Some more recommended articles
This article about the disappearance of middle-class clergy highlights a problem that is actually a confluence of several factors:
1) the problem of the decline of the American middle class in general - a problem which appears poised to accelerate among millennials as they mature
2) the problem of the relative decline of the Church as a major social institution in our culture, and in particular the loss of status that clergymen once enjoyed as important and respected members of society, and
3) the expanding costs of higher education in general and the seminaries' marriage to a "professional graduate school" model of preparing ministers that may not serve either denominations nor individual clergy as well as it might. Indeed many younger clergy in my area are encouraged to commit to a 3-year continuing education program on church leadership, even after attending a 3-to-4 year seminary program precisely because the seminaries - married as they are to the latest speculative theological fads - do not often prepare us well for many of the more practical challenges of our work.
The phsycological benefits of walking in nature:
I love to hike. Unfortunately the daytime temperature is above 90 degress for about 4 months of the year where I live, so I am unable to do so much at the moment.
I like to say I go hiking so much because "I am looking for elves." In truth I wonder if I am not actually looking for Eden. I wonder if that is not a deep spiritual yearning that most of us feel: to search for a primal harmony with nature (go read Genesis chapter 2) that we sense has been somehow lost (Genesis 3). It turns out that people - in particular urban-dwellers - who are surrounded by artificial environments all day actually suffer from various mental health problems due to lack of the natural, the beautiful, and the God-given in their lives.
On a related note is this:
7 Ways Electronics Quietly harm our Mental Health:
While I do keep up with mainstream news sources such as NPR and BBC and CNN, I am obviously also a believer in the alternative news and analysis found in many blogs and websites. This article comes from a source - Off The Grid News - which is certainly alternative. This is from the solar powered, organic farming, urban-homesteading, environmentalist/disaster preparedness, self-reliance crowd. Whether or not you are inclined to trust the source, the 7 Reasons that our tablets, smartphones, laptops and the like are said to harm our mental health and our relationships seem to ring true to my experiences as a young person, and my experiences of working with (slightly younger) college-age folks at UL Lafayette a few years back.
The Decline (and Fall?) of Religious Freedom in America:
Most of the conversation I have heard on the topic of religious freedom since the recent Supreme Court ruling to re-define civil marriage have either come from traditionalist Christians or from secularists (who may or may not be nominally Christian - like a friend of mine who recently expressed her hope that churches would lose their tax-exempt status in order that the government should have more money to help out the poor - yes, folks, college-educated people who grew up in church are really saying this).
Anyways, this article comes from a rather different perspective: that of a Jewish author at Mosaic Magazine. The article also includes links to a couple of responses from other Jewish authors (both agreeing and disagreeing with the thesis). I think their perspective adds something unique to this conversation, having been a religious minority (and in many places, a despised one) since the founding of this country.