Monday Miscellany, 5/20/24

Monday Miscellany, 5/20/24 May 20, 2024

Canada’s “blood libel against Christians”; the world’s baby shortage; and the Taylor Swift liturgy.

Canada’s “Blood Libel against Christians”

Remember those Catholic boarding schools for Indian children in Canada where mass graves were discovered, leading to charges that the Catholic church was complicit in genocide?

Well, turns out, it didn’t happen.  John Daniel Davidson of the Federalist tells the tale, well summed up in the headline and the deck: The Discovery Of ‘Mass Graves’ Of Indigenous Canadian Children Was Actually A Massive Hoax:  “Three years after reports of indigenous mass graves triggered the torching or vandalism of 85-plus churches, no graves have been found.”

In 2021 the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation tribe announced that ground-penetrating radar discovered the remains near the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, a government-funded institution run by the Catholic Church from the 1860s to the 1990s.  These schools, which were common not only in Canada but in the United States, had already become controversial.  They were attempts to integrate the native tribes into the rest of America by acculturating them into the white man’s ways.  This required separating the children from their families.

(Boarding schools are pretty much the opposite of home schools.  But they have a long pedigree and are still prominent in the lives of the British aristocracy and wealthy Americans.  In the LCMS, the six-year secondary institutions that were classical “gymnasia” were boarding schools and became part of the “Concordia” system.  One of them, with the extra two years trimmed off, is still operating: St. Paul Lutheran High School in Concordia, Missouri.)

I’m not defending these tribal schools, which seem to me to violate the estate of the family, and though they may have been well-intentioned on one level, they certainly were meant to undo tribal cultures and taking children away from their parents was cruel and traumatic all round.  But the accounts of mass graves created the impression that churches were engaged in out and out genocide, killing the children in large numbers and dumping their bodies in pits as in the concentration camps, with no respect for their mortal remains.

What the ground radar apparently found was a cemetery, whose wooden crosses had decayed but whose individual graves, which included those of the priests and nuns who had lived there for over a century, were hallowed.  That news, though, hasn’t gotten out.  Even though the original unconfirmed story was hyped as if it were true by the media, unleashing anti-Catholic and anti-Christian outrage in Canada and elsewhere, resulting in 85 churches–not all of them Catholic and some of them native–being burned, vandalized, or desecrated.

Davidson goes into detail about the way the story was covered and the rage it provoked.  For example, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau demanded that the Pope come to Canada to apologize, which he did.  In response to the church arsons, Trudeau said that he understood why people would set them on fire.  The director of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association responded to  those attacks with the tweet, “Burn it all down.”

The accusations are still circulating–they loom behind a Longmire mystery I read recently–and Davidson calls them “a modern-day blood libel against Christians.”  That term “blood libel”  properly refers to the antisemitic lies about Jews shedding Gentile blood, but the way the word “genocide” is being thrown around, a term coined to describe what the Nazis did to the Jews, who–in another blood libel–are now being accused of committing it themselves, I’ll let it stand as another example of anti-religious hysteria.

The World’s Baby Shortage

We have known that the fertility rate–the average number of children that a woman in a given population has–has been in decline in the developed world.  But new data has found that the fertility rate is plummeting worldwide, among nearly all cultures, income levels, and economies.  For the first time in human history, the world’s population will soon be declining.

A population’s replacement rate is, obviously, 2, actually 2.2 to account for deaths.  Despite a brief post-COVID uptick, the fertility rate in the United States is 1.62.  In some developed nations, it is even lower.  It was assumed that the birth rates in the less developed countries of Africa and Asia would make up for this decline.  But, to the surprise of the experts, fewer babies are being born there, as well.  Soon, probably this year, the world’s fertility rate will slip to 2.1, below replacement rate.  Projections are for the world’s population to peak at 9.5 billion, then start declining by 2061.

Those of us who were taught to be afraid of a population explosion might wonder, why is that a bad thing?  With smaller populations, won’t that mean fewer people to take care of and more food and other resources to go around? No.  Small populations mean a smaller economic market–fewer people to buy things and fewer people to produce them–plus a growing proportion of old people with fewer young folks to support them, among other demographic problems.

