Culture wars aren’t necessarily Kingdom wars

If you follow news in the world of Christianity, you’re probably aware that a charity named Word Vision, which solicits support for children via sponsors in churches, was embroiled in controversy last week.

World Vision announced it would hire Christians who were married to a same-sex partner.  Within a few hours, an outcry swamped Evangelicalism and many people began dropping their support for the children they’d agreed to sponsor through World Vision. So a few days later, World Vision reversed its policy.

Rachel Held Evans and I don’t agree on all issues, but she’s making excellent points in her CNN column about this event:

When Christians declare that they would rather withhold aid from people who need it than serve alongside gays and lesbians helping to provide that aid, something is wrong.

There is a disproportionate focus on homosexuality that consistently dehumanizes, stigmatizes and marginalizes gay and lesbian people and, at least in this case, prioritizes the culture war against them over and against the important work of caring for the poor.

via How evangelicals won a culture war and lost a generation – CNN Belief Blog – Blogs.

Evans states that a church’s position on same-sex marriage is not a question of orthodoxy.  I’m sure that is in itself a controversial statement.  I hesitate to label as “orthodoxy” a position that isn’t tied to a core doctrine, most of which were enshrined in the historic confessions of the Church.

Defining marriage is a recent phenomenon; one driven by the American political decision to let the State define marriage and then insist that the State’s definition only follow one moral/religious viewpoint. (I don’t see any way for this NOT to be a losing battle for conservatives.)

(In fact, I’m not sure why Christians in America are so hell-bent on making sure the government gets to define marriage for us. Isn’t that a problem?)

Regardless of your opinion there, Evans’s warning that Evangelicalism is being distracted by the culture war against same-sex marriage is well-framed.  Millennials are the greatest “unaligned” group in American culture:

from the Public Religion Research Institute
from the Public Religion Research Institute


I think we need to get back to the preaching of the Gospel as our core mission, of loving God *and* neighbor biblically, of caring for our neighborhoods via actions rather than taking positions.

Link: What Your Parents Never Told You About How the World Works | UnTangled

OOOh. good read!  and short. 🙂

Most parents have an intensely protective instinct. This is a good thing. It’s essential to our survival and it comes from a place of love. However, out of this protective instinct—in a futile effort to shelter children from all danger, struggle, and suffering—parents tend to teach their children exclusively about the dangers of the world. In subtle and not so subtle ways, parents send the message that people are basically corrupt and dangerous.

And that has consequences.

As we grow, our default mode becomes one of fear and protection—we create tribes, circle the wagons, and hope everyone who looks, thinks, and acts like us is safe and trustworthy. Ironically, in our effort to isolate and protect, we create an in-group versus out-group dynamic which dehumanizes “outsiders,” resulting in violence toward them. This violence then proves our original assumption: the world and its people are dangerous and not to be trusted.

We unintentionally create the reason for our fear.

Because we were never told the rest of the truth about people.

via What Your Parents Never Told You About How the World Works | UnTangled.

In Memoriam

Today, my friend Jesse lost his father.


I have walked this road, though not exactly in this form, and I grieve with Jesse tonight at the loss of his dad, and for all the people who knew Frank.

Frank was retired from the Navy and his passionate hobby was studying railroads. I hadn’t spent much time with him over the years, despite knowing Jesse since he (Jesse) was a high schooler.   He and Jesse’s mom were always very hospitable and friendly, and I have good memories of heading to their house for one of Jesse’s awesome house-recitals. (The boy can play piano, just sayin’.)

Over Christmas this year, Jesse was spending time at our house and Frank stopped by several times just to hang out with “his boy.”  For the first time, I really got a chance to hear Frank tell stories about his Navy days — those were great stories! — and about the history of railroads in South Carolina.  I wish I’d had time to hear more; Frank was faster than Wikipedia will ever be and far more interesting as he unfolded tales of the little Due West to Donalds Railroad with its odd-gauge track (for example). He even had a good country theory for how the little town of Due West got its name, including an old man in Donalds, a faded map of 1700s “indian territory,” and some military-grade compass skills.

Death is not a welcome visitor in this world, and it was never meant to clip human existence. But while we wait for the redemption of the body, at least we can die well.

I’m sorry, Jesse. We love you.

