Parents’ Screen Time Is Hurting Kids - The Atlantic
Occasional parental inattention is not catastrophic (and may even build resilience), but chronic distraction is another story. Smartphone use has been associated with a familiar sign of addiction: Distracted adults grow irritable when their phone use is interrupted; they not only miss emotional cues but actually misread them. A tuned-out parent may be quicker to anger than an engaged one, assuming that a child is trying to be manipulative when, in reality, she just wants attention. Short, deliberate separations can of course be harmless, even healthy, for parent and child alike (especially as children get older and require more independence). But that sort of separation is different from the inattention that occurs when a parent is with a child but communicating through his or her nonengagement that the child is less valuable than an email. A mother telling kids to go out and play, a father saying he needs to concentrate on a chore for the next half hour—these are entirely reasonable responses to the competing demands of adult life. What’s going on today, however, is the rise of unpredictable care, governed by the beeps and enticements of smartphones. We seem to have stumbled into the worst model of parenting imaginable—always present physically, thereby blocking children’s autonomy, yet only fitfully present emotionally.
children  attention  technology  screens  screentime 
july 2018
Sex, Temptation, and the Gay Christian: What Chastity Demands - Mere Orthodoxy | Christianity, Politics, and Culture
I take ‘neo-traditionalists’ to be interested in an ‘untangling maneuver’: we want to distinguish the terminology of ‘gay’ and from the moral content of sexual desires, to help individuals who do experience same-sex sexual attractions to discover, name, and love the goods within their lives as God sees them. ... The deep affection of an adult brother for his sister must be bounded and pervaded by chastity, precisely because—however unlikely, and however repugnant—the involuntary and even unwelcome emergence of sexual desires in such a realm is not unknown. The duties of chastity and its handmaid modesty require remaining alive toward such a possibility. They require a fearful reverence within one’s love for another which does not fixate upon the emergence of such possibilities, but recognizes their power.
The combination of ‘needs’ and contraceptive use combine to transfigure chastity through destroying the environmental conditions in which the virtue is naturally (and therefore gracefully) engendered. Burk observes, rightly, that Paul suggests couple’s should only abstain from marital sex. But what for Paul is an admonition to not abstain too long should be for us an admonition to abstain for a short season, so as to prove within our marriages that we have the continence required to establish the gift of our sexuality to our spouse as a gift. Offering one’s body as a gift to one’s spouse in freedom depends upon the prior recognition that one’s body is a gift to be offered. But God’s gift of the body to us comes within limits: our liberty to alter it can only consign us to unfreedom. ... for the male and female to unite themselves in freedom, they must recognize and delight in the pre-existing gift of their own reproductive powers and the inherently procreative form of the sexual act. God has given us the form in which chastity takes marital shape: the entire artifice of bodily life impels us to pursue it through imposing upon us naturally short seasons of abstinence, unless we renounce them through the artifice of contraception so we can fulfill our ‘sexual needs.’ Burk thinks that it is enough for marriages to stand “squarely against the spirit of the age” by retaining a general openness to children, despite taking hormones specifically designed to prevent them. How this inherent contradiction can be explained, I have yet to hear. If one is worried about the bifurcation of the personal and the biological, of the will from the body—as one should be—it is impossible to denounce doing so with any meaningful moral authority while preserving the rupture for the sake of those married couples in our pews.
The perfection of Christ’s human life through his temptation by created goods includes and represents our own temptations to evils. We are free to meet even those non-voluntary desires with renunciation and not repentance, precisely because Christ’s experience reveals to us that not all temptations arise from and within our own sin. Christ’s temptation announces in practice the moral salience of the distinction between an intention and a desire, which Christ had himself proclaimed in the Sermon on the Mount.
As long as disorder exist in the world around us, we shall at least be tempted to allow it to arise within us. The pure in heart see God within the man Jesus’s vulnerability in the Garden because they, too, know the deep humanity of wanting to enjoy goods that they are tasked with renouncing. The mature in the faith experience this form of temptation precisely because of their sanctity, not its absence. We pray to be kept from it, because in doing so we learn the humility that prepares us for it. But this sanctity can be reached only if within the fallen chaos of our desires we discover not simply corruptions that we renounce but also goods we can delight in. All that will remain, after all, of us are those dimensions that are swept up into Christ’s life. Yet this will include all manner of ways in which our lives have been indelibly and permanently marked by the sins and disorders of the flesh. We might say, in fact, that where we meant our lives for evil, God yet found within them good—because He found within our sinfulness His victorious life, having included our lives already within His own.
In one sense, I take gay Christians as trying to steal the meaning of the word back: to mark a certain kind of vivacity of life, of abundance, of joy within a profound intimacy of friendship and a stable set of ‘attractions’ to their same same, which removes the ‘pride’ in those attractions that raises its fist against God. Why should not Christians today stand in the long line of their forebearers who have said no to the world, but in so doing found within it a Yes that is more potent and powerful—and taken over its own language to name it?
Christianity  children  body  birthcontrol  contraception  WesleyHill  sex  sexuality  love  identity  gender 
june 2018
Jaron Lanier interview on how social media ruins your life - YouTube
The problem is that behaviour [modification] techniques are often invisible to the person who is being manipulated. This has a long history. … It used to be that the only way to be subjected to continuous observation and modification was to either be in an experiment (you could be in the basement of a psychology building and have students tweaking you for their projects), or you could join a cult, or you could be in an abusive relationship; this has been done before. Often the people who are in these situations [of being observed, manipulated, and modified by social media] do not realise it’s happening to them. The whole point is that it’s sneaky. It’s a mechanical approach to manipulating people and because it’s so algorithmic it doesn't involve direct communication and people don’t get the cues to understand what’s happening to them.
JaronLanier  technology  socialmedia  Facebook  bigdata 
june 2018
Sexuality and the Land
The independence that contraception, sterilization and abortion give us from our fertility is achieved by a simultaneous dependence upon pharmaceutical companies, surgeons, abortionists. The independence pornography gives our sexual arousal from actual encounters with another is achieved by an increased dependence on the pornography industry, on its stars, producers — and slaves. The freedom the ever-growing system of gender theory gives us from binary sexual identities is bought at the price of a dependence on academics to define and validate the pansexual from the omnisexual, the nonsexual from the asexual, the biromantic or the two-spirited from the polyamorous and bisexual. The freedom of divorce is a dependence on the legal system, and the independence surgery gives us from our bodies is simultaneously a dependence on surgeons — and the cash we owe them. Every liberating innovation in the erotic sphere has trailed the chain of an increased dependence on impersonal structures of power behind it. The will to power has made us powerless.
WendellBerry  sex  sexuality  contraception  culture  consumerism  birthcontrol  abortion  gender  pornography  samsexmarriage 
may 2018
Even Amid Scandal, Facebook Is Unstoppable - The Atlantic
Despite personal reservations about Facebook’s interwoven privacy, data, and advertising practices, the vast majority of people find that they can’t (and don’t want to) quit. Facebook has rewired people’s lives, routing them through its servers, and to disentangle would require major sacrifice. And even if one could get free of the service, the social pathways that existed before Facebook have shriveled up, like the towns along the roads that preceded the interstate highway system. Just look at how the very meaning of the telephone call has changed as we’ve expanded the number of ways we talk with each other. A method of communication that was universally seen as a great way of exchanging information has been transformed into a rarity reserved for close friends, special occasions, emergencies, and debt collectors. ...

