Author Topic: Deaths of Despair  (Read 2587 times)

D. Engebretson

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Deaths of Despair
« on: July 22, 2021, 09:41:24 AM »
According to the New York Times, while COVID-19 has caused the largest decline in U.S. life expectancy since World War II, as reported by the federal government, although it is not the only cause. In recent years there have been a surge of deaths from what has been coined "deaths of despair." The cause of these deaths is drugs, alcohol and suicide. They note: "For many, daily life lacks the structure, status and meaning that it once had, as the Princeton University economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton have explained. Many people feel less of a connection to an employer, a labor union, a church or community groups. They are less likely to be married. They are more likely to endure chronic pain and to report being unhappy."

Of course, this is saddening. To see a modern society that supposedly seems to have everything to live for and yet suffers such despair.  But it also points out, at least to me, the results of a society that has become much more secular and less religious, and certainly less Christian, in the last decades. By declaring ourselves free of past moral restraints and the confines of antiquated faith structures, we thought we found the key to happiness.  But we didn't.   
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

Dave Likeness

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Re: Deaths of Despair
« Reply #1 on: July 22, 2021, 11:15:15 AM »
"They are less likely to be married" is a fact mentioned in the article above.

Already in Genesis 2:18  God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone.
I will make him a helper fit for him."  One of the basic purposes of marriage is
companionship. A husband and wife can share their lives with each other.  It is
an opportunity to avoid loneliness and have a healthy and intimate relationship
with your spouse.  Marriage is one of the blessings that our Lord has given us.


George Rahn

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Re: Deaths of Despair
« Reply #2 on: July 22, 2021, 11:43:35 AM »
A lack of a public spirit of thanksgiving for all God’s blessings results in these events happening and the statistics indicate so.  A call to public repentance and appeal to God’s mercy may be an answer. 

Charles Austin

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Re: Deaths of Despair
« Reply #3 on: July 22, 2021, 01:44:40 PM »
But we also need some answers that will move those for whom “an appeal to God’s mercy“ does not ring any bells.
I think we need things that will provide hope through a fully awakened concern for our air and water, an active concern for the plight of our neighbors, a healthy global perspective and social systems that offer equality and justice for all.
Retired ELCA Pastor. Iowa native. Now in Minneapolis. One must always ponder both the value and the dangers of poking the bear. Aroused and stimulated, the bear usually shows its true self. Or it might leap to an extreme version of itself. You never know with bears.

pastorg1@aol.com

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Re: Deaths of Despair
« Reply #4 on: July 22, 2021, 02:34:13 PM »
From Charles’ page : “Retired ELCA pastor. Iowa born. Now in Minnesota. Article coming up in Lutheran Forum journal. Now would be a good time to subscribe.”

Me too, re: Retired ELCA pastor. Article coming up in Lutheran Forum journal. Now would be a good time to subscribe.
(Sometimes in Minnesota. Never been to Iowa; is that a state yet?)

Peter (DNA on this continent since 1623) Garrison
Pete Garrison

George Rahn

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Re: Deaths of Despair
« Reply #5 on: July 22, 2021, 03:13:34 PM »
But we also need some answers that will move those for whom “an appeal to God’s mercy“ does not ring any bells.
I think we need things that will provide hope through a fully awakened concern for our air and water, an active concern for the plight of our neighbors, a healthy global perspective and social systems that offer equality and justice for all.

While I do not disparage efforts toward making things right from other quarters of public life, it is the (public) church's specific and unique job to call all to repentance.  Again calls to repentance are the church's ministry to other public arenas and not the unique activity of those other realms, per se.

