had beautiful skin at the end of the experiment, while normal mice showed signs of age.
“This is one of those moments that we live for in science,” said Granville, a researcher for Providence Health Care.” We were interested in the effects of aging on blood vessels; we had no idea (the absence of this enzyme) would have any effect on their skin.”
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New understanding of how alcohol affects the brain is prompting addiction experts to make a push for using medications to help people quit or cut down on excessive drinking.
For years, treatment has meant 28 days of rehab or a 12-step program. Success meant total abstinence. Only 1 in 10 of the 17 million Americans with a drinking problem ever tried.
There is also growing recognition that alcohol problems come in wide varieties, driven by a complex mix of genetics, life experiences and differences in how the brain handles stress and seeks rewards. As a result, experts say, the most effective treatments are highly individualized.
Read it all.
Comedian and actor Robin Williams, who died earlier this year, was the top search on Google during 2014.
The search engine has released its list of this year’s most searched for news events and top trending subjects. Williams’ death drew more attention than the World Cup (2nd), Ebola (3rd) or Malaysia Airlines (4th).
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Health & Medicine Media Movies & Television Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Terrorism * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Eight hours of continuous, unmedicated sleep is one of life’s great pleasures. Actually, scratch “unmedicated.”
--There are no grown-ups. We suspect this when we are younger, but can confirm it only once we are the ones writing books and attending parent-teacher conferences. Everyone is winging it, some just do it more confidently.
--There are no soul mates. Not in the traditional sense, at least. In my 20s someone told me that each person has not one but 30 soul mates walking the earth. (“Yes,” said a colleague, when I informed him of this, “and I’m trying to sleep with all of them.”) In fact, “soul mate” isn’t a pre-existing condition. It’s an earned title. They’re made over time.
Read it all.
The ruble meltdown and accompanying economic slump marks the collapse of Putin’s oil-fueled economic system of the past 15 years, said an executive at Gazprombank, the lender affiliated to Russia’s state gas exporter. He asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.
The higher interest rate will crush lending to households and businesses and deepen Russia’s looming recession, according to Neil Shearing, chief emerging-markets economist at London-based Capital Economics Ltd.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Credit Markets Currency Markets The Banking System/Sector Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Europe Russia * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
lzheimer’s disease is by far the most common cause of dementia and one of the world’s most feared disorders. By 2050, there will be 135 million Alzheimer’s sufferers worldwide, a threefold increase from today, with three-quarters of cases occurring in low- and middle-income countries. Predicting the onset of Alzheimer’s, let alone preventing or curing it, remains an immense challenge.
Alzheimer’s disease was identified more than a century ago from autopsy results that showed characteristic brain lesions called “amyloid plaques.” The disease is more difficult to diagnose in the living. Doctors rely on observation of memory loss and other thinking deficits (such as reasoning or language comprehension) – signs that plaques are already present in the brain. But any cure would have to be administered before the plaques form, and years before symptoms of dementia appear.
Alzheimer’s might be more predictable if scientists had the time and resources to conduct far-reaching longitudinal studies over many years. Such studies ideally would involve blood, imaging, memory, and medical tests, as well as detailed lifestyle questionnaires filled out by thousands of young and middle-aged people. Study participants would be followed over decades to see who developed the disease, and which tests proved positive before Alzheimer’s was diagnosed.
Read it all.
The reaction among church leaders themselves has been mixed, with some praising the celibacy movement as a valid way to be both gay and Christian. But others have returned to the central question of how far Christianity can go in embracing homosexuality — even if people abstain from sex.
Al Mohler, president of the flagship Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and one of the country’s most respected conservative evangelical leaders, said in an interview that there is “growing and widespread admiration” for Tushnet and others, including Wesley Hill, an evangelical scholar who founded the spiritualfriendship blog.
Given that LGBT people are coming out and “being welcomed,” he said, “it is now safe and necessary to discuss these things aloud in evangelical churches — and that’s hugely important.”
Read it all.
In the days that followed, many healthcare workers talked with Brown-Haithco about their vocations. These conversations often mirrored the tone she had set in her memo, neither ignoring the risks of treating Ebola patients nor succumbing to panic. A calling doesn’t exclude fear, she explained, but fear “does not prevent us from moving with compassion toward someone in need.”
Neither does fear encourage a dull news cycle. When the Ebola outbreak began, the American public heard from doctors, nurses, public health experts, and WHO officials. Once healthcare workers were diagnosed in Dallas, we heard about PPE procedures, CDC guidelines, and airport screenings. We heard about hospital employees in New York who faced discrimination for working near an infected patient, and about the exotic dancers who started a GoFundMe account to support their voluntarily quarantine. Most recently, we heard about the $27,000 the city of Dallas spent taking care of Bentley, the beloved dog of Dallas nurse and recovered Ebola patient, Nina Pham.
But during the initial frenzy of U.S. Ebola coverage, we didn’t hear much about hospital chaplains, the members of hospital teams tasked with providing spiritual and emotional support to patients, their families, and medical staff. According to university estimates, there were 42,410 stories mentioning Emory and Ebola published between July 31 and September 22; Brown-Haithco and her chaplain colleagues were interviewed four times, including a segment with Matt Lauer that never aired.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Health & Medicine Media Religion & Culture * International News & Commentary Africa * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
It was the end of his sixth deployment, with barely a month left, the last mission at hand. And nothing was going right.
The best man in his wedding, a man he'd served with since entering the Marines, was hit by an explosive device, burning the man's entire body and claiming three of his limbs.
Then, a helicopter crash killed two American servicemen and several Afghan forces.
Last came the ambush.
Read it all and you can find more about Operation Homefront there.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Health & Medicine Marriage & Family Psychology * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military War in Afghanistan * South Carolina * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
The protests on the streets of Washington, New York and other cities nationwide over the weekend painted a pretty grim picture of race relations in the United States. And a recent poll showed that a majority of Americans think race relations have actually gotten worse under President Obama.
But although there is a huge amount of concern about the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of white police officers in recent months, this kind of unrest is still the exception rather than the rule. Although race relations have certainly taken a hit, on the whole they have been trending in a positive direction.
And in fact, the vast majority of African Americans today view racial problems as something that occur in other people's communities -- not their own.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Law & Legal Issues Police/Fire Race/Race Relations * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
The American economy has stopped delivering the broadly shared prosperity that the nation grew accustomed to after World War II. The explanation for why that is begins with the millions of middle-class jobs that vanished over the past 25 years, and with what happened to the men and women who once held those jobs.
Millions of Americans are working harder than ever just to keep from falling behind; Green is one of them. Those workers have been devalued in the eyes of the economy, pushed into jobs that pay them much less than the ones they once had.
Today, a shrinking share of Americans are working middle-class jobs, and collectively, they earn less of the nation’s income than they used to. In 1981, according to the Pew Research Center, 59 percent of American adults were classified as “middle income” — which means their household income was between two-thirds and double the nation’s median income. By 2011, it was down to 51 percent. In that time, the “middle” group’s share of the national income pie fell from 60 percent to 45 percent.
For that, you can blame the past three recessions, which sparked a chain reaction of layoffs and lower pay.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children History Marriage & Family Psychology * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market Personal Finance * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Single women, lesbian couples, and straight couples with fertility troubles are increasingly experimenting at home with store-bought goods, in an effort to skirt expensive fertility procedures like Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) and In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF). At-home inseminators enlist friends or acquaintances to donate sperm, or procure free donor samples from dating-style portals like the Known Donor Registry, Pollen Tree, and Pride Angel. Some go a more orthodox route and purchase sperm from FDA-regulated banks, which can cost from about $500 to $1500 per cycle. In addition to saving money, many at-home inseminators say they prefer bedrooms to treatment rooms, because they can personalize the conception experience, imbue it with romance, and reduce stress. Legal experts warn, however, that inseminating at home can compromise a couple’s legal rights.
Embracing the DIY ethos, Mead and Espinosa assembled a kit of store-bought tools over the ten months they tried to conceive.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Children Law & Legal Issues Life Ethics Psychology Science & Technology * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
The Eagle Flight Squadron, a nonprofit that has been turning out private pilots since 1975, teaches teens about aviation, discipline and leadership.
Watch it all.
There is a lot of talk about the decline of the traditional family. Indeed, after remaining steady for more than a decade, the rate of marriage fell last year to a record low. Nevertheless, a new book argues that there remains something powerful about the institution and the role it plays in our lives.
"For decades, we have heard that marriage is on the wane, in Australia and across the secular West," sociologist Dr Genevieve Heard argues in the introduction to Family Formation in 21st Century Australia.
