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Templeton Project: Flannery O’Connor’s “Push Back”

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Flannery O’Connor’s ‘Push Back’.”

See also:

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Flannery O’Connor was a southern Catholic writer who has bequeathed to us wonderful short stories and two novels.  She has some good advice for Christians in this secular age.  “Push back against the age as hard as it pushes against you.  What people don’t realize is how much religion costs.  They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.”

“Push back” may be a harsh metaphor when we Christians are striving for civil speech in a contentious, combative society.  But, let us not forget the  primary point that O’Connor is making.  We are to speak up on behalf of Christ–His redemptive sacrifice and wise teachings.  When we are conversing with a friend, talking in a group that has gathered for dinner or some such activity, or participating in a formal setting of discussion or debate, we are called on to defend the faith, no matter what the risk.  To follow Jesus is to carry a cross.

Having to make an apology, or defense, for many of us may be a frequent opportunity in our secular setting.  We must balance civil speech with a firm stand.  To be gentle and respectful does not mean to accede to falsehood.  We may be objects of ridicule and scorn.  No matter, we are to stand for the truth even unto persecution.

Our challenge in any dialogue may not only have to do with civility but also knowledge.  Do we have enough knowledge to feel adequate to the task?  We must also commit ourselves to study, especially of the Bible.

Next time we will discuss how Saint Paul comported himself before people in power.  To do this we will turn to the Acts of the Apostles.

A Spectral Witness Materializes

The Salem witch trials turned on what was called “spectral evidence.” That was testimony from witnesses—either malicious or hysterical—who claimed the accused had assumed the form of a black cat or some other devilish creature and had come visiting in the night in order to torment the witness with bites and scratches, or to rearrange the bedroom furniture, or to send the baby into paroxysms.

The judge, William Stoughton, admitted this nonsense into evidence. Hysterical fantasies had real consequences: Sarah Good and four other defendants were hanged on July 19, 1692.

Three hundred twenty-six years later, an anonymous woman—a spectral and possibly nonexistent woman, for all that one knew when the story emerged—accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her 36 years ago, when he was a high-school student. It seemed as if the American constitutional process might be drawn back to the neighborhood of Salem, Mass. According to this phantom testimony, 17-year-old Brett held the girl down, pawed her and tried to force himself upon her, and held his hand over her mouth when she screamed, until a second prep-school devil piled on top, they all tumbled to the floor, and the girl managed to slip away. The boys were “stumbling drunk,” according to the account.

You were supposed to feel the sudden wind-shear of hypocrisy. The nominee was a seeming paragon—perfect father and husband and coach of his daughters’ basketball teams. He is a Roman Catholic with an Irish name, but now the script became as gleefully Calvinist as a Hawthorne tale. What imp of hell had possessed the Kavanaugh boy? The Protestant tale seemed to obtain subliminal verification against the background of Catholic sex-abuse scandals.

Thus the constitutional process takes on an aspect of the 21st-century medieval. The accuser’s story first emerged in a letter that came into the hands of California Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Ms. Feinstein brought it to light only after the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing, which featured somewhat Salem-like drama—costumed apparitions from “The Handmaid’s Tale” arranging themselves outside the committee room; inarticulate background screams of people being led away for disrupting the proceedings. It seemed as if Ms. Feinstein, not liking the odds of defeating Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation, had found a devilishly clever way to head it off after all.

But then the accuser materialized, in the form of a 51-year-old California professor of clinical psychology, Christine Blasey Ford.

What to make of it now? The tale became a lot less spectral. Still, there had been no police report, and there were no witnesses. The second boy allegedly in the room said he had no memory of such an incident and called the accusation “absolutely nuts.” Judge Kavanaugh flatly denied it. Her therapist’s notes from 30 years later are not objective reporting, merely a transcription of what Ms. Ford herself said.

The thing happened—if it happened—an awfully long time ago, back in Ronald Reagan’s time, when the actors in the drama were minors and (the boys, anyway) under the blurring influence of alcohol and adolescent hormones. No clothes were removed, and no sexual penetration occurred. The sin, if there was one, was not one of those that Catholic theology calls peccata clamantia—sins that cry to heaven for vengeance.

