links: this went thru my mind

 

Adultery: The United States of Adultery

[This is an interactive map. Houston is #2 in the country, beat out only by three-time winner Washington D.C.]

Birth of Jesus & Christmas: * Baby Jesus Meek and Mild, Overthrew an Empire – Wild!; * Is There A Dragon In Your Nativity Set?

* “May your Christmas be a time when you ponder the summons of a subversive kingdom. May you choose to peacefully follow the baby in the manger to the cross and through resurrection, proclaiming with the angels that a new era has begun; an era when the people of God can undo the works of oppressive ’empires.’ Merry Christmas.”

* “Every nativity set needs a red dragon. If you don’t remember that part of the story, you might want to read chapter 12 of Revelation.”

China, Christianity & persecution: China’s Hardship-Hardened Church

“Vibrant amid persecution, it seeks faithfulness over freedom.”

Contribution, generosity, giving, possessions, sacrifice, stewardship & wealth: The Scary Truth About Christian Giving

“Over the past 40 years, self-identified evangelicals have given between 2 and 3 percent of their incomes to churches and Christian organizations. Stewardship is a crucial part of the Christian life, and according to these figures, it is sadly lacking.”

Criticism, hatred & humility: Haters

“Never criticize what God is blessing.”

Firearms & guns: Gun Country

“They bring families together and they tear them apart. They kill innocent people and protect them. The United States continues to love and revile its hundreds of millions of firearms. Here is a look at that complicated  relationship, told through the personal stories of Americans.”

Insurance & the uninsured: Mapping Uninsured Americans

“Census data released Dec. 17 show where the uninsured live.”

Love & truth: 3 John: When Love is Abused

“He abused his power; he abused the love entrusted to him.”

Poor & poverty: In the War on Poverty, a Dogged Adversary [required reading]

“Without the panoply of government benefits — like food stamps, subsidized school lunches and the earned-income tax credit, which provides extra money to household heads earning low wages — the nation’s poverty rate last year would have reached almost 31 percent, up from 25 percent in 1967, according to the research at Columbia.”

Warfare: The Great War’s Ominous Echoes

“… the era just before World War I, with its gas lighting and its horse-drawn carriages, seems very far-off, it is similar to ours — often unsettlingly so — in many ways.”

links: this went thru my mind (on violence)

 

9/11, fear, priorities & terrorism: The Emotional and Spiritual Aftermath of 9/11 and Boston

“Strikingly, nearly three out of four Americans say that terrorism prevention is equal to or more important a priority than things like the preservation of families, immigration, healthcare, unemployment and education. Even 12 years after the 9/11 attacks, it would seem the threat of terrorism remains a powerful public motivator in America. For example, in a head-to-head prioritization, Americans rank terrorism prevention with nearly equal importance as family preservation (40% rank it higher and 38% rank it lower. The remaining 22% said they should be equal priorities.)

“The generational differences of opinion reveal an intriguing pattern when it comes to terrorism: Millennials, currently ages 18 to 29, are among the most likely to prioritize preventing terrorism above other social concerns.”

Football & full-contact sports: * Our Shaken Faith in Football; * Is Football Too Violent? 11 Reflections on My Christianity Today Essay

* “If the NFL is effectively admitting that the game of football causes physical harm to the tune of nearly a billion dollars, does it behoove Christians to reconsider the game’s violence? I think it does.”

* “I just wrote this Christianity Today piece on football violence in light of the NFL’s nearly $765-million settlement with injured players. It’s stirred up a bit of interaction on Twitter, so say the least … [And so, here are a] few thoughts based on the response to the essay.”

Gun violence, shootings & youth: Program Fights Gun Violence Bravado With ‘Story Of Suffering’

“… Cradle to Grave, a violence prevention program … brings small groups of at-risk youth to the hospital to show them what getting shot is really like.”

Nonviolence & pacifism: Christian Pacifism: Relevant Beyond Syria [required reading]

“… many people fail to realize that Christian pacifism goes beyond just being philosophically opposed to war and violence — it’s about being a peacemaker. Instead of anti-violence and anti-war — it’s pro-peace. It’s not just about avoiding war and violence, it’s about bringing peace. There’s a big difference.

“Christian pacifism is proactive, doing everything possible to bring about peace (without the use of violence). Pacifism isn’t an ideology reserved only for when nations and armies go to war, but it’s a personal decision that should be incorporated within our everyday lives.”