“Our discomfort grows commensurate with Facebook’s power, such that the more that Facebook is indispensable, the greater our discomfort, and yet the less that discomfort matters.”
Facebook  attention  technology  Zuckerberg  culture 
may 2018
Holy Ambivalence - Los Angeles Review of Books
So how we tell the story is crucial, as is how we name the ills that bedevil our times, and how we propose to respond. The truth is that, for many of our neighbors, matters are dire. And if Deneen is correct; if, that is to say, in the alchemy of ideas and their effects, liberalism bears culpability for the suffering of the most vulnerable in our society and for the deracinating void swallowing up so many others, then under God let it die. But can believers permit themselves such imprecations without succumbing to alarmism? Can they pair their criticism with patient — that is to say, long-suffering — trust in providence? Can the church abide living in the interim between advents, as the King tarries, without letting prophecy degenerate into dejection?

To follow Augustine means to allow for the tragic. The arc of history does not bend toward justice; it bent and cracked long ago under the weight of another Empire’s injustice, under Pontius Pilate; now it wends in unknown and sometimes wicked ways, under our own disordered direction. Faith confesses that it has been and will be righted, once for all, but we know not when or how the denouement will come; only that it will be beyond history. Until then, even our most well-meaning attempts to bend it aright will confound our intentions, come to naught, unleash some strange fire on generations yet unborn. Christians hope in spite of, not because of, the course that history takes; like hope, trust in providence means faith in what is unseen.
Deneen  Augustine  liberalism  politics  Christianity  worship 
march 2018
Has the Operating System for the Western World Crashed?
At the core of Deneen’s critique is what he sees as a liberal redefinition of the ancient and medieval concept of freedom, or libertas. The ancient Greeks and Romans, as well as the medieval Christians, understood freedom as the learned ability, cultivated through discipline and education in virtue, to properly govern one’s self. The freedom to do what one desires is a false freedom, in this view, because the world is limited but our desires are not, so that in pursuing them we ultimately become their slaves. Becoming free, then, is the process of achieving mastery over our “base” impulses. There is a circularity, too, between good politics and good individual conduct. A society can only govern itself well if it comprises self-governing citizens, and citizens can only learn self-government within a well-governed society.