You never stop missing your parents once they’re gone. You just realize how much more you could have learned, and long for the reunion in Aslan’s Country.

an honest theological question

tweet Piper

Honest question.

When I read Piper’s quote, I think:
…. Doesn’t this just make God a vending machine? If we insert failure, helplessness, and other negative traits, God spits out rewards.

…  Does God only reward human activities that make Him look good? 

I realize that last comment is going to be super-controversial, so let me explain that I do NOT mean to suggest that God isn’t good, or that God doesn’t deserve our worship (I believe that He does), or that God is somehow an attention hound who otherwise wouldn’t get any love from the universe.

But Piper’s statement made me wonder both of those things, and I’d really like to see some discussion.

(PS. The “Comment” link is ABOVE the post, just below the featured image & title.  Sorry about that! I can’t tweak this theme to move it, and I agree it’s a lame feature, but I like the theme otherwise.)

Thinking about economics, politics, and law

I’ve never thought about it this way, but an article by David Brooks in the New York Times yesterday titled “The Republic of Fear” jolted me into an idea I’ve never considered before.

We tend to think of economic solutions to poverty, whether in America or the developing world. Education, political stability, and cultural factors may make it onto the radar, but we assume the real solutions to the problem will lie in economic policy or habits.

Brooks makes an excellent case that actually, our American minds are so deeply colored by the safety and stability of our political and legal processes, we don’t see these factors when working in the developing world:

We in the affluent world live on one side of a great global threshold. Our fundamental security was established by our ancestors. We tend to assume that the primary problems of politics are economic and that the injustices of the world can be addressed with economic levers. When empires like the Soviet Union collapse, we send in economists with privatization plans instead of cops to help create rule of law. When thuggish autocracies invade their neighbors we impose economic sanctions.

But people without our inherited institutions live on the other side of the threshold and have a different reality. They live within a contagion of chaos. They live where the primary realities include violence, theft and radical uncertainty. Their world is governed less by long-term economic incentives and more by raw fear. In a world without functioning institutions, predatory behavior and the passions of domination and submission blot out economic logic.

The primary problem of politics is not creating growth. It’s creating order. Until that is largely achieved, life can be nasty, brutish and short.

via The Republic of Fear –

I highly recommend the entire piece, and I’d love to know who’s writing articles/books/blogs from this perspective.

TED has changed communication – and therefore, education

This article (link below) offers some quick insights in the ways TED talks have changed how audiences listen to presentations.

Bottom line: nobody is gonna listen to your lame presentation any more. We now know how great it is to crank up TEDtv and watch people explain complex ideas inside 18 minutes. It’s not boring, and the slides (usually) help rather than hinder the talk.

How TED changed business communication forever
(Might require you to log into LinkedIn, since that’s how the link came to me)

I’d like to extend this thought into education:
Boredom is (and always has been) one of the great hindrances to classroom success. Maybe college and grad students are just better than 1st graders at handling boredom (less twitching or raising mayhem in the higher ed context), but sitting through a boring lecture kills the mood for anybody.

I’ve been on the giving end of those boring classes, and it sucks to be the teacher in that spot. For me, it generates feelings of concern (“can I do anything in the moment to make this better?”), which soon become feelings of anxiety if I can’t make the learning environment more engaging. Sometimes the students are the problem — too tired, too unprepared, too apathetic about the subject — but honestly, the fault is usually mine.

Making the class interesting and engaging falls on my shoulders as the instructor, and when I can’t do that well, it feel like a failure. The best remedy is analyzing the class period to find the problem(s) then taking steps to fix/prevent them.

I’m bothered that our classrooms these days are so focused on assessment that teachers have no time to engage. Learning that sticks takes time — lots of it. Perhaps we are distracted by the drive to make education into a business– where efficiency rules — rather than recognizing that humans aren’t widgets and the “one size for all” solutions will always be flawed.

Let me be clear: I’m not blaming teachers for the current state of our public school emphasis on assessment. That was imposed on them by lawmakers who acted in response to their constituents back home. “Accountability” in education is good and necessary; abuse of teachers and leathers in the name of testing and standards and data is exactly that: abuse.

Perhaps it’s time that we constituents sent our congressmen a new message: more local control for districts, less top-down initiatives.

TEDxGreenville is coming up in a few weeks. If you’ve never experienced a TED event, give it a shot in 2014. You’ll meet some great people and some great ideas.