What makes it the church's responsibility is that repentance has as the point of reference not us or the public, in general, but God needs to be addressed by the public.  Of course a-theistic culture may not see God as the first point of reference.  For a-theistic culture humans initially have to change and the systems within it.  Those appeals come later.  First the public's problem is a God issue and the fact that it has turned itself away from its author and preserver.  We are seeing what happens when a culture no longer sees anything above and beyond itself as the cause of its blessings and curses.
« Last Edit: July 22, 2021, 03:23:13 PM by George Rahn »

Michael Slusser

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Re: Deaths of Despair
« Reply #6 on: July 22, 2021, 03:20:39 PM »
But we also need some answers that will move those for whom “an appeal to God’s mercy“ does not ring any bells.
I think we need things that will provide hope through a fully awakened concern for our air and water, an active concern for the plight of our neighbors, a healthy global perspective and social systems that offer equality and justice for all.

While I do not disparage efforts toward making things right from other quarters of public life, it is the (public) church's specific and unique job to call all to repentance.  Again calls to repentance are the church's ministry to other public arenas and not the unique activity of those other realms, per se.
For the despairing, God's promises, and calls to faith and hope, backed up with substantive charity, may be what these moments in their lives need more.

Peace,
Michael
Fr. Michael Slusser
Retired Roman Catholic priest and theologian

George Rahn

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Re: Deaths of Despair
« Reply #7 on: July 22, 2021, 03:26:00 PM »
But we also need some answers that will move those for whom “an appeal to God’s mercy“ does not ring any bells.
I think we need things that will provide hope through a fully awakened concern for our air and water, an active concern for the plight of our neighbors, a healthy global perspective and social systems that offer equality and justice for all.

While I do not disparage efforts toward making things right from other quarters of public life, it is the (public) church's specific and unique job to call all to repentance.  Again calls to repentance are the church's ministry to other public arenas and not the unique activity of those other realms, per se.
For the despairing, God's promises, and calls to faith and hope, backed up with substantive charity, may be what these moments in their lives need more.

Peace,
Michael

Yes.  This is a good response as well.  (I think I expanded on my post editorially while you were responding to what I initially wrote.  With the expanded edits I wanted to clarify a bit more as to what I had in  mind.)

J. Thomas Shelley

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Re: Deaths of Despair
« Reply #8 on: July 22, 2021, 04:31:43 PM »
Despair is one of the many passions against which we battle throughout our journey to Theosis.

The Orthodox prayers and hymnody do not shy away from acknowledging this reality.

For example, the Eight-Tone Theotokion used this past Sunday in Orthros (Matins)

Quote

Born of a Virgin, O Good One who also endured crucifixion for our sake,
who by death took the spoils of death as plunder and showed resurrection, being God,
O despise not the ones that You formed with Your own hand.
Demonstrate Your love for man, O Lord of mercy,
and accept Your Mother, the Theotokos, who intercedes on our behalf,
O Savior, and save us a despairing people.

Greek Orthodox Deacon -Ecumenical Patriarchate
Ordained to the Holy Diaconate Mary of Egypt Sunday A.D. 2022

Baptized, Confirmed, and Ordained United Methodist.
Served as a Lutheran Pastor October 31, 1989 - October 31, 2014.
Charter member of the first chapter of the Society of the Holy Trinity.

D. Engebretson

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Re: Deaths of Despair
« Reply #9 on: July 22, 2021, 04:53:04 PM »
But we also need some answers that will move those for whom “an appeal to God’s mercy“ does not ring any bells.
I think we need things that will provide hope through a fully awakened concern for our air and water, an active concern for the plight of our neighbors, a healthy global perspective and social systems that offer equality and justice for all.

While I do not disparage efforts toward making things right from other quarters of public life, it is the (public) church's specific and unique job to call all to repentance.  Again calls to repentance are the church's ministry to other public arenas and not the unique activity of those other realms, per se.
For the despairing, God's promises, and calls to faith and hope, backed up with substantive charity, may be what these moments in their lives need more.