For Deneen, liberalism’s big innovation was to reject this classical understanding as unrealistic, unscientific, and oppressive. Seeking a more scientific basis for politics, liberals and proto-liberals such as Locke and Hobbes stripped humanity down to its bare essentials — self-interested individuals unmarked by culture or history. Writing in a religiously divided and perpetually warring Europe, they argued that civil peace could be assured by allowing individuals to pursue their private interests free of the irrational restrictions imposed by custom, religion, and popular prejudice, with the modern state there to prevent them from taking advantage of one another. Freedom, that is, was redefined from self-government to lack of external restraint — a notion that was extended to the natural world, where humans, now armed with reason and modern science, no longer faced nature as a fixed limit on their desires, but something to be conquered and transformed. To legitimize the whole structure, liberal theorists projected this state of affairs back into a “state of nature,” a mythical past in which individuals had come together and consented to be governed out of their own shared self-interest.

But while liberalism presented itself as a scientific description of reality, it was, for Deneen, from its beginning a project to transform the world. Humans, for instance, are not naturally isolated individuals. Everyone is born into a specific time, place, and cultural tradition which, however restrictive, is also the source of their identity and connection to other people. Yet modern liberal society, through the action of both the state and the market, erodes these “natural” social bonds, creating in their place the cultureless, isolated individuals that liberal theory claimed to find in the state of nature. And as individuals are stripped of the cultural norms that formerly governed social conduct, the resulting anarchy requires the state to step into the breach by threatening to punish those who violate the rights of others — retroactively coming to play the role that, in Hobbes’s story, it was consciously and consensually created to fulfill. The general trend is that people are freed from old restrictions only to be subjected to the more abstract, alienating powers of capitalism and bureaucracy. Yet liberal ideology masks its own origins, presenting as natural conditions those that is has in fact created.

This conspiracy is one in which both American progressivism and conservatism are implicated. For Deneen, American conservatives, many of whom consider themselves “classical liberals,” prefer a relatively limited state but endorse the scientific conquest of nature and the pursuit of self-interest through the market, both of which act as solvents on the traditional cultures and values they claim to wish to preserve. Progressive liberals, on the other hand, wish to use the state to reduce market-generated inequality — which they recognize can practically limit individuals’ freedom — but vigorously attack pre-liberal cultural norms and institutions, such as organized religion and normative monogamy, that Deneen argues temper inequality and preserve social solidarity. While each apparently fights either the state or the market, they are in reality only two sides of the same liberal coin. Partisan politics, for Deneen, can thus only serve to further entrench liberalism, deepening the pathologies that are already becoming apparent.

And what are these pathologies? In politics, Deneen charges liberalism with having created, under the guise of representative government, distant, arbitrary, and unresponsive rule by technocrats who despise the ignorant populace and are despised in turn. Culturally, he argues that liberalism has eviscerated actual cultures and replaced them with a pervasive, homogenous “anticulture,” in which identity is reduced to a sort of private, consumer good. And regarding the environment, liberalism’s rejection of external constraints — particularly the constraints of nature — have led it to trash the planet while hoping, delusionally, that future technological advances will put off a reckoning forever. Perhaps most interesting is his chapter on the new ruling class, the “liberalocracy,” which Deneen accuses of having established itself as a new aristocracy to replace the one it overthrew. Yet because these meritocrats are themselves creatures of liberalism — unattached individuals, defined by education and occupation rather than attachment to place or culture — they have little interest, he claims, in helping the system’s losers, with whom they share little except nationality.
Deneen  liberalism  politics  America 
february 2018
How Tiny Red Dots Took Over Your Life - The New York Times
I’ve met dots that existed only to inform me of the existence of other dots, new dots, dots with almost no meaning at all; a dot on my Instagram app led me to another dot within it, which informed me that something had happened on Facebook: Someone I barely know had posted for the first time in a while. These dots are omnipresent, leading everywhere and ending nowhere. So maybe there’s something to be gained by connecting them. [...]

The dot is where ill-gotten attention is laundered into legitimate-seeming engagement.
technology  attention  socialmedia  Facebook 
february 2018
Andrew Sullivan on the Opioid Epidemic in America
The pace of change, the ethos of individualism, the relentless dehumanization that capitalism abets, the constant moving and disruption, combined with a relatively small government and the absence of official religion, risked the construction of an overly atomized society, where everyone has to create his or her own meaning, and everyone feels alone. The American project always left an empty center of collective meaning, but for a long time Americans filled it with their own extraordinary work ethic, an unprecedented web of associations and clubs and communal or ethnic ties far surpassing Europe’s, and such a plethora of religious options that almost no one was left without a purpose or some kind of easily available meaning to their lives. Tocqueville marveled at this American exceptionalism as the key to democratic success, but he worried that it might not endure forever.

And it hasn’t. What has happened in the past few decades is an accelerated waning of all these traditional American supports for a meaningful, collective life, and their replacement with various forms of cheap distraction. Addiction — to work, to food, to phones, to TV, to video games, to porn, to news, and to drugs — is all around us. The core habit of bourgeois life — deferred gratification — has lost its grip on the American soul. We seek the instant, easy highs, and it’s hard not to see this as the broader context for the opioid wave. ...

