Religion + Life with Elaine H. Ecklund, Part 1 @TheHighCalling

Retreat, Mt. Bethel, Pa

“Social scientists are always thinking of big theoretical projects. As a social scientist, I’m very interested in how individuals who are different from the institutions that constrain them bring change to those institutions.” That’s how Laity Leadership Institute Senior Fellow Elaine Howard Ecklund described the underlying theme of her work in a recent interview with The High Calling.

Ecklund’s research thus far has focused on the often contentious areas of religion, immigration, science, and culture. Her 2010 book, Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think, for example, confronted the popular notion that scientists are antagonistic to religion. We’ll study its content in three upcoming articles. …

Read the whole introduction at The High Calling.

Photojournalism from Whitney Houston’s Home-going Service

Whitney Houston funeral guest showing program to journalists

Whitney Houston funeral guest showing program to journalists (photo by Christine A. Scheller)

For more photos from Whitney Houston’s Homegoing Service, click here.

Reporting on Whitney Houston funeral

Trying to Get the Money Shot at Whitney Houston's funeral (photo by Christine A. Scheller).

Trying to Get the Money Shot at Whitney Houston’s funeral (photo by Christine A. Scheller).

More from Reporting on Whitney Houston’s funeral here.

What I Wrote This Week @UrbanFaith: February 13 – February 17

Hitchhiker, NYC

  • On Location at Whitney’s Farewell: What reporting on location at Whitney Houston’s semi-private, gospel-filled funeral taught me about spiritual battles, grace, and celebrity.
  • Marriage Is for Black People, TooRalph Richards Banks’ book ‘Is Marriage for White People?’ made him the target of angry critics. Now, the author has his say about interracial dating, the link between fewer marriages and the crisis in black communities, and his take on conservative scholar Charles Murray’s latest book on class and race.
  • Obama Birth Control Compromise Take 2Activist Lisa Sharon Harper and ethicists Cheryl J. Sanders and Charles C. Camosy weigh in on the Obama administration’s contraception mandate accommodation.

Aging Well with Dr. Dan Blazer, Part 6: Holistic Mental Health @TheHighCalling

Aging Well

When my son first began exhibiting symptoms of anxiety and depression as a sophomore in high school, my husband and I both worked at a California mega-church whose leaders openly preached against psychiatry and psychology.

The message reached a wide audience— from the pulpit, over radio, through books, and at conferences—thus cementing in place a culture in which getting professional help for mental and emotional suffering was discouraged and stigmatized.

This was a new phenomenon for us, one that may have delayed our son getting the help he needed. After I heard about the third suicide of a young Christian that I knew back home in New Jersey, however, I no longer cared what my church community thought. I knew my son needed help and was determined to get it for him.

Nonetheless, I was concerned that the mental health practitioners who treated him would respect his tender faith and the spiritual dimension of his suffering, some of which was directly related to our family’s decision to respond to a vocational ministry calling with a cross-country move and to the culture of the church where that calling was initially lived out. …

Read the whole article at TheHighCalling.org.

A Quarter Century of Jersey Shore HIV/AIDS Response @NJShorePatch

Tyler Alyxander and Ina Kaplan at "A Night of Illusion" fundraiser.

I well remember when the thought that I could have AIDS first occurred to me. It was 1986 and I was newly married. I had gotten pregnant by an East African man two years earlier and my husband had fallen in love with both me and my baby.

All seemed well, until I began paying attention to the news that AIDS had first appeared in sub-saharan Africa among heterosexuals. I dutifully got tested, then waited anxiously for the phone call that told me I was not infected.

Other people I knew heard different news. There were whispers that a high school classmate who had been an intravenous drug user and died of a drug overdose had taken his own life after getting the diagnosis.

It was a scary time, especially for anyone who had been anything but virginal. …

Read the rest at Manasquan Patch.

Aging Well with Dr. Dan Blazer, Part 5: Social Supports & Storytelling @TheHighCalling

Aging Well

Stories help us make sense of the world. True stories told by our elderly relatives help us understand ourselves, and the telling also helps the storytellers make sense of their lives, says Laity Leadership Institute Senior Fellow Dan Blazer, M.D.

“One of the most critical things a family can do is to try to recognize the value of an older person, and one of the best ways to do that is to get the older person to talk about himself or herself, or maybe write about himself or herself. Then actually pay attention to what they write,” Blazer said when The High Calling talked to him recently. …

Read the whole article at TheHighCalling.org.

What I Wrote This Week @UrbanFaith: January 9-13

Hitchhiker, NYC

  • Religion Wins Big; Pastors Protest Loss: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that religious schools can fire ministers and more New York City pastors were arrested while protesting fallout from the court’s decision not to hear a Bronx church’s appeal.
  • Politics Are Personal: In her new book ‘Left, Right, and Christ,’ Lisa Sharon Harper models a civil and redemptive discussion of divisive political issues. She spoke to UrbanFaith about Christians in the public square, and the dangers of winning political and religious debates but missing the truth.
  • Pastors Protest School Worship BanSome New York City pastors are protesting the Board of Education’s ban on worship in public school space as the ban threatens to spread beyond schools.