"It may be more accurate to claim that Australians are spending less time within the institution of marriage. This is because Australians are marrying later and are not necessarily remaining married for life ... It is difficult to argue that marriage is on the wane when the institution remains the dominant partnership model for adult Australians."
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“God is our power in mutual relation.” Everything in [Carter] Heyward’s thought flows toward and from this simple, but radical, definition. Note that nothing in this definition requires acceptance of the supernatural. In this view, God is not "a supreme being," but a quality of existence. And although one need not be Christian to accept her definition of God, Heyward can reasonably claim its continuity with the biblical tradition on the basis of Jeremiah 22:15-16, which equates the knowledge of God and the doing of justice, and 1 John 4:7-8, which defines God as love.
Heyward’s autobiographical account of her ordination, A Priest Forever offers some insight as to why Heyward is concerned that God is our power in mutual relation, as opposed to simply being interested in mutual relation per se. Largely this is a matter of re-thinking the language of her Episcopal heritage, a heritage which provided her with the framework for an unconditional spiritual calling to the priesthood. She experienced this calling in early childhood, when she projected it onto an imaginary friend who voiced the desire. During the turmoil of pursuing ordination before it was clear that the Episcopal Church would grant it, she had a series of vivid dreams that left her with a sense that her calling was a non-negotiable demand of her life. And at her ordination, she had a deep spiritual experience that put a seal of confirmation on her calling:
Emily was ordained; then Marie. As Marie stepped back, I stepped forward, catching the bishop’s eye momentarily, and as if strangely transcendent of the time at hand, my whole life seemed contained within the moment: past, present, future. All that had ever mattered to me flooded within me, as a geyser of lifeblood or holy water.
Read it all.
I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.
One day in 1967, Bob Thompson sprayed foam on a hunk of metal in a cavernous factory south of Los Angeles. And then another day, not too long after, he sat at a long wood bar with a black-and-white television hanging over it, and he watched that hunk of metal land a man on the moon.
On July 20, 1969 — the day of the landing — Thompson sipped his Budweiser and thought about all the people who had ever stared at that moon. Kings and queens and Jesus Christ himself. He marveled at how when it came time to reach it, the job started in Downey. The bartender wept.
On a warm day, almost a half-century later, Thompson curled his mouth beneath a white beard and talked about the bar that fell to make way for a freeway, the space-age factory that closed down and the town that is still waiting for its next great economic rocket, its new starship to the middle class.
They’ve waited more than a decade in Downey. They’ve tried all the usual tricks to bring good-paying jobs back to the 77-acre plot of dirt where once stood a factory that made moon landers and, later, space shuttles. Nothing brought back the good jobs.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Marriage & Family Psychology * Economics, Politics Economy Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market Personal Finance Politics in General * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
On a Sunday morning in September 2011, Eloise Louis stood on a street corner in Harlem, looking for a church. She was just hours off a plane from her native France, jet-lagged and buzzy with anticipation. An aspiring jazz singer with spiritual yearnings and a self-taught knowledge of civil rights history, she had finally set foot on black America’s hallowed ground.
Just across 116th Street, Ms. Louis noticed worshipers lining up to enter First Corinthian Baptist Church, and she joined the procession. An usher, seeing her white skin and hearing her French accent, directed Ms. Louis into the portion of the balcony set aside for spectators.
“I’m not a tourist,” Ms. Louis pleaded. “I’m here for Jesus.” The usher must have sensed something genuine and desperate in her tone, because he moved her to the front rows of the balcony among the regular congregants. From there, she heard the gospel songs and the preaching, and even with her spotty English, as she recalled, “something touched my heart.”
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Evangelism and Church Growth * Culture-Watch Race/Race Relations Religion & Culture Urban/City Life and Issues * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Interstellar’s scientific pretensions capture the religious spirit of our times. What should we make of all the talk of the incompatibility of science and religion? Nothing: Longing for future glory is alive and well among the scientifically literate. Some of their own apparently comprise the most fervent devotees of future hope, displaying the same desire for human transcendence as the ancients but clothing it in modern science. Interstellar is worth reflecting on, not for any dubious relation it may bear to our future, but because of its indebtedness to the past: It is an ancient myth retold and centuries of scientific progress have diminished none of its appeal.
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A radical overhaul of the Church of England's leadership is under way.
A key report, still unpublished, sets out a programme of "talent management" in the Church. The report has been signed off by the two Archbishops, and a £2-million budget has been allocated. It was discussed by all the bishops in September, and the House of Bishops on Monday. A spokesman said on Wednesday that the Bishops "welcomed the implementation plan prepared in the light of those discussions. Details will be published next month."
The Church Times has seen the report, Talent Management for Future Leaders and Leadership Development for Bishops and Deans: A new approach, prepared by a steering group chaired by Prebendary the Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint, the former HSBC chairman. It speaks of a "culture change for the leadership of the Church", and outlines a two-stage process.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch Psychology Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
“Where any of these fights on religious freedom are going to go, will in great part depend upon whether people of faith will stand up and speak now, or will they sit in silence. The outcome is up to you”
These were the words of Alan Sears, CEO, President, and General Counsel of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), who was in Rome recently for the Humanam Conference on the Complementarity of Man and Woman.
Founded in 1994, ADF is an American Christian nonprofit organization with the stated goal of "defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.”
Alliance Defending Freedom, is a network of attorneys dedicated to intrinsic values, such as the sanctity of life, religious freedom, and protecting conscience.
With 38 victories before the Supreme Court, ADF has actively defended public prayer, use of religious displays, such as crosses and religious monuments on public lands and in public buildings. The organization opposes abortion and has protected healthcare workers’ right to not partake in that which they find morally objectionable. ADF actively promotes marriage between man and woman.
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The optimism of modern medicine has roots in the Enlightenment, which in turn is rooted in the worldview of classical antiquity: what we call evil is a form of ignorance; it is not rooted in human nature. In this, it is remarkably similar to Confucianism. The Chinese philosopher Mencius (Meng Zi, about 372 to 289 BCE) used a parable to propose that all men are by nature good unless they are deformed. A murderer sees an infant tottering on the edge of a pond. However vicious his murders may have been, he will instinctively pull the child back to save it from drowning. This leaves out two alternative scenarios. The murderer may be a sadist who enjoys watching children drown. Or he may only have concern for children of his own tribe; but the child may belong to the enemy tribe beyond the river.
We started out with the question of how human beings can commit horrible atrocities. Given what biological science can tell us about aggression it is not an inevitable instinct (something, say, similar to the Christian doctrine of original sin), nor simply a deformation of an originally benign human nature (as Enlightenment philosophers thought). Human nature, whatever it is, allows human beings to love and to kill. Religion can induce individuals to do either. Both benevolence and hatred can be learned and taught. Thus I think that we started out with the wrong question. We should have asked: How can it be that horrible atrocities are not committed continuously, all the time? Put differently: How can one sustain a decent society? The answer is that there must be institutions that inculcate decency rather than triggering murderous impulses.
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The National Center for Health Statistics just released its latest data brief summarising the bleak news.
There were only 3.9m births in the US in 2013, according to the report, down about 1% from 2012. The general fertility rate also declined 1% in 2013 to another record low: 62.5 per 1,000 women aged 15–44.
The truth is, birth numbers have been in decline for six straight years, dropping 9% from its peak in 2007, according to the report.
If a slow economy is bad news for the birth rate, it also works the other way: declining fertility and birth rates are bad for the economy. Shrinking labor forces, weaker social security, and other consequences soon follow.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Marriage & Family Psychology * Economics, Politics Economy * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Health officials in Sierra Leone have discovered scores of bodies in a remote diamond-mining area, raising fears that the scale of the Ebola outbreak may have been underreported.
The World Health Organization said they uncovered a "grim scene" in the eastern district of Kono.
A WHO response team had been sent to Kono to investigate a sharp rise in Ebola cases.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Health & Medicine * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary Africa Sierra Leone * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Pastors should stop signing state-issued marriage licenses. They should stop immediately. Individuals and organizations whose agenda is murky at best are hijacking the marriage debate. We have stopped asking the right questions and started reacting to the debate swirling around us.
On the one hand are people who want to radically redefine marriage in the eyes of the state. They are advocating for open and equal access to the benefits given by the state to married individuals. They want tax benefits, inheritance rights and parental privileges that are automatically given to people who marry.