Opioids are just one of the ways Americans are trying to cope with an inhuman new world where everything is flat, where communication is virtual, and where those core elements of human happiness — faith, family, community — seem to elude so many. Until we resolve these deeper social, cultural, and psychological problems, until we discover a new meaning or reimagine our old religion or reinvent our way of life, the poppy will flourish.
america  culture  meaning  poverty  screens  technology  drugs  opioids 
february 2018
Douthat: No Country for Young Men With AR-15s - The New York Times
The reason that mass shootings aren’t leading to legislative action is that we have a chasm between two sweeping moral visions, one pro-gun and one anti-gun, that is now too wide to be easily bridged by incrementalism.

The anti-gun moral vision regards America’s relationship to gun ownership as a kind of collective moral madness, a love affair with violence, a sickness unto death. Liberals increasingly write about gun ownership the way social conservatives write about abortion and euthanasia — it’s a culture of death, a Moloch devouring our children, a blood sacrifice to selfish individualism.

The pro-gun moral vision, meanwhile, links arms and the citizen, treating self-defense as an essential civic good, a means of maintaining Americans as free people rather than wards (or prisoners) of the state.

The pro-gun vision is linked, of course, to practical concerns — support for gun ownership is higher in rural areas where the police are far away. But it’s essentially a moral-political picture in which the fullness of citizenship includes the capacity to protect and defend, to step in when the state fails and resist when it imposes illegitimately.
Douthat  guncontrol  politics  shootings  violence  america  libertarianism  abortion 
february 2018
What’s a Body to Do? The Place of Beauty and the Body in Non-Sexual Loves | Spiritual Friendship
I’m coming to think it is right and good to notice that someone is beautiful (whether female or male, both body and soul), and to be drawn to them because of their beauty. It is, I think, a sort of entranceway into the truth, for though our ancient rebellion has drastically marred the bright visage of humanity, it is not altogether destroyed. Human beings still are beautiful. We retain the faded memory of our created glory, imprinted in skin and soul alike. When I notice a person’s beauty, therefore, I’m recalling, in the very act of noticing, the most ancient truth about her or him. I’m acknowledging the rightness of God’s first declaration over humankind. I’m echoing his original “very good” over creation; desiring as a creature to join in communion with what remains of the “very good” around me, as I should; and coming alongside the saints and angels and all the earth, in longing for the full and final restoration of that first “very good.”
body  gender  friendship  singleness  sexuality  homosexuality 
february 2018
America’s Real Digital Divide - The New York Times
According to a 2011 study by researchers at Northwestern University, minority children watch 50 percent more TV than their white peers, and they use computers for up to one and a half hours longer each day. White children spend eight hours and 36 minutes looking at a screen every day, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, while black and Hispanic children spend 13 hours.

In 2004, Dimitri Christakis of Seattle Children’s Hospital wrote in the medical journal Pediatrics that “early exposure to television was associated with subsequent attentional problems.” Even when controlling for socioeconomic status, gestational age and other factors, he discovered that an increase of one standard deviation in the number of hours of television watched at age 1 “is associated with a 28 percent increase in the probability of having attentional problems at age 7.”

Every weekday, get thought-provoking commentary from Op-Ed columnists, the Times editorial board and contributing writers from around the world. Every additional hour of TV increased a child’s odds of attention problems by about 10 percent. Kids who watched three hours a day were 30 percent more likely to have attention trouble than those who watched none.
attention  poverty  children  screens  screentime  technology 
february 2018
Eight Theses on Sex by Hans Boersma | Articles | First Things
1. Sex is searching for God.
2. God invents sex.
3. Sex is not God.
4. God is chastity.
5. Sex is temporary.
6. Disordered desire makes for disordered sex.
7. Fallen bodies make for fallen sex.
8. Sex leads to kids.
theology  sex  sexuality  desire  Christianity 
february 2018
Before Obergefell: Some Thoughts on How We Got Here | Theopolis Institute (Alastair Roberts)
When openness to procreation becomes an optional extra for sexual relations—because we now have the power to avoid it, the natural procreative potential of sexual relations is now (mistakenly) cast as if it were a choice—the place of children in marriage is changed. Marriage has always had sexual union at its heart. When sexual relations are normally sterile, however, the sexual union of marriage comes to be regarded as if it were fundamentally only about expression of personal intimacy between spouses, rather than entrance into a relation of shared openness to children, the procreative potential being integral to the nature of the union.

Most such couples will choose to have children, but, as sex and procreation are detached, this comes to be perceived as a choice to add a second story to their relationship, rather than as a development of a potential naturally integral to the sexual union and commitment of their marriage. This makes it difficult for people to recognize the essential difference between marital relations between a husband and wife and the sort of ‘marital’ relations a same-sex couple might have. Also, when children are chiefly regarded in terms of ‘choice’, the use of surrogacy, donated gametes, and reproductive technology is normalized and no longer regarded as a significant departure.

