- - Thursday, May 12, 2016

(1) The Moral Revolutionaries Present Their Demands: Unconditional Surrender, by Albert Mohler

…More than a year before the Supreme Court legalized same­sex marriage nationwide, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat had written that once the decision was handed down, the winning liberals would “recognize its power.” There would be no negotiation then. “Instead, all that’s left is the timing of the final victory — and for the defeated to find out what settlement the victors will impose.”

Well, now we know. We really knew before the Tushnet essay appeared. Just ask the florists, photographers, and bakers who have been dragged before tribunals. Ask the former Fire Chief of Atlanta. Ask a Christian student at your local college or university.

(2) A record number of internally displaced — 66,000 people every day in 2015!

Conflict, violence and disasters internally displaced 27.8 million people in 2015, subjecting a record number of men, women and children to the trauma and upheaval of being forcibly displaced within their own country.

“This is the equivalent of the combined populations of New York City, London, Paris and Cairo grabbing what they can carry, often in a state of panic, and setting out on a journey filled with uncertainty,” said Jan Egeland, the Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). “Put another way, around 66,000 people abandoned their homes every day of 2015.”

(3) People of Faith Ask, To Trump Or Not to Trump, by Rick Marschall

…The scenario is a different animal than whether to endorse a candidate you distrust or despise in 2016 – but it reminds us that religion is never far from the larger debate. Our civic consciences might still roil over whether to Trump, or not to Trump. Life has gone on in America despite, as Kipling wrote, “The tumult and the shouting dies.”

Myself, I greet with dubiety Trump’s assurances that he is familiar with the Bible, understands doctrine, and has a saving knowledge, as we say, of Jesus Christ. But we are not to judge: I question, however. “God judges the man; voters judge the candidate” is, this year, less of a maxim and feels like more of an excuse.

Many of us have the nagging feeling that things are different this time, that past is less than prologue. The Captains and the Kings may depart, yet we seem closer to our destiny, maybe an apocalypse.

(4) An Afternoon at Auschwitz (Crisis Magazine)

***A somber remembrance of Maximilian Kolbe, a Roman Catholic priest who gave his life up so others could live.

But what even a deranged tyrant could not quite succeed in doing, despite all the demonic forces harnessed to his genocidal mania, was the extinction of the human spirit. It simply would not lie down and die. And, thankfully, we were shown evidence of its life, of the sheer irrepressibility of human hope, before taking our leave. Because there in the dark cellar of Block Eleven, an infamous place where the tortured screams of prisoners went unanswered, stood the starvation bunker in which a Polish priest by the name of Maximilian Kolbe, along with nine other similarly condemned prisoners, spent the last days of his life. And why was he chosen to suffer in that agonizing and protracted way? Because, in a word, he substituted himself for another, taking the place of a grieving husband and father who would otherwise have died.

“What does this Polish pig want?” demanded the SS officer wearing the dreaded death’s head insignia, when the slight figure of Fr. Kolbe came forward dressed in prison garb—the mark of man’s humiliation, beneath which, in Kolbe’s case, shone the unseen holiness of Almighty God. “I am a Catholic priest,” he replied. “I want to die for that man. I am old; he has a wife and children.”

(5) Many Americans Say Bible Is Key to Better Politics (Barna)

Presidential elections are rarely kind and congenial affairs, but many pundits and politicos—and even the current president—think this year’s primary season has been more abrasive than usual. Aside from the candidates and their teams practicing civility, is there anything else that might improve the tenor of American political discourse?

According to American Bible Society’s annual “State of the Bible” survey powered by Barna, half of American adults (51%) say politics would be more civil if politicians engaged in regular Bible reading. A similar majority (53%) says American politicians would be more effective if they read the Bible on a regular basis. In addition, nearly half of all adults (46%) say they wish the Bible had greater influence on American society.

These views are likely influenced by most people’s belief that the Bible is sacred literature (80%) and that it contains everything a person needs to know to live a meaningful life (66% strongly or somewhat agree). Among Elders aged 70 and older and Boomers 51 to 69, the percentages are even higher: nine out of 10 Elders (91%) and Boomers (88%) consider the Bible sacred and three-quarters (79% Elders, 74% Boomers) agree the Bible’s contents are sufficient for living a meaningful life.

Overall, Americans hold the Bible in high regard.

(6) Proper religious funerals are dying out. I mourn for them (The Spectator)

 Funerals ain’t what they used to be. Today’s emphasis is more on celebrating a life past than honouring the future of a soul. While I am not averse to a celebratory element, the funeral is morphing into a spiritually weightless bless-fest. This was brought home to me last week at the funeral of Enid, a lady I knew only through our mutual attendance at bingo in the community centre.

I was uncomfortable from the moment we gathered outside the church, where my sombre suit set me apart from the Technicolor crowd of family and friends. The atmosphere was more akin to a wedding, even a hen do, than a funeral, the air drenched in perfume and aftershave. Inside, there was pew-to-pew chatter, wall-to-wall music (Robbie Williams’s ‘Angels’, inevitably), not a single moment of silence, and not a single sacred song, let alone a prayer (an inaccurately mumbled Lord’s Prayer excepted). There were two readings, one by a grand-niece of perhaps eight, snivelling, bless, a poem about being only next door; then a nephew offering a eulogy, the main point of which was that his aunt had been a keen gardener ‘and she will plant her flowers in heaven’.

I know I shouldn’t sneer. Religion, the Anglican version anyhow, is a broad church with a wide liturgical spectrum. But I could not help feeling that such celebration missed the point. It somehow connected with a virtual life rather than a real death. It was spiritual displacement activity.

As someone already in the queue, so to speak, I can see why this is becoming the norm. Social media declares that privacy is theft: your life is public property. The same must apply to death. And yet selfie culture insists, ‘Look at me, I’m having a wonderful time.’ It is uncomfortable with any performance conflicting with that message. Grief falls into this category.


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