To this group, pastors and churches need to have a simple and clear answer: “Blessings on you. I don’t need to get a benefit from the government that you cannot get. My contracts should not be better than your contracts. Your kids should be as protected as my kids.”
The only way I can with good conscience say this is if I am no longer part of the civil process. No functionary of any religion ought to be able to finalize a marriage contract individuals are making with the state. It is an abhorrent intermingling of church and state. Until the state sees this clearly and changes its rules, we should abandon the system voluntarily.
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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Liturgy, Music, Worship Parish Ministry Ministry of the Ordained * Culture-Watch History Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Religion & Culture * Economics, Politics Politics in General State Government * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Today’s counterculture speaks with the voice of tradition, virtue, and religious commitment. There are now more than thirty LFN student groups from colleges across the United States (and Mexico). They uphold the idea that sex comes after marriage, that marriage is between a man and a woman, and that the natural family is the irreducible foundation of all civil societal associations. Like the ’60s radicals, they refuse to keep quiet. Yet unlike the ’60s radicals, they refuse with civility. They carry themselves with decorum and respect. The manner of their actions corresponds to the content of their ideas: unabashedly witnessing to the truth of marriage, sex, and the family.
I know from personal experience that being countercultural means dealing with insults, contempt, exclusion. My peers prod and jeer, and the authorities regard as troublesome. They act on the underlying cultural assumption at public universities, which is, “You’re innocent until proven conservative.”
When I once said something favorable about traditional marriage, one friend said to me, “Get out of your patriarchal circle,” while another terminated the conversation because my “very existence offends” her. I remember attending a university performance of vignettes whose subject had to do with sex (reflecting the level of wit among my peers), with one skit about students at a school known as “Our Lady of Perpetual Repression.” It felt like some quasi-religious ceremony in which a phantom group of social conservatives were displayed like Guy Fawkes puppets to be burned in effigy.
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Tripp Hudgins, an American Baptist pastor and a musician at All Souls Episcopal, explained that All Souls previously had a choir that was getting older and dwindling in numbers. It consisted of a dozen faithful people who couldn’t quite do what they hoped to do. At the same time, the congregation had an “Angel Band” which occasionally played in worship. The band began playing every week, going back to old-time music and drawing upon the folk revival that in Berkeley never ended. Then the band members stepped into the loft to learn the choir music. As they did, they were able to carefully tear down the sacred and secular divide.
Hudgins admits that the process wasn’t always easy. “We all have a spiritual soundtrack. There is music of spiritual significance that can bring us into worship,” he noted. “People from the choir era struggle when choral music is not there. That’s their music. That’s what they pray to. For them, the banjo is secular.”
But another generation has a different soundtrack. Its sacred music might consist of mountain music and songs by Mumford & Sons. Hudgins lights up with excitement as he talks about surprising people in worship with music that sits at the intersection of sacred and secular.
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The Gordon statement in question uses the term “homosexual practice.” Does that cover everything, including handholding by same-sex couples?
Gordon has never been a place that has a master list of dos and don’ts. The wider question being asked is, Does Gordon theologically treat same-sex sexual union as sin? The answer is yes. We don’t see a place in the Bible where God appears to bless same-sex sexual union. The language of homosexual practice is really speaking to the arc of a relationship that leads up to sexual consummation.
We take seriously the challenges of our brothers and sisters who have same-sex attraction. We uphold the idea that same-sex attraction is not to be acted upon in the life of the Christ follower. Some within American evangelicalism and even within the Gordon community don’t share that conviction. But that is the theological position of the institution.
OneGordon, a group that supports LGBT persons connected to Gordon, has a public campaign to drop “homosexual practice” from Gordon’s life and conduct statement. Is there anything the college and OneGordon agree on?
It’s my hope that we can learn from each other. The theological positions of a Christian college are not determined by popular vote or advocacy. I appreciate the heartfelt concerns and desires expressed by members of the Gordon family in the OneGordon group who really want the college to change its position. [But] if a change were to occur, it [wouldn’t be] because there were so many signatures on a petition.
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An exhaustive, five-year Senate investigation of the CIA’s secret interrogations of terrorism suspects renders a strikingly bleak verdict of a program launched in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, describing levels of brutality, dishonesty and seemingly arbitrary violence that at times brought even agency employees to moments of anguish.
The report by the Senate Intelligence Committee delivers new allegations of cruelty in a program whose severe tactics have been abundantly documented, revealing that agency medical personnel voiced alarm that waterboarding methods had deteriorated to “a series of near drownings” [among many other things]...
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Antipsychotic drugs have helped many people with serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. But for older people with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia, they can be deadly. The Food and Drug Administration has given these drugs a black box warning, saying they can increase the risk of heart failure, infections and death. Yet almost 300,000 nursing home residents still get them.
So in 2012, the federal government started a campaign to get nursing homes to reduce their use of these drugs. But an NPR analysis of government data shows that the government rarely penalizes nursing homes when they don't get with the program.
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The film doesn’t ignore faith, but it includes no mention of Jesus or Graham. Faith is portrayed more generically — unlike the 2010 book by Hillenbrand (she also wrote the best-selling “Seabiscuit”), which was praised by Christian readers for capturing the drama of Zamperini’s conversion.
Zamperini died from pneumonia on July 2 at age 97. His son, Luke Zamperini, is helping promote the film.
Jolie’s role as director prompted questions about the film’s faith element; given Jolie’s own lack of faith, some reviewers questioned whether the actress would give short shrift to Zamperini’s faith.
“There doesn’t need to be a God for me,” Jolie said in 2000. “There’s something in people that’s spiritual, that’s godlike.” Her husband, actor Brad Pitt, has said he is “probably 20 percent atheist and 80 percent agnostic.”
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Most of us have not experienced what it is like to live in a kingdom, under the true reign of a king. We are familiar with kingdom language. Michael Jackson once reigned as the “king of pop.” Budweiser notoriously declares in their advertisements that they are “the king of beers.” Even LeBron James refers to himself as “King James” and supposedly rules the hardwood. But in reality, this language is devoid of any lasting meaning, missing the essence of true kingship.
Why does this matter? In every society, there is the structure for leadership, a particular person or a body of people to reign over its citizens. Human society needs the structure of justice to deliver its people from the cruelty of the sinful acts of men. Human civilization needs to provide protection over its people to promote what is good and guard peace in the land. We all want someone to look to, to lead the way, to make the difficult calls in order to seek our welfare. However, as history has shown, we have never seen that perfect king-like leader. We have never experienced the perfect and pure rule of a king. Even our best leaders are flawed, and our worst leaders can be tyrants.
However, while the human experience leaves us longing for the perfect rule of a perfect king, the Bible provides us with a more meaningful, hope-filled understanding of true kingdom reign.
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LAWTON: Federal officials say the new heroin crisis is crossing race, age, gender and geographical lines.
BOTTICELLI: What we’ve seen with this, with this upsurge has really been a demographic shift. So not only do we see younger users who are using heroin, but also much more suburban and rural use.
LAWTON: Fredericksburg, George Washington’s boyhood home, is one of the most historic small towns. But this seemingly idyllic small town has seen an explosion of heroin abuse, as 21-year-old John Cizik and his girlfriend Tayler Beets can confirm.
J. CIZIK: It’s not surprising when you hear about people doing it. Sad to say. But it’s true.
TAYLER BEETS: You just see it a lot in this town. Like, good kids.
REV. TOBY LARSON (Celebration Anglican Church): You’re only kidding yourself if you think it’s not in your town. It’s everywhere.
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A new $10 million addition to the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center will enhance the ongoing clinical research that scientists here are able to conduct for veterans with mental health needs. The hospital in Charleston treats almost 60,000 patients every year.
Nearly a third require mental health services.
The majority of them are Vietnam-era veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, more commonly called PTSD.
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(Blog readers are asked to remember that this piece is responding to the Atlantic article posted in later September on the blog i recommend reading the article and the comments--KSH).
I have been thinking quite a bit lately about aging.
Three things fuel those ruminations. The first is that I am aging. I have been able to deny it for several decades but my retirement this year coincided with several manifestations of mild and generally innocuous physical decline. The second is my participating with several of my brothers and sisters in being a care-giver for my 89 year old father.
The third was a provocative essay published in the September issue of The Atlantic. The author is a prominent oncologist and medical ethicist named Ezekiel Emanuel. The title of Dr. Emanuel's is largely self-explanatory: "Why I Hope to Die at 75." He has no desire to live past that age, largely because by then his creative contributions to medicine will be over. No longer being socially useful, he would become a burden, a condition he has no desire to bear. He would not directly cause his own death but would indirectly facilitate it by eschewing standard medical treatments such as annual check-ups and colonoscopies.