When, on account of the conceptual division of sex from procreation, marriage isn’t regarded to involve a commitment to a posture of openness to the possibility of children, the connection between the marital bond and the bond between parents and children will be reconceived. The natural connection between sex and procreation relates to the natural connection between marital union and the parental bond: sever the former and the latter is weakened. Children are the natural extension and icon of their parents’ pledge of their bodies to each other in marital union. However, through the separation of sex and procreation, children are increasingly perceived as choices that are no longer naturally integral to the marital union.
Obergefell  sex  sexuality  samsexmarriage  procreation  contraception  children  culture  capitalism 
february 2018
The Joy of ISIS - The New York Times
The deep reality here (a reality not unlike the one that’s playing itself out on certain college campuses right now) is that many human beings, especially perhaps young human beings, still crave a transcendent purpose, even in a society that tells them they don’t really need one to live a comfortable, fulfilling life. And more than that, many people experience both a kind of liberation and a kind of joy in submission to these purposes, even — as is the case with ISIS — when that submission involves accepting forms of violence and cruelty that rightly shock the conscience of the world.

This joy is not something that our culture is conditioned to expect or accept, let alone to counter
Douthat  ISIS  meaning  joy 
february 2018
The Anti-Theology of the Body - The New Atlantis (David Bentley Hart)
Transhumanism, as a moral philosophy, is so risibly fabulous in its prognostications, and so unrelated to anything that genomic research yet promises, that it can scarcely be regarded as anything more than a pathetic dream; but the metaphysical principles it presumes regarding the nature of the human are anything but eccentric. Joseph Fletcher was a man with a manifestly brutal mind, desperately anxious to believe himself superior to the common run of men, one who apparently received some sort of crypto-erotic thrill from his cruel fantasies of creating a slave race, and of literally branding others as his genetic inferiors, and of exercising power over the minds and bodies of the low-born. And yet his principles continue to win adherents in the academy and beyond it, and his basic presuppositions about the value and meaning of life are the common grammar of a shockingly large portion of bioethicists. If ever the day comes when we are willing to consider a program, however modest, of improving the species through genetic planning and manipulation, it will be exclusively those who hold such principles and embrace such presuppositions who will determine what the future of humanity will be. And men who are impatient of frailty and contemptuous of weakness are, at the end of the day, inevitably evil. [...]

The idea of the infinite value of every particular life does not accord with instinct, as far as one can tell, but rather has a history. The ancient triumph of the religion of divine incarnation inaugurated a new vision of man, however fitfully and failingly that vision was obeyed in subsequent centuries. Perhaps this notion of an absolute dignity indwelling every person — this Christian invention or discovery or convention — is now slowly fading from our consciences and will finally be replaced by something more “realistic” (which is to say, something more nihilistic). Whatever the case, John Paul’s theology of the body will never, as I have said, be “relevant” to the understanding of the human that lies “beyond” Christian faith. Between these two orders of vision there can be no fruitful commerce, no modification of perspectives, no debate, indeed no “conversation.” All that can ever span the divide between them is the occasional miraculous movement of conversion or the occasional tragic movement of apostasy. Thus the legacy of that theology will be to remain, for Christians, a monument to the grandeur and fullness of their faith’s “total humanism,” so to speak, to remind them how vast the Christian understanding of humanity’s nature and destiny is, and to inspire them — whenever they are confronted by any philosophy, ethics, or science that would reduce any human life to an instrumental moment within some larger design — to a perfect and unremitting enmity.
JP2  body  bioethics  technology  transhumanism  incarnation  christianity  theology 
february 2018
Did American Christian culture pave the way for Hugh Hefner’s sexual revolution? | America Magazine (Pascal Emmanuel Gobry)
Forgive me for being French for one second: I think the thing that repels me most about Hef is not just that he turned the female body into an object to be bought and sold; it is that he turned it into an ugly object to be bought and sold. The ideal female body for Hef is not a body at all; it is an iPhone: smooth, featureless, plastic, colorless, odorless, tasteless. I suppose it makes sense that a glutton would move from an appreciation of fine food to gorging on junk. But like the stereotype of the teenage son who turns into his father through the very process of rebelling against him, Hef became not the opposite but the mirror of the (largely Anglo-Protestant) body-hating puritanism that preceded him.
Hefner  sex  sexuality  gender  femininity  body 
february 2018
Conservatism Fails to Act Responsibly | Mere Orthodoxy
Conservatism rejects the deterministic economics that denies people their agency, but the modern conservative movement has preached an atomizing freedom that eviscerates the structures and relationships that help people to exercise agency. [...]

Conservatism needs to decide what it is we’re trying to conserve and rewrite everything else around that. Conserving the institutions that help people to flourish – churches and families most prominent among them – is more fundamental than “liberty” or “small government”. A focus on the family will almost certainly require, though, that we buck the individualist-atomist elements of conservatism that have become ideological orthodoxy. [...]