What I Wrote This Week @UrbanFaith: January 2-6

Hitchhiker, NYC

Lifelong Ocean Grove Resident Takes Helm of Camp Meeting Association @NJShorePatch

The Great Auditorium, Ocean Grove, NJDr. Dale C. Whilden succeeds Scott Rasmussen (who ended his six-year term in mid-October) as president of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association. Whilden is a life-long Ocean Grove resident. He has served as an OGCMA Trustee since 1983 and has chaired both the Development and Program committees. Patch Faith & Family columnist Christine A. Scheller interviewed Whilden about his new role.  

Christine A. Scheller: How did you come to be involved with the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association (OGCMA)?

Dr. Dale C. Whilden: I came to Ocean Grove when I was three days old right from the hospital. My parents had purchased a home here back in the mid-1940s. In the early 50s when I was born, we lived here year round for a number of years. Dad was principal of the school here in town, then we had to move to Toms River based on a new job he had as county superintendent of schools. We kept our little summer house here, and so for my entire life I’ve been coming to Ocean Grove every summer. Growing up through the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting programs, the childrens’ programs, the youth programs, Bible studies, beach activities, and choral and dramatic events, all those things over the years has led me to a sense of how important OGCMA has been in my life and in our family’s life as well. That history has certainly been a factor in my wanting to be involved.

Then when I graduated from dental school and did a residency at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, I couldn’t imagine not opening my dental practice in Ocean Grove. All those years growing up, it was sort of my Shangri La. I’d go to school in Toms River and we’d be there all winter, and then come summer time, this was the place. This was the epitome of my dream escape and it’s worked out very, very well. I think it gives me a good sense of the community and the history of the community. …

Read the whole interview at Manasquan Patch.

Aging Well with Dr. Dan Blazer, Part 2: Successful Aging @TheHighCalling

Aging Well

In his 2002 book, Depression in Late Life, Laity Leadership Institute Senior Fellow Dan Blazer, M.D. retells a story from the life of Siddhārtha, who would come to be known as the Supreme Buddha. The young prince left his palace one day and came across a “tottering, wrinkled, white-haired, decrepit old man who was bent over, trembling, and mumbling something incomprensible while he tottered along, balanced by a stick he used for a cane.” Seeing this sight, Siddhārtha is said have told his chariot driver, “It’s the world’s pity, that weak and ignorant beings, drunk with the vanity of youth, do not behold old age. Let us hurry back to the palace. What is the use of pleasures in life, since I myself am the future dwelling-place of old age?”

The perception of old age as a depressing season of life, however, is not confirmed in scientific studies of the elderly, Blazer concluded. …

Read the whole article at The High Calling.

Michael Hyatt: A Conversation About Leadership and the Future of Publishing @TheHighCalling

Michael Hyatt is a New York Times best-selling author and leadership expert. He is also board chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, the largest Christian publishing company in the world. Hyatt left his position as CEO of Thomas Nelson earlier this year to focus on writing and speaking, and the company is now in negotiations to be purchased by HarperCollins, a subsidiary of media giant News Corp. Hyatt told The High Calling his only involvement with the current sale is in the capacity of board oversight, but a few years ago, he guided Thomas Nelson through the transition from being a publicly traded company to one that is privately held. We spoke to Hyatt about the future of publishing in the digital age and about what it takes to be a good leader. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Read the interview at The High Calling.

Thoughts on Getting Through Thanksgiving After Suicide @NJShorePatch @HuffPost

How gratitude, a change of scenery and sharing stories have helped me face the Thanksgiving holiday after my son’s suicide.

Memorial Tree from 2010 New York City Survivor Day event.

My son Gabriel was a Thanksgiving baby. His birthday didn’t fall on the actual holiday until his second birthday, but it does every four years, including the year he died by suicide, 2008. The association between his birthday and our most heartwarming holiday presents both challenges and opportunities for getting through what has become, for me, an emotionally-fraught month.

When the leaves begin to change color and the air begins to bite, I start wrestling with memories of baking Turkey-shaped shortbread cookies for his school celebrations and his favorite apple pie for our family one. The pain of creating new memories that don’t include my son is one I don’t think will ever subside entirely.

But, in my family, Thanksgiving isn’t about football, movies or family fights, though the day may include all of those. It’s about gathering around an over-stuffed table to give thanks to God for his sustenance and his faithfulness, no matter what the circumstances of our lives have been. …

For tips and information about International Survivors of Suicide Day November 19, read the whole thing at Manasquan Patch or at The Huffington Post.