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You can listen directly there and download the mp3 there.
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[Doug] Williams remembered telling Donnell: “You’ve got all kinds of ability. That little girl right there, you can find a way to feed her and make sure she goes to college, but there’s a price you’ve got to pay. Even when you don’t want to work, you’ve got to work.”
As Donnell intensified his drills and added muscle to his lanky frame, Davis also monitored his progress. Delana did everything she could to support them, working two part-time jobs and drawing money from a trust fund her deceased mother had left. Their needs were many; job opportunities were few in their hometown, Ruston, La.
“He never gave up,” Delana said of Donnell. “He was like: ‘I’m going to the league. That’s what I’m going to do.’ He kept working out consistently, just as if football was still on.”
Donnell finally agreed to seek part-time employment and applied to be a driver for Pizza Hut. He never delivered a single pie.
At Davis’s urging, the Giants signed Donnell on March 13, 2012. He spent his first season on the practice squad and competed primarily on special teams last year. He has broken out this season with 51 catches for 516 yards and a team-leading six touchdown receptions.
Donnell, 26, smiled broadly after a recent practice as he reflected on the uncommon path he and his young family had taken.
“My whole career, nothing has been golden,” he said. “Nothing has been paved out. I’ve always had to work for it, which is not a bad thing. My mom always told me, ‘What the Lord has for you, nobody can take from you.’ I believed in that.”
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This is what we mean by cheap grace, the grace which amounts to the justification of sin without the justification of the repentant sinner who departs from sin and from whom sin departs. Cheap grace is not the kind of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin. Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves.
Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without Church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without contrition. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the Cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows Him.
Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.
Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of His son: 'ye were bought at a price,' and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon His Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered Him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.
--Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
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What is clear from the study are the increasingly entrenched perspectives of two Americas: A growing secular America champions an unburdened sexual libertinism whose version of sexuality is freed from the constraints of traditional sexual morality, a morality that often issued from religious-based truth claims. Meanwhile, religious conservatives in America remain quite skeptical about the general population’s enthusiasm for throwing off supposedly outmoded notions of sexuality.
But another narrative of America’s religious landscape is also clear from the survey—one that Russell Moore and I wrote about at National Review discussing preliminary statistics that sociologist Mark Regnerus described at a spring conference of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. What we said then remains important: Evangelical Christians aren’t liberalizing on the issues of sexual morality.
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I had been ordained for a month and was meeting with two people appointed to evaluate my fitness for ministry....The question that I've never forgotten was, "Do you preach for a decision?"
The question has haunted me. We preachers proclaim good news and speak about all the amazing ways that good news penetrates, comforts, challenges and transforms lives. But my questioner had a point: proclaiming good news ought to in some way lead to a response, a decision of some kind. Otherwise proclaiming the good news of unconditional divine love can be an exercise in what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called "cheap grace." Preaching ought to lead to people caring more, giving more and living more. It is the assurance of God's presence, to be sure, and it is testimony to God's healing love. But it is also an invitation to do something.
--John M. Buchanan, Christian Century, October 4, 2011, issue, page 3
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He had not been surprised by the differences he found, which mostly arose from the diversity of very different cultures. He admitted that he disagreed “profoundly” with some of their views. The Church of Nigeria and the Episcopal Church in the United States are polar opposites, and the Archbishop was circumspect in speaking of both. He voiced his respect for the way that the Nigerians were coping with the pressures they were facing, especially the challenges of violence and corruption. They, and also the church in Pakistan, faced issues that would “buckle any other church”.
And although the church in America almost provoked an open schism with the consecration of an openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, in 2003, Welby said his visit had been something of a breakthrough. “It was a real gift in terms of communication. At least there was understanding why we disagreed with each other when we disagreed, rather than simply disagreeing and not understanding each other.” But he added: “The situation there is complicated, to put it mildly.”
Learning to disagree without hatred has been a theme of the Archbishop’s ministry. He argues that “good disagreement” is vital (although some churches did not accept that). He did not want to see the same level of bitterness that had characterised some disputes in the past. There had been a danger, he admitted, of parts of the Anglican Communion drifting into that.
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Considering that it took the Mormon Church more than a century to acknowledge what scholars have long known to be true, it may take another hundred years for the elders in Salt Lake City to proclaim that the prophet, seer, revelator and founder of their religion was the kind of guy who would have to register with the police today before moving into a neighborhood.
Still, for all its painful equivocating, the Mormon Church has done a fine thing in opening up about its past. For too long, the Mormons have tried to airbrush an extraordinary chapter in the history of the American West. Here was a sect, though persecuted and ridiculed, determined to institutionalize in the New World something that Islamic patriarchs and Old Testament graybeards practiced in the old.
Sir Richard Burton, the 19th-century sex enthusiast, traveled to the Great Basin to witness this experiment in the Americas. Mark Twain, after visiting the social frontier of the Mormon kingdom, called it “a fairyland to us, for all intents and purposes — a land of enchantment and awful mystery.”
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A deadly fire is all that betrayed a suspected Chinese hacker group in Kenya believed to be trying to infiltrate banks, mobile money transfer networks, and ATMs.
So far, police have arrested and charged 77 Chinese nationals in connection with activities in an upscale Nairobi suburb. During the raids, police found soundproof rooms fashioned like military dorms that were full of computer equipment and outfitted with high-speed Internet connections, which is uncommon in Kenya.
The discovery of what police call a cybercrime command center comes as Kenya is experiencing a wave of computer crime, with criminal hackers carrying out phishing campaigns to extort money from citizens and launching attacks on banks. The arrests are a fortunate break for a police force struggling to contain the problem.
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The U.S. economy is on track for its strongest year of job creation since 1999, as employers last month ramped up hiring and wage growth posted a small—but potentially significant—pickup.
Nonfarm payrolls rose a seasonally adjusted 321,000 in November, the strongest month of hiring since January 2012, the Labor Department said Friday. Hiring was broad across industries, led by gains in the professional and business-services sector.
“The economy may not yet be a big mean jobs machine but it is just about there,” Joel Naroff, president and chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors Inc., said in a note to clients.
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If you think the fight against Ebola is going well, here's a grim new number: 537.
That's how many new infections were reported in Sierra Leone in the past week. It's the highest weekly tally in any country since the West African outbreak began.
International governments and aid groups have scrambled to open Ebola treatment centers in the country. But, because of safety concerns, many of these centers are accepting only a fraction of the number of patients they were built to serve.
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Friday nights in the fall mean high school football. But that wholesome slice of Americana also contains a dark undercurrent–a marked rise in the use of human growth hormone by high school aged students.
In a recent survey of 3,705 kids, 11 percent of teens in grades 9 through 12 reported having used synthetic human growth hormone without a prescription. That means that at any high school football game, it’s likely that at least two players on the field will have tried human growth hormone.
And it’s not just athletes who reported having used HGH. The survey, carried out by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and funded by a grant from the MetLife Foundation, found no statistically significant difference in the athletic involvement between synthetic HGH users and non-users.
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The bills arrive as regularly as a heartbeat at the Vories’s cozy bi-level brick house just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. It’s the paychecks that are irregular.
These days, Alex Vories, 37, is delivering pizzas for LaRosa’s, though he has to use his parents’ car since he wrecked his own 1997 Nissan van on a rainy day last month. In the spring and autumn, he had managed to snag several weeks of seasonal work with the Internal Revenue Service, sorting tax returns for $14 an hour. But otherwise the family had to make do with the $350 a week his wife, Erica, brought home from her job as a mail clerk for the I.R.S.
“We just kind of wing it every month,” said Mr. Vories, whose unemployment benefits ran out at the end of 2013, 10 months after he lost his job answering phones at Fidelity Investments. Ever since, the family’s income has bounced up and down from one week to the next, like the basketball he and his two sons play with in their driveway, next to the Kentucky Wildcats pennant planted in their front yard.
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I mean, there is no excuse that I can think of for choking a man to death for selling illegal cigarettes. This is about cigarettes. This isn't a violent confrontation. This isn't a threat that anybody has reported, a threat of someone being killed. This is someone being choked to death. We have it on video with the man pleading for his life. There is no excuse for that I can even contemplate or imagine right now. And so we've heard a lot in recent days about rule of law, and that's exactly right. We need to be emphasizing rule of law. And a rule of law that is Biblically just is a rule of law that carries out justice equally.