Most of all, though, conservatism is doomed to degradation if conservatives neglect our pre-political relationships and do not use the freedom we have to be sympathetic and sacrifice for our neighbors. Here Williamson’s formulation is backwards: the more that one chooses to love and share in the pain of the poor, the more intimately you will want to know them and be friends with them. This is not only a necessary front in the war on the atomization, consumerism, and individualism that are picking us apart like crabs on a plate, but it is also what Christ demonstrates for us and demands of us.
conservatism  liberalism  poverty  politics  individualism  consumerism  Christianity  america 
february 2018
Can Evangelicalism Survive Donald Trump and Roy Moore? | The New Yorker (Tim Keller)
contemporary evangelicals feel bound by both desire and duty to share their faith with others in both word and deeds of service. In this, they seek to resemble, as well as to obey, their Lord, Jesus, who is described as mighty in word and deed.

Do the self-identified white “big-E Evangelicals” of the pollsters hold to these beliefs? Recent studies indicate that many do not. In many parts of the country, Evangelicalism serves as the civil or folk religion accepted by default as part of one’s social and political identity. So, in many cases, it means that the political is more defining than theological beliefs, which has not been the case historically. And, because of the enormous amount of attention the media pays to the Evangelical vote, the term now has a decisively political meaning in popular usage.
culture  evangelicalism  politics  christianright  Trump 
february 2018
No Longer Writing, Philip Roth Still Has Plenty to Say - The New York Times
I am, as you indicate, no stranger as a novelist to the erotic furies. Men enveloped by sexual temptation is one of the aspects of men’s lives that I’ve written about in some of my books. Men responsive to the insistent call of sexual pleasure, beset by shameful desires and the undauntedness of obsessive lusts, beguiled even by the lure of the taboo — over the decades, I have imagined a small coterie of unsettled men possessed by just such inflammatory forces they must negotiate and contend with. I’ve tried to be uncompromising in depicting these men each as he is, each as he behaves, aroused, stimulated, hungry in the grip of carnal fervor and facing the array of psychological and ethical quandaries the exigencies of desire present. I haven’t shunned the hard facts in these fictions of why and how and when tumescent men do what they do, even when these have not been in harmony with the portrayal that a masculine public-relations campaign — if there were such a thing — might prefer. I’ve stepped not just inside the male head but into the reality of those urges whose obstinate pressure by its persistence can menace one’s rationality, urges sometimes so intense they may even be experienced as a form of lunacy. Consequently, none of the more extreme conduct I have been reading about in the newspapers lately has astonished me.
sex  sexuality  masculinity 
february 2018
An ominous prophecy for liberalism
Nowhere is Deneen's analysis more cogent than in his pox-on-both-their-houses account of America's noisily clashing political parties, neither of which can get to the root of our problems because both of them affirm a version the same liberalism. Each champions a somewhat different form of individual liberty and advocates a somewhat different kind of overweening state activity. Democrats combine morally anarchic cultural libertarianism with centralized government regulation of the economic and social spheres (the latter through the medium of anti-discrimination law), while Republicans combine a defense of communally based social constraints with a valorization of economic individualism that shreds those very constraints.

As far as Deneen is concerned, these superficial conflicts mask "the true relation between the state and the market: that they grow constantly and necessarily together. Statism enables individualism, individualism demands statism." That's because "our deepest philosophic premises" demand nothing less than constant liberation from externally imposed limits (whether rooted in nature, tradition, or God) and then the creation of substitute constraints in the man-made form of what Tocqueville called the "immense and tutelary power" of the state. The result is a near-fatal "degradation of citizenship" and consequent sense of powerlessness on the part of ordinary Americans.
Deneen  liberalism  statism  politics  libertarianism  individualism 
february 2018
How Facebook Is Killing Comedy - Splitsider
Facebook gets so much traffic that they started convincing publishers to post things on Facebook. For a long time, that was fine. People posted things on Facebook, then you would click those links and go to their websites. But then, gradually, Facebook started exerting more and more control of what was being seen, to the point that they, not our website, essentially became the main publishers of everyone’s content. Today, there’s no reason to go to a comedy website that has a video if that video is just right on Facebook. And that would be fine if Facebook compensated those companies for the ad revenue that was generated from those videos, but because Facebook does not pay publishers, there quickly became no money in making high-quality content for the internet.
technology  Facebook  Zuckerberg  advertising  bigdata 
february 2018
The Friend We Need but Do Not Want: Martin Luther King Jr. | Comment Magazine (Greg Thompson)
For all of our presumptions of social evolution, a more than plausible case could be made that with respect to how we view both ourselves and one another, we are perhaps worse off now than in King's own time. Not only do the old racial maladies linger, but we have nursed new maladies as well. Market anthropologies that reduce human beauty to commodities for exchange. Nationalist anthropologies that draw borders through the common scape of human pain. Identitarian anthropologies that fetishize a narcissistic form of otherness and view the prospect of sameness—however slight—as a threat. King would oppose these. And in opposing them would call us to a love‐wrought moral imagination committed to seeing one another through the eyes of love.

