The World Wide Religious Web for Tuesday, January 31, 2012


BECAUSE IT’S EASIER TO BE A BOY: Why Young Men Aren’t Manning Up.

Young men are being shaped by prolonged adolescence and perceived obsolescence, and powerful social forces are at work to keep them that way.

For instance, a much-publicized Relevant magazine article highlighted a study that found 80 percent of evangelical Christians have had premarital sex, slightly below the 88 percent mark of society at large. Sex is readily available and as a motivator for pursuing marriage seems all but off the table. Fear of divorce further undermines the draw of marriage.

For another example, I’ve already hinted at the fact that the current growth sectors of the job market are geared more to the skills of women. In addition, average college loan debt post-college is more than $25,000, so even men with their act together often must delay taking on the added financial burdens of home and family. Women, despite their newfound financial independence, still expect to marry up. Many young men, unable to handle adult expectations, have simply chosen not to try.

They’ve been rewarded for throwing in the towel with a hook-up culture skewed in their favor, a growing buffet of man-centric entertainment, and a plunging limbo bar of social expectations. And—paradoxically in the current market—they have a relatively high amount of disposable income to play around with, and no financial obligations but the ones they choose. Man up? Are you kidding?

THEIR VIOLENCE, AND OURS: Secular Theocracy: The Foundations and Folly of Modern Tyranny, Part 2.

The reality of today’s secular theocracy is that its hypocritical authoritarianism circumvents the natural-law tradition of Christian teachings. Cavanaugh well sums up the incoherence of the secular theocrat who claims that, “Their violence—being tainted by religion—is uncontrolled, absolutist, fanatical, irrational, and divisive. Our violence—being secular—is controlled, modest, rational, beneficial, peace making, and sometimes regrettably necessary to contain their violence.” The appalling problem with the “myth of religious violence” is not that it opposes certain forms of violence, but that it not only denies moral condemnation of secular violence, it considers it highly praiseworthy.

AN EXTENSION OF THE STATE? Religious Liberty and Civil Society.

In this sense, what is at issue in the controversy over the administration’s rule is not just the question of religious liberty but the question of non-governmental institutions in a free society. Does civil society consist of a set of institutions that help the government achieve its purposes as it defines them when their doing so might be more efficient or convenient than the state’s doing so itself, or does civil society consist of an assortment of efforts by citizens to band together in pursuit of mutual aims and goods as they understand them? Is it an extension of the state or of the community? In this arena, as in a great many others, the administration is clearly determined to see civil society as merely an extension of the state, and to clear out civil society—clearing out the mediating layers between the individual and the state—when it seems to stand in the way of achieving the president’s agenda. The idea is to leave as few non-individual players as possible in the private sphere, and to turn those few that are left into agents of the government. This is the logic of a lot of the administration’s approach to the private economy, not just to civil society. It is key to the design of Obamacare (which aims to yield massive consolidation in the insurance sector, leaving just a handful of very large insurers that would function as public utilities), of significant portions of Dodd-Frank (which would privilege and protect a few very large banks that would function as public utilities while strangling all the others with red tape), and of much of the regulatory agenda of the left. And it is all the more so the character of the administration’s approach to charitable institutions. It is an attack on mediating institutions of all sorts, moved by the genuine belief that they are obstacles to a good society.

“WE HAVE TO PASS THE BILL SO THAT YOU CAN FIND OUT WHAT IS IN IT”: Obamacare’s Great Gift: Clarification.

If nothing else, in declaring war against our consciences, the Obama administration has given American Catholics a great gift of clarification; a fractious family we may be, but—as the saying goes—we are church. And we have the right to be who we are.

EVIDENTLY, JESUS WAS A DEMOCRAT: The War on Christianity.

It’s almost comical if folks didn’t believe this while claiming religiosity. This is the true War on Christianity in our country. It’s not about prayer in schools, or soccer trumping Sunday school. It’s about groups of pundits, politicians and “American”-centric groups redefining the teachings of Jesus to suit their economic, social or political agenda. You know it’s working when those spouting the anti-Christian rhetoric rile people into anger and hatred. You know it’s working when Christians are confused into believing that the the health of their neighbor is not their concern. That individual freedom is radically more important than community well-being. You know it’s working when these movements strategically quote the teachings of Jesus to suit their own agendas, rather than base their leadership on the foundations of love, compassion, and concern for our fellow human — which any good Christian knows is Jesus’ clear central message.

PARTISAN IDOLATRY: The Perils of Making Jesus in Your Own Image.

A scholarly study released this week attempts to answer how staunch Christians can make such differing claims about how the teachings of their faith should inform their politics. The bottom line: Many Christians make God, or at least Jesus, in their own image, projecting their own politics and priorities onto their interpretation of the divine will.

IT’S THE CULTURE, STUPID! Values Inequality.

So much for the idea that the white working class remains the guardian of core American values like religious faith, hard work and marriage. Today the denizens of upscale communities like McLean, Va., New Canaan, Conn., and Palo Alto, Calif., according to Charles Murray in “Coming Apart,” are now much more likely than their fellow citizens to embrace these core American values. In studying, as his subtitle has it, “the state of white America, 1960-2010,” Mr. Murray turns on its head the conservative belief that bicoastal elites are dissolute and ordinary Americans are virtuous.

Focusing on whites to avoid conflating race with class, Mr. Murray contends instead that a large swath of white America—poor and working-class whites, who make up approximately 30% of the white population—is turning away from the core values that have sustained the American experiment. At the same time, the top 20% of the white population has quietly been recovering its cultural moorings after a flirtation with the counterculture in the 1960s and 1970s. Thus, argues Mr. Murray in his elegiac book, the greatest source of inequality in America now is not economic; it is cultural.

BAD SCIENCE: The Genetics of Same-Sex Attraction.

To his credit, Bruni gets a number of things right, including the most important thing: Science will not solve our culture’s struggles about sexual orientation. But when science is cited, we should at least get it right.

GOD IS A PLACE WITHIN OURSELVES? How the Placebo Effect Proves that God Exists.

Which brings us back to the placebo effect. It is mysterious, right? We don’t know how it happens. A person was sick and they take a sugar pill and next thing you know — voila — they are healthy. To call this “the placebo effect” is to dress up our ignorance in words. What has actually happened is nothing short of a miracle. Science has got no explanation for it– something immaterial (a thought?) has impacted something material (our body) in a way which utterly defies logic.

And that is what prayer is all about. Prayer is based upon the conviction that the immaterial is more powerful than matter itself. Whether we call this immaterial force “God,” “the ground of our being,” “Spirit,” or “higher consciousness” doesn’t matter. The point is– there is an uncanny power (which all of us without exception have got access to) which performs miracles. The sick can be cured, the broken can feel whole again.

And the greatest miracle of all is that this power can connect us to a place within ourselves of boundless love, peace and well being. Do we need any other proof for the existence of God?

THE RELIGIOUS WRONG? Newt Gingrich and the Future of the Right.

What would Weyrich, who died in 2008, make of the fact that Newt Gingrich — who was himself having an adulterous affair during the Clinton impeachment proceedings (one of several conducted by the former speaker, according to his own testimony and a number of lengthy journalistic investigations, including this one from CBS and that one from the Daily Beast) — won the 2012 South Carolina Republican primary with a plurality of voters who described themselves as evangelical or born-again Christians?

OY VEY! BUT NO! Did Romney Eliminate Kosher Nursing Home Food as Governor?

IN HIGH SCHOOL OR COLLEGE, MOSTLY: If People Leave the Faith, When Do They Do It?

QUITE A FEW THINGS, ACTUALLY: What’s the difference between a Pastor and a Priest?

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