Romans 13 says that the sword of justice is to be wielded against evildoers. Now, what we too often see still is a situation where our African-American brothers and sisters, especially brothers, are more likely to be arrested, more likely to be executed, more likely to be killed. And this is a situation in which we have to say, I wonder what the defenders of this would possibly say. I just don't know. But I think we have to acknowledge that something is wrong with the system at this point and that something has to be done.
Frankly, nothing is more controversial in American life than this issue of whether or not we are going to be reconciled across racial lines. I have seen some responses coming after simply saying in light of Ferguson that we need to talk about why it is that white people and black people see things differently. And I said what we need to do is to have churches that come together and know one another and are knitted together across these racial lines. And I have gotten responses and seen responses that are right out of the White Citizen's Council material from 1964. In my home state of Mississippi, seeing people saying there is no gospel issue involved in racial reconciliation.
Are you kidding me? There is nothing that is clearer in the New Testament that the gospel breaks down the dividing walls that we have between one another.
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A majority of presbyteries in the Church of Scotland have agreed to a historic legal change, enabling individual congregations to opt out of traditional teaching on marriage and appoint a gay minister who is in a civil partnership.
While official returns will not be released until the new year, it was revealed last night that at least 27 of the 45 voting presbyteries had already accepted the principal of a “mixed economy” within the church, the compromise agreed at this year’s general assembly.
The policy laid out in an “overture” — or proposal — was drawn up as a way of maintaining the doctrinal position of the Church, to the satisfaction of some of its evangelical members, while allowing more liberal congregations to break with tradition and appoint gay clergy.
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The first premise of the demonstration hinges on a distinction between natural or innate desires and desires of a more artificial or contrived variety. Examples of the first type include the desire for food, for sex, for companionship, for beauty, and for knowledge; while examples of second type include the longing for a fashionable suit of clothes, for a fast car, for Shangri-La, or to fly through the air like a bird. Precisely because desires of the second category are externally motivated or psychologically contrived, they don't prove anything regarding the objective existence of their objects: some of them exist and some of them don't.
But desires of the first type do indeed correspond to, and infallibly indicate, the existence of the states of affairs that will fulfill them: hunger points to the objective existence of food, thirst to the objective existence of drink, sexual longing to the objective existence of the sexual act, etc. And this is much more than a set of correspondences that simply happen to be the case; the correlation is born of the real participation of the desire in its object. The phenomenon of hunger is unthinkable apart from food, since the stomach is "built" for food; the phenomenon of sexual desire is unthinkable apart from the reality of sex, since the dynamics of that desire are ordered toward the sexual act. By its very structure, the mind already participates in truth.
So what kind of desire is the desire for perfect fulfillment? Since it cannot be met by any value within the world, it must be a longing for truth, goodness, beauty, and being in their properly unconditioned form. But the unconditioned, by definition, must transcend any limit that we might set to it. It cannot, therefore, be merely subjective, for such a characterization would render it not truly unconditioned. And this gives the lie to any attempt -- Feuerbachian, Freudian, Marxist or otherwise -- to write off the object of this desire as a wish-fulfilling fantasy, as a projection of subjectivity.
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Ritter points to a maxim popular among Methodists: "In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity."
"I don’t know of anyone who feels that homosexuality is a central issue in the Christian faith, but behind it lies the larger issue of biblical authority,” he said. "It is difficult to see how a house divided on such a foundational issue could stand— unless perhaps it is a duplex."
Unity is itself an essential, said Methodist pastor Jason Byassee. "Every pastor has counseled married couples who say, 'It’s hard to be together,'" said the Duke Divinity School fellow. "We say, 'I know. It’s called cross-bearing. Figure this thing out.'"
"Staying together or separating is less important than our being a people of grace and truth," said Renfroe. "That’s when God will bless our witness to the world."
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We’re all familiar with our Lord’s words that it’s “more blessed to give than to receive.” As it turns out, this maxim is not only true as a matter of faith, it’s empirically true, as well.
This is the subject of a new book, “The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose,” by BreakPoint favorite and Notre Dame Professor Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson, a doctoral student at Notre Dame.
The book is based on research from Notre Dame’s “Science of Generosity” initiative. As Smith and Davidson write in the introduction, “By grasping onto what we currently have . . . we lose out on better goods that we might have gained . . .”
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The American middle class has absorbed a steep increase in the cost of health care and other necessities as incomes have stagnated over the past half decade, a squeeze that has forced families to cut back spending on everything from clothing to restaurants.
Health-care spending by middle-income Americans rose 24% between 2007 and 2013, driven by an even larger rise in the cost of buying health insurance, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of detailed consumer-spending data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That hit has been accompanied by increases in spending on other necessities, including food eaten at home, rent and education, as well as the soaring cost of staying connected digitally via cellphones and home Internet service.
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Whatever we may think about any or all of these points, and even if I am wrong about a good deal of this, I don’t need to be right about all of it for the following to be inevitable—- just as in the case of the Episcopal Church, and in some Christian Churches, and some Lutheran Churches, and some Presbyterian Churches, and some Baptist Churches this whole move will result in loss of membership. It will not stop the current bleeding, it will accelerate it. Just take a look at the before and after stats for these other mainline churches.
If we want to further diminish the integrity and influence of our church in our American society, then this is a good way to assure that will happen. The old saying ‘in essentials unity, in non-essentials diversity’ is a good dictum, as long as we agree on what the essentials are when it comes to something as fundamental as ordination or the nature Christian marriage which is supposed to be holy matrimony. But alas we don’t agree on these vital things. We cannot have a ‘United Methodist Church’ if we don’t at least agree on the most basic theological and ethical essentials which are currently enshrined in our Discipline— both the doctrines enshrined in our Discipline and the ethics as well. Short of that, we should quietly agree to become two different Methodist Churches.
Of course any such major change as a reorganization into two jurisdictions requires a two thirds vote at the General Conference. I can’t see such a two jurisdiction solution getting to that number of votes. Quo Vadis then UMC? My suggestion is that those who cannot in good conscience abide by the Discipline as we have it, and John Wesley’s teachings on celibacy as we have it, and the Bible’s teachings on sexual ethics and marriage (see Mt. 19 where the latter is defined quite clearly as heterosexual monogamy) should be brave and start a new venture, the Progressive Methodist Church. Those prepared to continue to abide by our doctrines and disciplines should simply stay and go forward.
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he local headmaster - now out of work because the schools are closed - has become a fervent anti-Ebola campaigner and social mobiliser.
But Godfrey Kamara is finding it almost impossible to change the community's behaviour.
"It's not working. When they're quarantined people should stay around and have security. And they still wash the dead," said Mr Kamara, accusing Ms Bangura's family of doing just that.
"They washed her body before calling 117. I know it. They shouldn't do that. I tell everyone they shouldn't wash the body but they still don't believe Ebola kills...."
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A North Charleston police officer yelled for those at gunpoint inside a mobile home to flee outside to safety as one woman begged the gunman not to shoot a young mother protecting five of her children.
Another woman outside pleaded with police to do something before it was too late. A gunshot rang out, then another, children screamed, and it was over.
Zakiya Lawson, a 34-year-old mother of seven, and her ex-live-in boyfriend Peter Centel Williams, a 27-year-old felon, died inside the Thoroughbred Drive trailer.
Could that murder and suicide have been stopped before it came to that chilling end? Were warning signs present for someone to spot and head-off this ending? Those are the questions a newly formed group of police, prosecutors, counselors, victims advocates and social service workers want to know if they can answer. They have organized the first domestic violence fatality review team in South Carolina to help stem the murderous tide that has left the state one of the nation's most deadly for women at the hands of men.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Health & Medicine Law & Legal Issues Police/Fire Marriage & Family Men Sexuality Violence Women * South Carolina * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Rick Cloud, 68, knew that he wanted to stay in his home in Austin, Tex., as he aged. But Mr. Cloud, who is divorced, was not sure how he could do that without relying on his two daughters.
Then he ran across the idea of virtual retirement villages, whose members pay a yearly fee to gain access to resources and social connections that help them age in place. Sold on the concept, Mr. Cloud joined with some friends to start Capital City Village four years ago.
“Our virtual village can connect me with people my own age so I can do more things,” said Mr. Cloud, a retired technology consultant. “I worry about being single and getting older.”
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The Supreme Court struggled Monday over where to draw the line between free speech and illegal threats in the digital age.
The justices considered the case of a Pennsylvania man convicted of making violent threats after he posted Facebook rants about killing his estranged wife, harming law enforcement officials and shooting up a school.