So too with his call to take up the works of love. Here too the old patterns persist: The sanctimonious valorization of the status quo, with its willed blindness to both the human wickedness and human suffering embedded in the order it seeks to preserve. And the self‐assured radicalism that can only abide a world made in its own image and mistakes its anger for vision, its impatience for calling, its discourtesy for courage, and its violence for strength. Each of these is on regular display on the screens in our homes and the streets of our cities. King would oppose them both. And in opposing them would call us to a civic vocation that cherishes love not only as the goal but also as the way.
culture  love  racism  nationalism  identity  politics  church 
february 2018
True Story | The Point Magazine (Tish Harrison Warren)
Years ago, a non-Christian friend told me that he was glad that Christianity “works” for me. I said with a laugh, “Oh, it doesn’t work for me. Sometimes it seems I work for it.” What I meant is that in significant ways trying to live by the Christian story has made my life harder. It has cost me some likability in my urban, educated, progressive circles; it has motivated ethical decisions that have forestalled some happiness (in the short term anyway); it has squashed any impulse to “follow my bliss.” So why not choose a different story? Peculiar as this might have sounded to my friend, the answer is that I actually believe that Jesus rose from the dead—and that therefore I can know and interact with God. That is, I think the Christian story is true.

The Christian story is formed around an understanding of creation, fall and redemption through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It is because of that story that Christians can give an intelligible account of who we are, where we come from, where we are going, what kind of place the world is, and how we should live. And essential to the Christian story is the belief that God himself has formed and preserved a particular and everlasting community, which we call the church. Michael Ramsey, a former archbishop of Canterbury tells us, “We do not know the whole fact of Christ incarnate unless we know his Church, and its life as part of His own life … the history of the Church and the lives of the saints are acts in the biography of the Messiah.”
christianity  church  worship 
february 2018
My Larry Nassar Testimony Went Viral. But There’s More to the Gospel Than Forgiveness. | Christianity Today
The extent that one is willing to speak out against their own community is the bright line test for how much they care and how much they understand. [...]

The ultimate reality that I live with is that if my abuser had been Nathaniel Morales instead of Larry Nassar, if my enabler had been [an SGM pastor] instead of [MSU gymnastics coach] Kathie Klages, if the organization I was speaking out against was Sovereign Grace under the leadership of [Mahaney] instead of MSU under the leadership of Lou Anna Simon, I would not only not have evangelical support, I would be actively vilified and lied about by every single evangelical leader out there. The only reason I am able to have the support of these leaders now is because I am speaking out against an organization not within their community. Had I been so unfortunate so as to have been victimized by someone in their community, someone in the Sovereign Grace network, I would not only not have their support, I would be massively shunned. That’s the reality.
abuse  power  church  sin 
february 2018
The Anti-Christian Alt-Right by Matthew Rose | Articles | First Things
Almost everything written about the “alternative right” in mainstream outlets is wrong in one respect. The alt-right is not stupid. It is deep. Its ideas are not ridiculous. They are serious. To appreciate this fact, one needs to inquire beyond its presence on social media, where its obnoxious use of insult, obscenity, and racism has earned it a reputation for moral idiocy. The reputation is deserved, but do not be deceived. Behind its online tantrums and personal attacks are arguments of genuine power and expanding appeal. [...]

There is no better introduction to alt-right theory than [Alain de Benoist’s] 1981 work On Being a Pagan. Its tone is serene, but its message is militant. Benoist argues that the West must choose between two warring visions of human life: biblical monotheism and paganism. [...]

He accuses Christianity of crippling our most noble impulses. Christianity makes us strangers in our own skin, conning us into distrusting our strongest intuitions. We naturally respect beauty, health, and power, Benoist observes, but Christianity teaches us to revere the deformed, sick, and weak instead. “Paganism does not reproach Christianity for defending the weak,” he explains. “It reproaches [Christianity] for exalting them in their weakness and viewing it as a sign of their election and their title to glory.”
alt-right  politics  conservatism  progressivism  racialism  racism  paganism 
february 2018
Classical Liberalism Strikes Out | The American Conservative
Individualism and statism are not opposites, but grow together in tandem. In our daily partisan politics, we have tended to pit individualism against statism – Ayn Rand against Karl Marx – with conservatives claiming to be individualists and progressives claiming to support an expansive state. But what we have witnessed is the simultaneous growth of both the state and the rise of individualism, not as opposites, but as necessary partners. The world has never seen a more individualistic society nor a more encompassing state. The state has empowered itself by claiming to empower the individual. The practical effect is to leave the populace disempowered amid our liberty, along with a felt sense of inability to control or influence the state, the economy, and much of our own fates.
Deneen  liberalism  statism  individualism  politics  culture 
february 2018
Leithart: A Eucharistic Theory of Culture
We offer our works to God in worship, specifically with an act of thanksgiving. When we bring bread and wine – and, by implication, everything we make and do – before the Lord, we do it with thanksgiving. This is remarkable: After all, we made the bread and wine. And yet we thank God for them. We thank Him for the products of our hands, because even the things we make – even our works – are His gifts to us. [...] We bring what we have made to God. But He doesn’t take it from us. We bring what we have to God, and He shares it with us. And so the things we make become means of communion with God.
worship  liturgy  eucharist  theology 
february 2018
Homosexuality & The Church | Commonweal Magazine
I have little patience with efforts to make Scripture say something other than what it says, through appeals to linguistic or cultural subtleties. The exegetical situation is straightforward: we know what the text says. But what are we to do with what the text says? We must state our grounds for standing in tension with the clear commands of Scripture, and include in those grounds some basis in Scripture itself. To avoid this task is to put ourselves in the very position that others insist we already occupy—that of liberal despisers of the tradition and of the church’s sacred writings, people who have no care for the shared symbols that define us as Christian. If we see ourselves as liberal, then we must be liberal in the name of the gospel, and not, as so often has been the case, liberal despite the gospel.