The offense alleged is not nothing, by any means. It is ugly, and stupid more than evil, one might think, but trauma is subjective and hard to parse legally. Common sense is a little hard put to know what to make of the episode, if it happened. The dust of 36 years has settled over the memory. The passage of time sometimes causes people to forget; sometimes it causes them to invent or embellish. Invention takes on bright energies when its muse is politics, which is the Olympics of illusion. Inevitably, people will sort the matter out along mostly partisan lines. A lot will depend upon the testimony of Ms. Ford, who has volunteered to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee. If the left expects a windfall from all this in November, it may find itself instead the victim of a terrific backlash.

These are part of the 21st century’s strange sectarian struggles. In another Senate hearing a year ago, Ms. Feinstein addressed Amy Coney Barrett, a Notre Dame law professor, about her nomination to the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Ms. Feinstein began fretting earnestly about the nominee’s Catholicism. “The dogma lives loud within you,” the senator told the professor—an oddly mystical locution.

But 21st-century progressivism is also a religion—a militant faith, a true church in nearly all important respects. It is a community of belief and shared values, with dogmas, heresies, sacraments and fanatics; with saints it reveres and devils it abhors, starting with the great Satan Donald Trump. If religion were to disqualify a Catholic from public service, it would logically have to disqualify a practicing progressive, who is the creature of a belief system that is, on the whole, considerably more dogmatic than the one with headquarters in Rome.

By Lance Morrow , a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, is a former essayist for Ti

Published in the Wall Street Journal on September 17, 2018 (see here) and Wealth Creates Good on September 18, 2018 (see here).

EEOC Wins Settlement of Suit Brought On Behalf of Seventh Day Adventists

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

EEOC last week announced the settlement of a lawsuit it had filed against an  Ooltewah, Tennessee, senior and assisted living community.  Garden Plaza at Greenbriar Cove required two Seventh Day Adventist employees to work on Saturdays, and asked them to resign when they refused to do so.  In the settlement, Garden Plaza will pay $92,586.50 in damages, and enter a 2-year consent decree requiring it to train employees on Title VII matters.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Templeton Project: The Present Cultural Environment in America

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “The Present Cultural Environment in America.”

See also:

 

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The situation for Christians in contemporary American culture can be described as increasing pressure to conform to secularism, an ideology not only different from Christianity but hostile to it.    The circumstances did not come into existence overnight.  Read Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age or a summary of his book by James K. A. Smith, entitled  How (Not) to Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor. 

Is cultural hostility becoming a situation of outright persecution?  Are we headed toward an environment of “trials” similar to the exiles in First Peter, or worse?  We do not have too long to wait to find out.  Developments are moving at a fast pace. Secularism is an ideology that by its very nature is intensely inimical to Christian faith.  Our apostolic and catholic confession is a threat to its tenets. And, of course, theirs to ours.  But, as Christians, we are expected to react in love for our neighbor, even our enemy; but, we must also stand firm for our confession of faith.

What do we see on the cultural landscape?  A sexual revolution has taken place that contravenes Christian ethics. (see R. Albert Mohler, Jr., We Cannot Be Silent).  Our government has been active in promoting laws that would limit freedom of the practice of religion.  Note the attempt to replace free exercise of religion with freedom of worship only, a change that would greatly restrict the intent of the First Amendment’s protection.  Hollywood and the media have aligned themselves with secular ways of thinking and doing. Intellectuals have directed attacks against Christian theology and ethics. Though attacks on the faith are not new, today it seems more common and virulent.  Science has become scientism–a philosophy that insists that only science provides knowledge. The humanities and theology, in this view, are not considered sources of knowledge.(See J.P. Moreland, Scientism and Secularism).  We are moving toward a brave new world of drugs, sex only for pleasure, and laboratory production and experimentation that challenge Christian ethics  (See Aldous Huxley, Brave New World)  We have state law that allows the killing of a child outside the womb of the mother.  Our societal symbols, representing who we are, could turn out to be the condom and the joint.