Lawyers for Anthony Elonis say he didn’t mean to threaten anyone. They contend his posts in the form of rap lyrics under the pseudonym ‘‘Tone Dougie’’ were simply a way for him to vent his frustration over splitting up with his wife.
The government argues the real test is whether his words would make a reasonable person feel threatened. In one post about his wife, Elonis said, ‘‘There’s one way to love you but a thousand ways to kill you. I'm not going to rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts.’’
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The sea is a dangerous way to enter Europe. Nearly 3,000 people have died crossing the Mediterranean this year. Those rescued by the Chios Coast Guard arrive to a bare-bones shelter with no toilet, shower or running water. There, I visit Joud al-Bakri, an 18-year-old aspiring pilot from Aleppo. She sits on the floor of a wooden shack the size of a bedroom.
How many people are in this little house here?
JOUD AL-BAKRI: I guess 20.
AL-BAKRI: Maybe, yeah.
KAKISSIS: Is it comfortable?
AL-BAKRI: No, it's not. Actually, when you're sleeping, you just can't move.
KAKISSIS: The shack is crowded. Everyone sleeps on the floor.
AL-BAKRI: It's really hard even to sleep here without anything. And some people are sleeping outside, which is freezing.
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Sometime in 2010, I became flaccid in my soul. What I mean is that I began to think I had some entitlements before God. I told God, “Hey, I am so tired. Can I take a break? I am not going to do anything very wrong, I just think that I deserve to have the opportunity to back off.” Progressively, I became spiritually lazy. Then I broke into a sudden depression that made me understand what Angie went though before the bullet went through her. I thought that the depression would leave, and I would learn my lesson. You know, so I could relate to others. Well, the depression has never really left. I know better how to deal with it, but it is still there. More and more, I backed out of things. You know . . . the entitlements I had. But these entitlements were slowly turning me into someone else.
I love God. However, He and I have a complicated relationship. My greatest prayer is that He shapes me into someone who glorifies Him and I continue to have hope for this from time to time. But, as I backed out of involvement in church (entitlement), became lazy (entitlement), quit working on my marriage (entitlement), picked up the smoking habit again (entitlement), and stopped investing so much in my kids life (entitlement), these actions only served to hurt my soul more deeply, and placed hope further and further out of reach. It was as if there is/was a part of my mind that needed to rebel and give God the middle finger for putting me through so much. “You are going to do this to me, huh? Well, how about I do this to You?”
Who I am today is someone who needs to hope again. I realized this as I was, of all things, watching the latest X-Men. You know, when Professor Xavier goes back in time and talks to his younger disenchanted self? He says, “We need you to hope again.” It struck me at that moment that this was me. I needed to hope again.
Read it all (also used in today's Sunday school class).
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Children Health & Medicine Marriage & Family Psychology Suicide * Theology Anthropology Christology Eschatology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
Foreigners are dreaming big, but the locals seem a bit overwhelmed with all the interest in a new law that was passed legalizing marijuana in the last year.
The law allows Uruguayans to register to grow their own weed, or join growing clubs — cooperatives of up to 45 people — for personal consumption.
Under President Jose Mujica's maverick leadership, Uruguay went further than any country in the world: The government will plant, cultivate and ultimately distribute marijuana, too.
Mujica says decades of failed drug war policies necessitated a radical new approach to curb drug violence and addiction. If the government sells dope, the idea goes, the criminals can't. But the reality has proven complicated, and some advocates say the government has bitten off more than it can chew.
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The number of people killed by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has risen to 6,928, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says.
The toll has increased by over 1,000 since the WHO's last report on Wednesday, but it includes unreported deaths from earlier in the outbreak.
Experts say the infection rate is more significant that the death toll, as it reflects how the virus is spreading.
Infection rates are decreasing in Liberia, but are high in Sierra Leone.
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The pastor of a Sacramento megachurch had already raised the money he sought for a program to provide food and shelter to the homeless. But Rick Cole, who began the fundraiser with a stunt where he would live on the streets, couldn't leave after only a few days. So, he spent the next two weeks living life as the homeless do — and the experience opened his eyes.
"I've walked past people that stay in some of the places of homelessness. And really almost not even noticed them, not considered their plight and what's going on in their life. Now I was living among them," Cole told NBC News.
Unrecognized by his new neighbors, the 57-year-old pastor spent his days looking for food and worrying about where he'd sleep at night. He didn't preach he didn't proselytize. He just listened. "I think I began to experience how people ignore others. I became the one ignored. People walked by me like I didn't exist."
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The pastor’s phone rang in the midnight darkness. A man’s voice rasped: “My wife left me and I’ve got a shotgun in my mouth. Give me one reason why I shouldn’t pull the trigger.”
The Rev. Matt Brogli, a Southern Baptist pastor scarcely six months into his first job, was unnerved. Gamely, he prayed with the anonymous caller, trying out “every platitude I could possibly think of.”
Eventually the stranger assured Mr. Brogli that he would be all right. But the young pastor was shaken.
“I was in over my head,” he recalled. “I thought being a pastor meant giving sermons, loving my congregation, doing marriages and funerals, and some marital counseling.”
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...against this backdrop of racial discord and ongoing black despair, in a place where hope can be hard to find for a young black man, Jamal Brown is part of a new story, a small but promising case study of possibility: It is about his black inner-city high school football team and their white Canadian football coach.
“This is the most positive story that is out there,” says Joe Winslow, a black man born and raised on the South Side, and an assistant with the Wendell Phillips Wildcats. “This is what can happen when people come together.
“This is a white head coach in a black neighbourhood — and it ain’t predominantly black — it’s black, where there are still gangs running certain neighbourhoods and running certain blocks, and where there are still kids getting jumped because they are wearing Phillips hoodies.”
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Nightmares of a friend dying beside him in a bunker years ago now waken Donald Vitkus. “There is stuff that you carry from the war,” the 71-year-old Vietnam veteran said.
Mr. Vitkus spends his days in and out of therapy at a residential rehabilitation center filled with mostly older veterans, working on his memory while trying to gain control over disturbing recollections and the emotions they surface.
He is one of hundreds of thousands of aging Vietnam veterans who late in life are now seeking help for post-traumatic stress disorder—a mix of flashbacks, depression and sleeplessness springing from a war that ended four decades ago.
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In November a third American was beheaded by the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which has taken control of parts of those two countries. Peter Kassig was captured in Syria, where he was working as a volunteer medical assistant, trying to address what a top United Nations official has called “the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era.”
According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, as many as 13.6 million people have been displaced by the conflict in Iraq and by civil war in Syria. Over 3 million Syrian refugees are now encamped in the neighboring countries of Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. Nearly 2 million Iraqis have been displaced this year.
The refugees put a huge burden on their host countries. Lebanon, a country of 4 million, has over 1 million registered refugees. With winter approaching, these refugees face bleak prospects. Their plight is exacerbated, the UNHCR claims, by an underfunded relief effort, which faces a shortfall of $58 million. The charity Oxfam charges the United States with negligence in supporting refugee efforts, claiming that it has contributed only 60 percent of its fair share.
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A woman in China's central province of Henan has reportedly been "asked" to return the money she received for being compliant with the country's One Child Policy, after she applied for a permit to have a second child.
The Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) official newspaper, the People's Daily, said that a woman surnamed Chen was told by local authorities in the city of Zhengzhou that "if (she) wants to have two children, (she) must refund the one-child monies that she had previously enjoyed."
Reggie Littlejohn, founder and president of Women's Rights Without Frontiers, said that China's One Child Policy is enforced not only through coercion, such as forced abortion and involuntary sterilization, but also through incentives, such as the "Parents of One Child Honor Certificate," which entitles parents of only one child to receive benefits until the child reaches age 14.
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She was born Phyllis Dorothy James on Aug. 3, 1920, in Oxford, the eldest of three children of Dorothy and Sidney James, a civil servant who did not believe in inflicting too much education on his daughter. The family settled in Cambridge when she was 11, and before she left the Cambridge High School for Girls, at 16, she already knew that she wanted to be a writer and that mysterious death intrigued her.
“When I first heard that Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall,” she was fond of saying, “I immediately wondered: Did he fall — or was he pushed?” But a marriage to Ernest C. B. White, a medical student, and World War II halted her plans for a writing career.
Ms. James gave birth to the first of her two daughters in 1942, during a bombing blitz. She served as a Red Cross nurse during the war. When her husband returned from military service with a mental disability, marked by bouts of violence, that kept him confined to hospitals, Ms. James was forced to support her family. She went to work for the National Health Service and attended classes in hospital administration.