Greg Ip and Janet Adamy have written about this global population decline for the Wall Street Journal in a story entitled Suddenly There Aren’t Enough Babies. The Whole World Is Alarmed. with the deck “Birthrates are falling fast across countries, ​with economic, social and geopolitical ​consequences.”  (The original article is behind a paywall, but you can find it for free here.)

They say of the impending population implosions,

​Many government leaders see this as a matter of national urgency. They worry about shrinking workforces, slowing economic growth and underfunded pensions; and the vitality of a society with ever-fewer children. Smaller populations come with diminished global clout, raising questions in the U.S., China and Russia about their long-term standings as superpowers.

Many governments have been trying to address the problem by creating financial incentives to have children, but these have been largely ineffective.  And no one knows just why this is happening:

In research published in 2021, the University of Maryland’s Kearney and two co-authors looked for possible explanations for the continued drop [in the United States]. They found that state-level differences in parental abortion notification laws, unemployment, Medicaid availability, housing costs, contraceptive usage, religiosity, child-care costs and student debt could explain almost none of the decline. “We suspect that this shift reflects broad societal changes that are hard to measure or quantify,” they conclude.

But this is happening in more traditional cultures as well.  India has surpassed China–whose “one child” policy of forced abortion has proven disastrous–as the world’s most populous nation.  But, according to Ip and Adamy, “Fertility is below replacement in India even though the country is still poor and many women don’t work—factors that usually sustain fertility.”  The same is true of sub-Saharan Africa.

My explanation is Luke 23:29.

The Taylor Swift Liturgy

Practitioners of contemporary worship have been putting Christian lyrics to the tunes of pop music.  A church in Germany has taken the next step:  go ahead and use the pop lyrics as well.   Just borrow the hit songs from a pop star.

The 600-year-old Church of the Holy Spirit in Heidelberg held a “Taylor Swift Church Service.”  As reported by a German newspaper,

“The Church of the Holy Spirit has always been a place of encounter and exchange. That’s why a pop-music religious service fits so perfectly,” said Heidelberg Pastor Christof Ellsiepen. “With it, we are giving space to the questions and issues that occupy the younger generation.”

And the service did bring in the crowds, which totaled some 1,200 people for the two services.  A band played the music and a singer–not Swift herself, of course–performed the songs.  As for the sermon,

Parish Pastor Vincenzo Petracca quoted numerous lyrics and traced Swift’s biography, emphasizing her attachment to and understanding of Christianity in everyday life.

Petracca acknowledged that Swift’s songs are open to numerous interpretations but highlighted the strong Christian — and political — messages she integrates into her songs, which address the subjects of women’s rightsracism and gender equality, among others. . . .

Swift herself has chastised “hypocritical faith” that puts dogma before people. The pastor emphasized as well, that, “her faith knows doubt and inner-conflict.”

“Theologically speaking, she points to the justness of God,” says Petracca, adding, “For her, faith and action are inseparable.”

The Church of the Holy Spirit has a long and storied history.  Built from 1340-1515, it was, of course, a Catholic church.  It went Lutheran for awhile–the University of Heidelberg was where Luther held his Disputation that formulated his “theology of the cross”–but then it went Reformed when the Electors of the Palatinate became Calvinists.  The church was instrumental in the issuing of the Heidelberg Catechism used by many Reformed Christians today.  Later, some rulers of the principality were Catholic.  The church has changed denominations ten times.  Off and on for 300 years, the church had a wall separating the nave and the chancel so that there could be two different altars, allowing Catholics and Protestants to worship in the same building at the same time.  More recently in the 1970s, the church installed stained glass windows that replaced the traditional Biblical themes with imagery representing modern science.  The sanctuary includes a rainbow banner welcoming “all sizes, all [colors], all cultures, all sexes, all beliefs, all religions, all ages, all types, all people.” Today the Church of the Holy Spirit belongs to the unionistic Protestant Church in Germany.

I am surprised that such an inclusive church–with its ecumenical heritage of bringing together Catholics, Lutherans, and the Reformed–would turn to the rather more forthright Taylor Swift, whose mindset is “We are never, ever, ever getting back together.”



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