In some quarters, the church has become an object of ridicule and contempt. It is in this environment that we must speak the truth and proclaim the Christian faith.

We have churches who have allied themselves, astoundingly enough, with this secular culture in the name of Christ.  The result has been bitterness and hostility within the Christian community. Are churches that renounce orthodox theology and ethics Christian? Because of our many divisions, the church has not spoken with one voice, based on orthodox theology and traditional Christian ethics. Valuable energy and positive influence are lost in these ecclesiastical and ecumenical conflicts.

What are Christians called to do in this situation?  Despite the obstacles and dangers and threats, we must speak out. We must push back, as writer Flannery O’Connor advises.  More on this next time.

Michael G. Tavella

June 1, 2019

Feast Day of Justin Martyr, c. 165

 

Gov. Wolf signs Roosevelt Boulevard speed camera bill

I have been writing in opposition to traffic cameras for a few years now (you can find all of my articles and posts on traffic cameras here).  They are consistently controversial and violative of basic rights and I encourage you to read my articles on this here.  The encroachment on our rights has recently crept a little further still as Governor Wolf signed a bill allowing even more cameras on our streets.

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Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill on Friday to allow the installation of speed cameras along the entire length of Roosevelt Boulevard.

Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday signed a bill that will allow for speed cameras to be installed on Roosevelt Boulevard from 9th Street in Hunting Park to the Bucks County line as part of a five-year pilot program.

Once the cameras are set up, drivers who travel 11 miles over the speed limit or more will be ticketed. There will be a 30-day grace period during which violators will get a written warning.

Mayor Jim Kenney and safety advocates praised the legislation and said it will make the Boulevard safer.

“Our city and our families deserve safer streets,” Kenney said. “With around 100 people being killed in traffic crashes on Philadelphia streets every year, we are committed to continuing to bring to together street design, education, enforcement and policy changes that will manage speeds and, thus, save lives, making Philadelphia streets safe for everyone.”

Although the bill had bipartisan support in Harrisburg, not everyone supports speed cameras. The National Motorists Association has argued that the cameras are a money-making scheme for state and local governments.

As part of the pilot program, signs will be placed near the cameras and at two-mile intervals along the entire length of the Boulevard.

The speed camera program will be operated by the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

City Council has to pass an ordinance for the pilot program to go into effect, according to the Governor’s Office.

The bill signed by Wolf also calls for speed cameras in work zones around the state.

By Jack Tomczuk and published in the Northeast Times on October 25, 2018 and can be found here.

3rd Circuit Upholds Cross On County Seal

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In one of the first cases to rely on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June rejecting an Establishment Clause challenge to the 94-year old Bladensburg Cross, the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday rejected a challenge to a Latin cross on the 75-year old official seal of Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. In Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. v. County of Lehigh(3d Cir., Aug. 8, 2019), the 3rd Circuit said in part:

American Legion confirms that Lemon does not apply to “religious references or imagery in public monuments, symbols, mottos, displays, and ceremonies.”… Instead, informed by four considerations, the Court adopted “a strong presumption of constitutionality” for “established, religiously expressive monuments, symbols, and practices.”…

WFMZ News reports on the decision.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Family Law Tip: Settlements or Awards and Divorce

I post some tips regarding family to my Linkedin page (see here) from time to time, and I thought I should start sharing them here too. Below is one of my family law tips, and you can read my articles on family law here and other posts on family law here and all are cataloged here.

Summer 2019, “The Evangelist” Newsletter from St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church, Abington, PA

The Evangelist is the monthly newsletter of St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church in Abington, Pennsylvania.  The Summer 2019 issue of The Evangelist is now out which you can read here.

Court Refuses To Order Return of WWII Remains To Supposed Next-of-Kin

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In Patterson v. Defense POW/ MIA Accounting Agency, (WD TX, July 29, 2019), a Texas federal district court refused to order return to plaintiffs of the remains of seven servicemen who were killed or perished as POW’s in the Philippines in World War II.  The court explains:

The parties dispute the extent to which the remains are identified. Plaintiffs argue that they have a property interest in these remains and that Defendants’ retention of these remains impinges on Plaintiffs’ religious practices and Plaintiffs’ interest in securing proper burial.

