links: this went thru my mind

 

Church, friendliness & welcome: A Wee Rant on the Unwelcoming Church

“… over the past few weeks, I’ve been noticing some very literal – and very disturbing – signs around some churches that I’ve visited; signs which indicate, at the very least, some serious confusion about the nature and raison d’être of the community that gathers together in the name of Hospitable Love.”

Grief: Six Reasons Mourners Don’t Ask for Help

“If you don’t ask for the help that you need, chances are you won’t get that help, support or encouragement you long for. That applies in all times in life, but it is especially true when you’re grieving the death of a loved one. … Generally speaking though mourners do not communicate their needs effectively for these six primary reasons …”

Justice, Martin, racism & Zimmerman: * A Prayer for Peace; * 3 Things Privileged Christians Can Learn from the Trayvon Martin Case * Finding Justice for Trayvon: Seven Actions Steps for Our Outrage

* “Our prayer today includes prayers for peace in our country following the legal decision in Florida over the death of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of George Zimmerman …”

* “… before we spout our opinions, join sides and dig in our heels, we need to pause for a moment and humbly ask ourselves, what is really going on here? Is it possible that I’m missing something? And how should I respond as someone who takes my cues from Christ’s words and example, rather than my own personal experience?”

* “Push back against racism when you encounter it. … Stop being so touchy about our own racial bias. … Talk about racism. … Educate yourself on racial injustice. … Listen. … Focus on what you can do. … Diversify your world.”

Poverty: Missing: The Food Stamp Program

“When counted as income, SNAP benefits cut extreme poverty nearly in half, a new study shows. Most families who get the aid have an adult who is working.”

this went thru my mind

 

Lifelogging & privacy: Meet Memoto, the Lifelogging Camera

“… Memoto, a Swedish start-up, wants to capture with a small, wearable camera that automatically takes photos of the wearer’s surroundings. The square-shaped device can be clipped onto a collar, a jacket or worn around the neck on a string. It snaps photos at 30-second intervals, and switches off only when it is dark, face-down or placed into a pocket. … The device costs $279 and includes a year of free online photo storage. … The company has already received 3,000 orders, and it hopes to begin shipping devices by late April or early May. … There is no off switch or even a way to delete photos captured by the device.”

Nones: Trends in the Religious Unaffiliated, the “Nones,” by Age

” … rates of the unaffiliated rose rapidly in the 1990s and more slowly since. … rates of the religiously unaffiliated have increased rather steadily in all age groups.”

Perception & poverty: * The Poor and The Fundamental Attribution Error by Richard Beck [required reading]; * Hassled by Larry James

* “… we tend to revert to characterological, trait-based, personality-driven, and dispositional factors in explaining behavior. For example, I might look at your work ethic and conclude that you are lazy. The problem is intrinsic to your character. Your personality is flawed and is to blame. You’re a bad apple. Another way of describing the fundamental attribution error is to say that we tend to downplay or ignore the power of situations. When we see bad behavior we don’t tend to look at the environmental context, the situational causes and pressures. We tend to go looking for bad apples.”

* “… most of us have no clue as to how hard it is to be extremely poor and alone on the streets of a city like Dallas, Texas. We simply must do better than this.”

on tagging & stereotyping

 

American-RiflemanThough I’m no longer a member of the National Rifle Association (NRA), I have been in years gone by. I have a number of family and friends who are members. It’s not at all unusual for me to engage in conversation with them about the NRA and any and all things gun-related. I’ve read or perused nearly every issue of one of the NRA’s chief publications (American Rifleman) over the course of the past forty years. I have read reams of other literature the NRA has published. I visit their website. I take careful note of anything said about them when I notice their appearance in the news.

I say all of that to say this: I know and understand something of the mind of the NRA and I know and understand something of its membership. And I also know that not every NRA member sees things as the NRA’s current president, Wayne LaPierre, sees things. What the NRA declares as gospel, by no means would all of its members subscribe to in faith and practice. That is, while the NRA may say one thing, some of its members would do another. In many of those cases I would say, “That’s a good thing.”

And that’s one of the reasons it really bothers me when I hear or see sweeping assumptions and generalizing statements made about the NRA. “NRA people think …” “I’ve heard it said that if you’re a member of the NRA you do [or don't] …” “Only _____ are members of the NRA.” Such remarks don’t merely bother me, but also, and especially, members of the NRA who don’t subscribe to everything the NRA publishes.

Would it not then be much more accurate and respectful to say otherwise, perhaps something like the following: “I understand some members of the NRA think …” “I’ve heard it said that if you’re a member of the NRA you might do [or don't] …” “Some members of the NRA appear to be …”

To some this might seem like a small or subtle difference, an even trivial or unimportant difference in wording, but I beg to differ. I perceive it to be huge and obvious, vital and crucial. And for one reason, if nothing else: no one should be misunderstood or falsely accused.

I am a Christian. I’ve been a member of Churches of Christ for the past thirty-six years. I’ve preached virtually every week within Churches of Christ for the past thirty-three years. I hold a graduate degree from a university associated with Churches of Christ (Abilene Christian University). I have written for half-a-dozen of publications within Churches of Christ. When I notice a Church of Christ appearing in the national news (as one did last week in the New York Times), I take note of it.

I say that to say this: I know and understand something of the mind of Christ, Christians, and Churches of Christ. And so I know that not all members of Churches of Christ believe or practice their faith the same way. By no means “all; as in, “not even close.” And sometimes – often – that’s a very good thing indeed.