Syria & war: * 9 Questions about Syria You were too Embarrassed to Ask [required reading]; * Respond, But How? What We’re Missing On Syria; * I Support War with Syria, Almost; Brutality of Syrian Rebels Posing Dilemma in West [satire]; * Brutality of Syrian Rebels Pose Dilemma in West; * Intervention in the Third World: A Case for Masterly Inactivity [required reading]; * Shane Claiborne’s Statement on Syria; * What I – a Pacifist – Would say to Obama About the Crisis In Syria [essential reading; outstanding!]

* “If you found the above sentence kind of confusing, or aren’t exactly sure why Syria is fighting a civil war, or even where Syria is located, then this is the article for you. What’s happening in Syria is really important, but it can also be confusing and difficult to follow even for those of us glued to it. Here, then, are the most basic answers to your most basic questions.”

* “When a head of state is responsible for the deaths of 100,000 of his people and has used chemical weapons against innocent civilians — the world needs to respond. … Doing nothing is not an option. But how should we respond, and what are moral principles for that response?”

* “War against Syria? Sure! Let’s do it! I’m game. I think it sounds like a great idea, personally. Or, it would be a great idea if …”

* “… while the United States has said it seeks policies that would strengthen secular rebels and isolate extremists, the dynamic on the ground, as seen in the execution video from Idlib and in a spate of other documented crimes, is more complicated than a contest between secular and religious groups.”

* “Cast your mind back to the 1950s, the last time U.S. policy was in the hands of an experienced and crafty general, who knew well the foolish advice military men often give civil authorities and could see through the machinations of the hydra-headed creature he baptized “the military-industrial complex.” General Dwight D. Eisenhower was President from 1953-61, a time when America’s superiority over the rest of the world was far greater than it is today. He received countless invitations and demands for U.S. intervention but always refused them. Only once, in 1958 and at the request of Lebanon’s president, Camille Chamoun, did Eisenhower agree to station troops for a short while. He withdrew them as soon as possible, three months later, without having fired a shot.

“Eisenhower’s record of nonintervention is worth studying … Ike recognized that getting involved in a military adventure was very easy, especially if you had the resources. But getting uninvolved was quite another matter and entailed the very real risk of humiliation and defeat. He therefore concluded it was best to say no–and did so.”

* “… you cannot fight fire with fire, you only get a bigger fire. You fight fire with water. You fight violence with nonviolence.”

* “I don’t believe Jesus’ and Paul’s teaching on the need for disciples to adopt an enemy-loving, non-violent lifestyle was ever intended to serve as a mandate for how governments are supposed to respond to evil.”

links: this went thru my mind (on violence)

 

Capital punishment & the death penalty: “Is Capital Punishment in Harmony with Divine Law?”

“The children of God can take no part or lot in the work.”

Compulsory patriotism & nationalism: No, Thanks: Stop Saying “Support the Troops”

“I do not begrudge the troops for availing themselves of any benefits companies choose to offer, nor do I begrudge the companies for offering those benefits. Of greater interest is what the phenomenon of corporate charity for the troops tells us about commercial conduct in an era of compulsory patriotism.”

Full contact sports: N.F.L. Agrees to Settle Concussion Suit for $765 Million

“The settlement, announced Thursday, will be seen as a victory for the league, which has nearly $10 billion in annual revenue and faced the possibility of billions of dollars in liability payments and a discovery phase that could have proved damaging if the case had moved forward.”

Justice, restorative & retributive: A Better Story: How Our Understanding of Justice is Radically Re-defined by the Gospel [essential reading]

“Reflecting the assumptions of the surrounding culture, Christian theology has classically framed mercy as being in conflict with justice. This goes way beyond theology however, and can be found as the assumptions underlying any national debate over the use of state violence, whether in regards to crime or international conflict and war. To ‘bring about justice’ means punishing, it means violence, it means seeking to harm. Conversely, mercy means to refrain from violence. It is thus understood as an inaction. So in short: in this framework justice means inflicting harm, and mercy means doing nothing.

“Because these are our culture’s default understandings of both justice and mercy, it is common for people to think that the only way to address crime or conflict is by inflicting harm, by the use of violent force. It is either that or doing nothing, we think. … Because the options are framed in this way, many Christians reject the teaching of Jesus to love our enemies because they think it entails doing nothing in the face of evil, which would be unloving and morally irresponsible. We need to protect the vulnerable from harm, don’t we? We need to care for the wellbeing for ourselves and our loved ones. So while people may regret the need to respond with violence, they feel they have no alternative but to respond to violence with violence. It’s regrettable, but what choice do we have? How else can we stop violence?