Peace,
Michael

A nice balanced response.  We certainly must be concerned for the physical and emotional welfare of our neighbor, but apart from God's promises in Christ, we have only given temporary, transient hope.
Pastor Don Engebretson
St. Peter Lutheran Church of Polar (Antigo) WI

Dan Fienen

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Re: Deaths of Despair
« Reply #10 on: July 22, 2021, 05:12:10 PM »
But we also need some answers that will move those for whom “an appeal to God’s mercy“ does not ring any bells.
I think we need things that will provide hope through a fully awakened concern for our air and water, an active concern for the plight of our neighbors, a healthy global perspective and social systems that offer equality and justice for all.
And make sure that those who do not share your exact concern for vaccination and masking; do not have as fully awakened a concern for our air and water as you, and do not subscribe to every plan and program your group proposes to help the same; whose active concern for the plight of our neighbors may not include every plan and program your group espouses; and above all are not as fully aware that their "whiteness" poses such a, hardship for everyone else, adequately repents of their "whiteness," and strives with might and main to destroy their "whiteness;" let us make sure that such people are fully aware of their deep depravity and the scorn in which the enlightened among us hold them. Especially by making them abundantly aware that their "whiteness" is the source of every fault in our society, and their country is such a pit of depravity, that should make people feel better and lift them out of depression. White = bad, and don't you forget it. America was founded on racism and it has been our defining characteristic ever since. Must be so, The New York Times said it, made a special edition out of it. Won a Pulitzer for it.
Pr. Daniel Fienen
LCMS

Dan Fienen

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Re: Deaths of Despair
« Reply #11 on: July 22, 2021, 05:18:23 PM »
On a more serious note, early in the pandemic, our District shared with us a couple of article from a Michigan Mental Health institution warning of the likely adverse mental health consequences of the pandemic and the measures necessary to combat it. Our young people in particular were hit hard by the isolation Covid imposed. Those concerned with the closing of schools and the strictures against letting children getting together were not just "Covid is a hoax" fanatics. 
Pr. Daniel Fienen
LCMS

Charles Austin

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Re: Deaths of Despair
« Reply #12 on: July 22, 2021, 05:28:41 PM »
For heaven's sake, Pastor Fienen! You having a really bad day? Take a breath. Eat a cookie. Pet a cat. Watch a movie with cute talking animals (the new "Peter Rabbit" is great).
As usual, you miss the whole point of my post.
It was suggested that the problem of deadly despair in our land might be "A lack of a public spirit of thanksgiving for all God’s blessings" and that an "answer" might be "A call to public repentance and appeal to God’s mercy."
OK, I will say a pro-forma "Amen" to that (with reservations, for which, see below).
There are many - really many, a whole lot, millions, even! - of people in our society for whom a reference to "thanksgiving for all God's blessings" is little more than bland, icy cold comfort because they are estranged from God and from blessings or who see a "call to public repentance" as yet another meaningless bit of religious chicanery.
I merely suggest that an entre to such people, a basis for a relationship, something that might help them see us Christians as useful partners in Life could be our common concern for air, water, the planet on which we live and the institutions which rule our lives.
Now I need a cookie.
Retired ELCA Pastor. Iowa native. Now in Minneapolis. One must always ponder both the value and the dangers of poking the bear. Aroused and stimulated, the bear usually shows its true self. Or it might leap to an extreme version of itself. You never know with bears.

Dan Fienen

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Re: Deaths of Despair
« Reply #13 on: July 22, 2021, 05:44:19 PM »
That may be. But what I see being given to us by (mainly Democratic) leaders is apocalyptic doom and gloom in the environment and in society. The proposed and demanded solutions would involve a complete deconstruction of society, our economy, our laws, and our way of life. Anything deemed "white" in particular is singled out for repudiation and destruction. Knowing that I am a cause and symbol for everything that is wrong about America (and is there much that is currently held to be good about America?) simply does wonders for my low level, chronic depression.
Pr. Daniel Fienen
LCMS

Charles Austin

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Re: Deaths of Despair
« Reply #14 on: July 22, 2021, 05:59:49 PM »
Poor you.  ::)
Cookie. Cat. Think about others and their plights, not just those you think are oppressing you.
Retired ELCA Pastor. Iowa native. Now in Minneapolis. One must always ponder both the value and the dangers of poking the bear. Aroused and stimulated, the bear usually shows its true self. Or it might leap to an extreme version of itself. You never know with bears.