And so, I cringe a bit whenever I hear someone say: “You Church of Christ people believe …” “Church of Christ people all think …” People who belong to Churches of Christ are …” And why do I cringe? Because I know we don’t all see everything alike and to pretend everything on the canvas is all one color is to miss the painting entirely.

Consequently, whenever I hear or see someone make statements like those, I know they’re likely being made by someone who either doesn’t have much personal knowledge of Churches of Christ and/or they’re just not thinking about what they’re saying at the moment. Either of which only perpetuates mass ignorance and feeds misunderstanding from misrepresentation, neither of which I care to be a part of at all.

And so I say, let’s each make an extra effort to not label or pigeon-hole people whenever we speak of groups of people. We best respect groups of people when we respect the individuals who compose those groups. After all, our salvation is not of the NRA, Churches of Christ, or any other group of people. Rather, we all stand or fall before the one God and Father of us all, through the one Savior and Lord he has provided for each of us, Jesus Christ.

imagine you, on food stamps (6)

 

Let me ask you a question. I’ve asked it of a number of people through the years. It has two parts. Let me encourage you to be very specific in your answer. Don’t think your answer very long, just blurt out what first comes to your mind. What we’re aiming for here to reveal your first reaction; your gut instinct. Here’s the question:

Whenever someone says the phrase “food stamps” (here in Texas, it’s known as SNAP benefits), (1) what mental images or words immediately pop to your mind and (2) what do those images or words have in common?

Have you got your answers fixed in your mind? Good. Now are you curious as to what sort of answers I’ve received to that question? Let me share with you some of the most common responses I’ve received:

Part one: lazy people, bums, the guy on the corner who stands there all day long with a sign in his hand that says “Hungry and will work for food,” illegals, blacks and Mexicans, people who live off of others and who know how to work the system, dope heads, crooks, hookers.

Part two: they’re beggars and users.

Now without commenting at all on any of the preceding or its perceived connecting point, let me present you with another list, this one composed of answers I hear relatively rarely in response to my question.

Part one: broke, children, disabled, elderly, homeless, illiterate, migrant, sick, under-employed, unemployed.

Part two: they’re people who are vulnerable now and vulnerable to all sorts of further troubles and harm.

Which gives rise to two more questions in my mind:

(1) Am I missing something or are we missing seeing people in need?

(2) What would Jesus make of all of this; what might he say?

this went thru my mind

 

Church: * Growing Up in Church: An Interview with Trevin Wax; * Chasing After Fantasies by Ted M. Gossard

* “Legalism makes repentance easy because people are willing to sacrifice, to look different, to behave differently. But list-keeping is actually an easier version of Christianity than what is found in the Bible. Law is easier than the gospel.”

* “Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book, Life Together says that one of the greatest enemies of the church is chasing after fantasies. That is, having and holding on to some ideal as to what community should be, instead of being committed to community as it is in and through Jesus.”

Holy Spirit: The Direct Inner Operation of the Holy Spirit by Terry Rush

“I was taught what turned out to be a devastating and most costly false doctrine when I was converted.  I was told with energetic clarity in school that the Holy Spirit does not operate directly in a Christian’s life.  We were repeatedly warned that any who believed such was a liberal to be eventually cursed.  I firmly vowed to maintain such an upright position. However, such a warning proved to be wrong.”

Interviews: A Year of Interviews … by Rachel Held Evans

“… I’ve learned so much from these exchanges as many of my assumptions, stereotypes,  and misconceptions have been challenged by actually talking with all these smart and gracious people.”

Just for fun: How All 50 States Got Their Names by Matt Soniak

“Texas comes from teysha (sometimes spelled tejas, tayshas, texias, thecas, techan, teysas, or techas), a word widely used by the natives of the eastern Texas region before the arrival of the Spanish. The tribes had various spellings and interpretations of the word, but the usual meaning was ‘friends’ or ‘allies.’ Some tribes, like the Hasinais and the Caddo, used it as a greeting, ‘hello, friend.’ This is the usage that Spanish explorers picked up and used to greet friendly tribes throughout Texas and Oklahoma. The explorers also applied the word as a name for the Caddo people and the area around their East Texas settlement.”

United States: What Still Surprises Miroslav Volf about America

the help: the movie

The wife and I saw The Help this past Sunday. We were blown away. The Help is a roller-coaster ride of emotion and thought delivered through some of the best acting performances you will see on film. I believe The Help is one of the most powerful “sermons” I’ve ever seen or heard “preached” against racism. If you haven’t heard of this movie, or the book it’s based on, that needs to change. If you’re a Christian at least 13 years of age and don’t have to have everything squeaky clean before you can see God’s good news in something, I would urge you to see this movie. The language is coarse, but the message compelling.

If you think I exaggerate, perhaps you’d like to read a few reviews of The Help from a Christian perspective. Following are links to a trio of reviews: the first by a movie director, the second penned by a well-known female Christian author, and the third authored by a leading, conservative New Testament scholar.

The Help by Mark Clement

The Help: Not the Gospel by Karen Zacharias Spears

‘The Help’ – South Facing by Ben Witherington

If you’d like to see some reviews from some of the standard Christian movie review sites, here are a few more links:

The Help Serves a Story of Hope (Crosswalk.com)

First-Time Novelist Succeeds with The Help (thefish.com)

The Help (Christianity Today)

Cast and director of “the Help” tell their stories (Christianity Today)

The Help (Focus on the Family’s PluggedIn site)

If you’ve seen the movie, I’d like to know what you think about it. Care to comment?