The court rejected plaintiffs’ due process, 4th Amendment, free exercise and RFRA claims to the remains at issue, saying in part:

They state “the facts alleged in the Amended Complaint show that the Government has placed a substantial burden on the Families’ exercise of religion.”…

The record reveals nothing further about Plaintiffs’ religious beliefs or how Defendants have burdened them. Plaintiffs do not indicate the nature, substance, or contours of their beliefs, or even whether all Plaintiffs share the same religious beliefs. In the complaint, Plaintiffs allege that a “proper burial is essential for many practicing Christians,” but they produce no declarations or other evidence outlining these beliefs. Defendants thus contest whether Plaintiffs’ beliefs are sincerely held.

The Court is inclined to grant summary judgment on the sincerity grounds … given Plaintiffs’ total lack of evidence. Courts have cautioned, however, that “[t]hough the sincerity inquiry is important, it must be handled with a light touch….

In keeping with this tradition … the Court assumes Plaintiffs show sincerely held beliefs and concludes alternatively that Plaintiffs do not show a substantial interference with these beliefs. As Defendants note, Plaintiffs allege only that their beliefs require a “proper burial,” but without any explanation of what makes a “proper burial in accordance with each respective family’s religious beliefs,” the Court cannot assess the alleged interference…. Thus, Plaintiffs do not meet their initial burden for either their RFRA or Free Exercise claims.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Templeton Project: Elect Exiles of the Dispersion–The Importance of Identity

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Elect Exiles of the Dispersion–The Importance of Identity.”

See also:

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Peter addresses his readership as “elect exiles of the Dispersion.”  The terminology comes from the Old Testament where Israel and then Judah went into exile.  The Jews are the elect people of God whose historical experience was exile and dispersion into many lands. Only in recent history have Jews returned to their homeland of Israel.

Christians are those chosen by God,  who are found in many nations and whose identity is one of exile from the homeland of heaven.  The communities of Christians found in several provinces of the Roman Empire, located in what is now the nation of Turkey, were experiencing “various trials.”  Persecution was an everpresent danger. Their experience was one of exile, an unpleasant and difficult reality, from the heavenly country for which they longed.

The post-New Testament Letter to Diognetus takes up the theme of Christians as aliens in this world.  The sender of the letter writes, “They (Christians) live in their own countries, but only as aliens.  They have a share in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners.  Every foreign land is their fatherland, and yet for them every fatherland is a foreign land.  They marry, like everyone else, and they beget children, but they do not cast out their offspring.  They share their board with each other, but not their marriage bed. It is true that they are “in the flesh,”  but they do not live “according to the flesh.”  They busy themselves on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven.”  (Cyril Richardson, translator and editor. The Library of Christian Classics. Early Christian Fathers, Volume I. Westminster: Philadelphia,1953, p.217).  Christians are not distinguishable from others in many things, but they are set apart by their moral practice.  For example, they shun adultery and the exposure of their children unto death, as pagans sometimes did.

Christians consider themselves as exiles or aliens here on earth.  Our permanent home is in heaven.  These characteristics are primary to Christian identity in the world.  We are separate from the unethical practices of the world, even though sometmes Christians fail in this.

Peter also characterizes Christians as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own (God’s) possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (I Peter 2: 9-10 ESV)  We who have had God’s mercy shown to us through Jesus Christ are an elect peole who are to proclaim the mystery of our salvation so that others may also become a part of God’s people.

This way of looking at life, determined by our redemption in Christ, sets us apart from the world; and, as a result, causes conflict with the world.  Our interface with the world has all the possibility of inspiring anger and hatred in us as it does with those who are not Christians.  Our path, though, should be one of gentleness and respect.  Hard as it is to practice, we are called to address the world in the love of Christ.  But we are also to be separate from the corruption of the world.  Relying on texts from the Old Testament, Paul instructs the Corinthians with these words: “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them says the Lord, . . .

Michael G. Tavella

June 1, 2019

Feast Day of Justin Martyr, c. 165

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