I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good. And what exactly is that authority? We appeal explicitly to the weight of our own experience and the experience thousands of others have witnessed to, which tells us that to claim our own sexual orientation is in fact to accept the way in which God has created us. By so doing, we explicitly reject as well the premises of the scriptural statements condemning homosexuality—namely, that it is a vice freely chosen, a symptom of human corruption, and disobedience to God’s created order.
sexuality  theology  bible  interpretation  Christianity 
february 2018
John Lanchester reviews ‘The Attention Merchants’ by Tim Wu, ‘Chaos Monkeys’ by Antonio García Martínez and ‘Move Fast and Break Things’ by Jonathan Taplin · LRB 17 August 2017
What this means is that even more than it is in the advertising business, Facebook is in the surveillance business. Facebook, in fact, is the biggest surveillance-based enterprise in the history of mankind. It knows far, far more about you than the most intrusive government has ever known about its citizens. It’s amazing that people haven’t really understood this about the company. I’ve spent time thinking about Facebook, and the thing I keep coming back to is that its users don’t realise what it is the company does. What Facebook does is watch you, and then use what it knows about you and your behaviour to sell ads. I’m not sure there has ever been a more complete disconnect between what a company says it does – ‘connect’, ‘build communities’ – and the commercial reality. Note that the company’s knowledge about its users isn’t used merely to target ads but to shape the flow of news to them. Since there is so much content posted on the site, the algorithms used to filter and direct that content are the thing that determines what you see: people think their news feed is largely to do with their friends and interests, and it sort of is, with the crucial proviso that it is their friends and interests as mediated by the commercial interests of Facebook. Your eyes are directed towards the place where they are most valuable for Facebook.
Facebook  attention  bigdata  Zuckerberg  technology  socialmedia 
february 2018
What Teenagers Are Learning From Online Porn - The New York Times
American adolescents watch much more pornography than their parents know — and it’s shaping their ideas about pleasure, power and intimacy. Can they be taught to see it more critically?
sex  sexuality  teenagers  pornography 
february 2018
Douthat: Let’s Ban Porn - The New York Times
The belief that it should not be restricted is a mistake; the belief that it cannot be censored is a superstition. Law and jurisprudence changed once and can change again, and while you can find anything somewhere on the internet, making hard-core porn something to be quested after in dark corners would dramatically reduce its pedagogical role, its cultural normalcy, its power over libidos everywhere.

That we cannot imagine such censorship is part of our larger inability to imagine any escape from the online world’s immersive power, even as we harbor growing doubts about its influence upon our psyches.
Douthat  pornography  sex  sexuality  trump  MeToo 
february 2018
Sex in Zero Gravity - Alastair Roberts reviews Regenerus' "Cheap Sex"
A sustained and frequently deeply perceptive exploration of the forces that give rise to our sexual landscape. His analysis is alert and attentive to human nature in ways that set it apart from many other works in the genre. His instinct for the human dynamics that give rise to larger cultural patterns can be seen in several interviews where his insightful yet gentle questioning elicits minor epiphanies for the participants.
sex  sexuality  pornography  contraception  monogamy  gender 
february 2018
The female price of male pleasure
It would be grand if women (and men) were taught to consider a woman's pain abnormal; better still if we understood a woman's discomfort to be reason enough to cut a man's pleasure short.
sex  sexuality  pain  gender  pornography 
february 2018
The Christian Right’s Willful Faith in Trump
[The Faith of Donald J. Trump] dwells obsessively on the conservative cultural values exhibited by his parents despite their troubling tolerance for bad theology. The 45th president’s inherited work ethic, patriotism, love for the military (reinforced by the military boarding school he attended for five years), and Republican political habits are all touted as being indicative of a predisposition for conservative Evangelicalism. (One of his current advisers approvingly said of him: “He’s got that 1950s respect for clergy.”)
Trump  evangelicalism  america  christianright  metaxas  falwell  franklingraham 
february 2018
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