It took her three years to write her first mystery novel, “Cover Her Face,” by working in the early morning, hours before going to her hospital job. She was 42 when it was published in Britain in 1962. (Like many of her books, it was published in the United States later.) The realistic hospital settings of three early novels, “A Mind to Murder” (1963), “Shroud for a Nightingale” (1971) and “The Black Tower” (1975), owe much to her 19 years of administrative experience with the National Health Service.
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Update: Terry Mattingly has rightly noted the Times missed pursuing her serious faith as part of the story.
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Black Friday in the U.S.: like a regular weekend at the malls, only a little more so. Black Friday overseas: like Black Friday used to be in the U.S., including the shoving and fistfights.
Call it America's latest export.
As Americans hunkered down on their couches to score Black Friday bargains online, shoppers in other parts of the world took part in what had been a uniquely American experience: Risking life and limb for dirt-cheap sweaters and discounted TVs.
British police officers were called to stores across the country on Friday to quell surging crowds and fights over deals. Retailers had adopted American-style Black Friday discounts to get a jump on the Christmas shopping season, according to Reuters. Even Brazil got in on the act, with stores offering Black Friday deals.
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It’s Sunday afternoon, and Dr. Jayme Locke, director of the Incompatible Kidney Transplant Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical Center, is preparing for a marathon.
“We are going to be doing 14 operations this week,” she said, checking in on her patients.
Sprinkled among the rooms up on the eighth floor are patients waiting to receive the gift of life -- a new kidney. Also among the patients are the living donors bearing those gifts, people who are willingly giving up one of their two kidneys to help a stranger.
“We are anxious, all of us are, to hear the story of our recipient,” said Pastor Derek Lambert, one of the donors. “I don’t know if this is perhaps a young mother who’s feared leaving her kids, or a young man who is unable to provide for the needs of his family and this would give these types of individuals a new lease on life.”
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The family of Lee Rigby have said they hold Facebook partly responsible for his murder, after a report found it failed to take action over an online chat in which one of the killers vowed to slay a soldier.
The Intelligence and Security Committee’s long-awaited report yesterday labelled an unnamed internet company, widely reported to be Facebook, a “safe haven for terrorists” because it did not flag up the online exchange between Michael Adebowale and a foreign jihadist, which took place five months before Fusilier Rigby’s murder.
The parliamentary watchdog’s chair Sir Malcolm Rifkind stated that the web firm could have made a difference by raising the conversation, and said there was “a significant possibility that MI5 would have been able to prevent the attack” as Adebowale would have become “a top priority.”
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African church leaders, theologians and health professionals have drawn up a road map they hope might help ease stigma and educate faith communities in the fight against Ebola.
The virus has killed more than 5,000 so far and has been declared a global security threat by the U.N.
The road map, drawn at a three-day conference that ended Wednesday (Nov. 26) in Nairobi and was attended by 70 religious and health care leaders, highlights the role faith groups can play as part of the global response, according to church leaders.
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Artificial intelligence, once confined to the realm of science fiction, is changing our lives. Cars are driving themselves. Drones are being programmed to deliver packages. Computers are learning to diagnose diseases. In a recent book, the economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee describe these recent advances as examples of the beginning of what they call “the second machine age.”
The very name – the first machine age was the Industrial Revolution – suggests an epochal shift. And, indeed, if the predictions are to be believed, these technological advances could have profound implications for the way we live.
One common forecast is that as ever-more advanced robots substitute workers, the cost of labor will become less important, and manufacturing will move back to rich countries. Another is that increasingly intelligent machines will reduce the demand for advanced skills, and that the economic advantage of having these skills will decline as a result.
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We are witnessing that the state has no business in recreating marriage, but the state does have a responsibility to safeguard children, by holding mothers and fathers to their vows to each other and to the next generation.
In this sense, we are acting much as Jesus did when he was asked about the payment of the temple tax. Jesus believed himself and his disciples to be heirs of the kingdom and thus free from this obligation. Nonetheless, he paid the half-shekel “so as not to give offense to them” (Matt. 17:27).
If the state ever attempts to force us to call marriage that which is not marriage in our churches and ceremonies, let’s obey God, even if that means we sing our wedding hymns in the prison block. But, for now, by registering Gospel-qualified unions as civil marriages and not officiating at unions that are not Gospel-qualified, we call the government to its responsibility even as we call attention to its limits.
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I implore each of you: Choose peace! Reject any false and empty hope that violence will solve problems. Violence only creates more violence. Let’s work for a better, stronger, more holy community— one founded upon respect for each other, respect for life, and our shared responsibility for the common good.
In 1979, Saint John Paul II visited the war-torn and weary nation of Ireland to decry years of violence. “Violence is evil…” the pope said. “Violence is unacceptable as a solution to problems.” How true this saint’s words are. He didn’t merely condemn violence; he also aptly described the depravity of violent behavior by saying:
“Violence is unworthy of man. Violence is a lie, for it goes against the truth of our faith, the truth of our humanity. Violence destroys what it claims to defend: the dignity, the life, the freedom of human beings. Violence is a crime against humanity, for it destroys the very fabric of society.”
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Does the call for Christians to separate matrimony from government marriage mean we’re retreating from the public square? Damon Linker thinks so. He calls it an “unprecedented retreat of theologically conservative churches from engagement in American public life.”
That’s exactly wrong.
If the Marriage Pledge is a retreat, it’s a retreat from this: the illusion that the Christian view of marriage can comfortably accommodate a definition of marriage that has strayed so far from revelation and reason that it now allows men to marry men and women to marry women. We all have to live with the reality of the sexual revolution, but Christians cannot make peace with it.
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It also needs to be kept in mind that apart from the pursuit of truth, each individual becomes the criterion for measuring himself and his own actions. The way is thus opened to a subjectivistic assertion of rights, so that the concept of human rights, which has an intrinsically universal import, is replaced by an individualistic conception of rights. This leads to an effective lack of concern for others and favours that globalization of indifference born of selfishness, the result of a conception of man incapable of embracing the truth and living an authentic social dimension.
This kind of individualism leads to human impoverishment and cultural aridity, since it effectively cuts off the nourishing roots on which the tree grows. Indifferent individualism leads to the cult of opulence reflected in the throwaway culture all around us. We have a surfeit of unnecessary things, but we no longer have the capacity to build authentic human relationships marked by truth and mutual respect. And so today we are presented with the image of a Europe which is hurt, not only by its many past ordeals, but also by present-day crises which it no longer seems capable of facing with its former vitality and energy; a Europe which is a bit tired and pessimistic, which feels besieged by events and winds of change coming from other continents.
To Europe we can put the question: “Where is your vigour? Where is that idealism which inspired and ennobled your history? Where is your spirit of curiosity and enterprise? Where is your thirst for truth, a thirst which hitherto you have passionately shared with the world?
The future of the continent will depend on the answer to these questions.
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The development and application of such techniques is risky - it is after all humans in their current morally-inept state who must apply them - but we think that our present situation is so desperate that this course of action must be investigated. We have radically transformed our social and natural environments by technology, while our moral dispositions have remained virtually unchanged. We must now consider applying technology to our own nature, supporting our efforts to cope with the external environment that we have created.
Biomedical means of moral enhancement may turn out to be no more effective than traditional means of moral education or social reform, but they should not be rejected out of hand. Advances are already being made in this area. However, it is too early to predict how, or even if, any moral bioenhancement scheme will be achieved. Our ambition is not to launch a definitive and detailed solution to climate change or other mega-problems. Perhaps there is no realistic solution. Our ambition at this point is simply to put moral enhancement in general, and moral bioenhancement in particular, on the table.
Last century we spent vast amounts of resources increasing our ability to cause great harm. It would be sad if, in this century, we reject opportunities to increase our capacity to create benefits, or at least to prevent such harm.
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As St. Louis-area clergy urge a nonviolent response to a grand jury’s decision about whether to charge a white police officer in the killing of an unarmed black teenager, they’re re-evaluating their role in the struggle over race relations.
Religious leaders have become complacent in the decades since the civil-rights movement ended legal segregation, said Carl Smith Sr., 59, pastor at New Beginning Missionary Baptist in Woodson Terrace, Missouri. The August shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson and the weeks of unrest that followed awakened people of the cloth, he said. A decision on charges that could come any day and the prospect of renewed violence have forced religious leaders to the forefront and, for some, into a period of introspection.
“We have stopped doing what we were supposed to do,” Smith said in an interview after an interfaith service Nov. 22 in St. Louis. “We have stayed confined to our four walls, instead of coming outside of these four walls.”
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A Europe weary with disorientation. And I don't want to be a pessimist, but let's tell the truth: after food, clothing, and medicine, what are the most important expenditures? Cosmetics, and I don't know how to say this in Italian, but the “mascotas,” the little animals. They don't have children, but their affection goes to the little cat, to the little dog. And this is the second expenditure after the three main ones. The third is the whole industry to promote sexual pleasure. So it’s food, medicine, clothing, cosmetics, little animals, and the life of pleasure. Our young people feel this, they see this, they live this.
I liked very much what His Eminence said, because this is truly the drama of Europe today. But it's not the end. I believe that Europe has many resources for going forward. It's like a sickness that Europe has today. A wound. And the greatest resource is the person of Jesus. Europe, return to Jesus! Return to that Jesus whom you have said was not in your roots! And this is the work of the pastors: to preach Jesus in the midst of these wounds. I have spoken of only a few, but there are tremendous wounds. To preach Jesus. And I ask you this: don't be ashamed to proclaim Jesus Christ risen who has redeemed us all. And for us too that the Lord may not rebuke us, as today in the Gospel of Luke he rebuked these two cities.
The Lord wants to save us. I believe this. This is our mission: to proclaim Jesus Christ, without shame. And he is ready to open the doors of his heart, because he manifests his omnipotence above all in mercy and forgiveness. Let's go forward with preaching. Let's not be ashamed. So many ways of preaching, but to mama Europe - or grandma Europe, or wounded Europe - only Jesus Christ can speak a word of salvation today. Only he can open a door of escape.
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Waking up during a surgery would be a nightmare, yet that's a regular problem for patients in low-income countries. Sketchy power grids mean the lights often go out, and with them, the anesthesia machine. In other cases, there are too few oxygen tanks for a surgery, so it's canceled.
Two decades ago, Dr. Paul Fenton faced those hurdles almost daily while working as an anesthesiologist at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi. The hospital had plenty of anesthesia machines, each provided by a well-intentioned western charity, but none were practical for his clinic.
"So I began tinkering with these old machines, and took a few bits and pieces from each," recounts Fenton.
The result was a prototype for the Universal Anesthesia Machine (UAM), which delivers anesthesia without oxygen tanks or the need of stable power grid
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At this year's Acton University conference, you spoke on how love is an indispensable basis for economic life. To some, that might seem odd if economic life is viewed as the maximization of utility and material well-being.
We can’t enter the marketplace as something other than what we really are, and real human love demonstrates the impossibility of being merely homo economicus (“the economic man”), which is essentially a thesis that reduces human beings to their materiality.
Humans are simultaneously material and transcendent, individual and social. We are not merely individual entities, though we are uniquely and unrepeatably that, even from the first moment of our conception. Yet the whole of our lives we are social and individual, material and spiritual. If we ignore this existential reality, then we fail to understand what it means to be human.
Love—authentic human love—helps us understand this anthropological reality. Even conjugal love offers more than physicality. In this act of love, we offer our whole selves, including our ideals, dreams, and indeed our future to one another—none of which exists in material reality. Love, especially in the biblical sense, is not merely what one wants for oneself, but is a free decision that wills the good of the person one loves. And this transcendent act, this non-material dimension of human anthropology—when open to new life—normatively results in other human persons who are made from the dust of the earth and the breath of life.
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Take the time to watch it all (about 16-19 minutes).
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In the weeks following the initial 2013 publication of my book, The Kennedy Half-Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy, I received hundreds of emails, letters, and tweets. Many were filled with personal reminiscences and heartfelt emotion, but mainly the communications demonstrated that people who have followed the assassination story these many years have long since chosen sides.
The concrete is so set that even if a time machine existed, and we could go back and videotape the Dallas event from every conceivable angle, some would not be convinced unless their preferred conspirators were caught red-handed. The controversy about the assassination shows few signs of fading away, especially because (according to a Peter Hart poll commissioned for my book), three-quarters of Americans do not believe the Warren Commission’s conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.
A handful of the messages I’ve received were sent by individuals who insisted they had revelations about President Kennedy’s assassination. I met, spoke by phone, or exchanged correspondence with the most credible of them. After passage of more than a half-century, it is almost impossible to separate fact from fiction, and some intriguing leads proved impossible to confirm because the principals refused to cooperate or are deceased. Nonetheless, some worthwhile particulars emerged.
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Recently, I played the role of father of the bride for the first time in my life. It was a life-changing event for me; I barely survived. I suspect it was an important day for my daughter too; she was quite animated and very interested in every detail. Months of planning and purchasing led steadily to the special day. Flower choices were debated, color schemes considered and rejected, songs chosen, an organist identified, a soloist, a photographer, a videographer, a caterer, a baker, greeters, readers, feeders, eaters—Eisenhower spent less time planning his visit to Normandy. It was the usual, once-in-a-lifetime kind of event in the chapel of the small liberal-arts college where I teach and the betrothed couple met, graduated and learned about lifelong commitment—like the legal obligations inherent in student loans.
Of course, there was the Friday-night rehearsal. My part was easy enough: Walk slowly down the aisle with a beautiful woman on my arm. After two walk-throughs, I was confident I could handle it. Although I had major parts, both onstage in a tuxedo and as the signer of numerous bank drafts, I had only one line, “Her mother and I,” in reply to the query, “Who gives this woman?” I delivered my line at the rehearsal in a strong, confident voice, accompanied by the thought, “I can do this tomorrow.”
But at 3 a.m., I awoke with a panic attack. I could not do this.
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To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell.--C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1960), pp. 138-139
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In the last few decades, there has been much talk about “Six Degrees of Separation,” which is the idea that any person in the world can be introduced to any other person in the world, by being introduced through our networks of friends. Statisticians have demonstrated that anyone in the US can be introduced to almost anyone else in the US by going through only two or three friends. But as often as we hear such things, it is still amazing when it happens “in real life.”
This week I received a private message on Facebook from a woman I never met. And that was the beginning (or possibly the end) of an unusual series of connections through my life and through social media. To understand the connections that led to this message, let me go back in time to high school.
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I had the privilege of being part of a Fordham University event last night on the future of religion, responding (along with a rather more distinguished fellow panelist) to remarks by the religion journalist and academic Molly Worthen on the roots of institutional faith’s present-day developed-world decline. There was, I think, some basic agreement among all of the panelists about some of the patterns and shifts we’re experiencing right now (the decline of institutional authority, the working out of the sexual revolution, the rise of the so-called “nones”), and then a number of interesting things were said about the possible unknowns that might either accelerate or redirect current trends: There was discussion of how institutional-cum-orthodox forms of faith might experience some sort of revival, of how spiritual-but-not-religious forms of faith might represent the vanguard of an entirely new era of religious understanding, and of how religious forces outside the developed world (Islam, Pentecostalism, Chinese Christianity) might matter more to the West itself than a Western-centric vision allows.
All of us were trying, I think, to escape a little bit from the tyranny of extrapolation — the tendency to assume that today’s trends will necessarily be tomorrow’s, and that history happens in a relatively linear and Whiggish fashion. But reflecting on the discussion afterward, it seems worth dwelling a little more the importance of the unexpected in religious history, the ways in which various forms of rupture and reversal can make punditry look foolish.
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The human head weighs about a dozen pounds. But as the neck bends forward and down, the weight on the cervical spine begins to increase. At a 15-degree angle, this weight is about 27 pounds, at 30 degrees it’s 40 pounds, at 45 degrees it’s 49 pounds, and at 60 degrees it’s 60 pounds.
That’s the burden that comes with staring at a smartphone — the way millions do for hours every day, according to research published by Kenneth Hansraj in the National Library of Medicine. The study will appear next month in Surgical Technology International. Over time, researchers say, this poor posture, sometimes called “text neck,” can lead to early wear-and-tear on the spine, degeneration and even surgery.
“It is an epidemic or, at least, it’s very common,” Hansraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, told The Washington Post. “Just look around you, everyone has their heads down.”
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Every day all over America, postal workers complete their appointed rounds without much notice. But in one Midwest town, they turned into heroes.
Christy Perfetti has been delivering mail in East Peoria, Ill., for 23 years. Almost a decade along this same route.
For the most part, she says every day is like every other. Except for one day last year.
Perfetti was pulling into the post office parking lot when she saw an older man taking a young boy behind a shed. She had a gut instinct something was wrong.
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