“The tragic irony is that inflicting violence and harm in the name of justice does not in fact stop violence at all; it perpetuates it. … the fruit of this kind of ‘justice’ is that it makes things worse. …

“That’s where the gospel comes in.”

Lord Jesus, Obama, Syria & warfare: * War on Syria? No [required reading]; * How A Reluctant Obama Ended Up Preparing For War

*”We call ‘Lord’ a man who told us to love our enemies but in his name make enemies to promote our values. We call a peaceful man “Lord” and then favor those who divide in order to conquer. … Why do we call him ‘Lord’ and not do as he says?”

* “‘It seems to me that we are going to be engaged in a strike because he had a lack of wisdom to avoid laying down a red line,’ says Rajan Menon, a political scientist at City College of New York. ‘This is the second time the red line has been crossed, so now he’s boxed in.'”

this went thru my mind

 

Chick-Fil-A: In the Basement by Jen Hatmaker; * Some Words for Christians On Both Sides of the Chick-fil-A War by Rachel Held Evans

* “This is precisely how I feel about the Chick-Fil-A debacle and all the other accouterments of the culture wars. I am so over it. I’m so over the fear mongering and hate propaganda. I’m over the political posturing and power plays. I’m over the finger pointing and name-calling. The storms are raging overhead, and let me tell you something: I’m going to the basement.”

* “Just some thoughts from a retired veteran of the culture wars …”

Christianity in China: Listening to Chinese Christians

“There is much we can learn by listening to Chinese Christians.”

Churches of Christ: * Homeless: An Essay on the Ecclesial Lives of Young Adults from the Churches of Christ by James McCarty; * JamesMcCarty’s Thoughts on Why Young People Are Leaving Churches of Christ by Matt Dabbs

* “I have met dozens of young adults (20-35 years old) over the last several years who grew up in the churches of Christ but no longer attend one. I’ve met dozens of others who still attend a church of Christ, at least somewhat regularly, who feel that such a church is no longer the ideal place for them but know of nowhere else to go. I am primarily concerned in this essay with the latter though I will make some reference to the former. These still-attending-but-uncomfortable CoCers are uncomfortable in the churches of their youth for a variety of reasons, the most common of which are …”

* “This is not a unique list for churches of Christ. I am not certain that his five points get to the heart of what is really happening here. I think this is more of a symptom checklist of some deeper issues that have to be uncovered if we are going to move forward. You could “fix” all five of his points and still have young people leaving the church.”

Creativity: Tips on How to Be More Creative by John Cleese

“… we can benefit greatly from being even more creative. So how to do that? One way to start is to listen to the legendary John Cleese below and incorporate his tips into your daily work and life where possible. This speech is from 1991 and is as relevant as ever. … In case you don’t have 30 minutes to watch this video,  I have summarized Cleese’s thoughts here. “

Disappointment: 10 Tips for Recovering from Major Disappointments by Ron Edmonson

“Sometimes life throws curves at us that take the wind from our sail. If we aren’t careful we can allow the injury to haunt us for life; never regaining what we have lost. … What steps should you take to get back on track and succeed again after a major disappointment?”

Evangelism: An Evangelism Secret by Terry Rush

“Pay attention.”

Ministry & writing: Paul and the Pastoral Practice of Writing

“It’s easy to underestimate the value of letter writing for pastoral ministry in the electronic age.  But when a pastor takes time to write a letter (even if via email) to a person under their care it creates a connection. I asked a pastor friend of mine, now retired, to share his thoughts/experiences of writing letters as a pastor. Here’s what he said.”

Photography & the Middle East: NASA’s View of the Middle East by Seth M. Rodriquez

“NASA has a website called ‘Visible Earth’ where they post pictures taken by astronauts and ‘sensors’ they have in orbit.  Within this large collection of pictures, there are several that are focused in on Israel and the Middle East. Here’s a taste of what you can find there …”

Poverty: Poverty – Understanding Scale [required reading]

“The poverty level as defined by the federal government in 2010 was $11,139 for an individual and $22,314 for a family of four. Could you take care of a family of four on less than $2000 a month? … The following are 40 facts about poverty in America that will blow your mind …”

Priorities: * Erase “I Don’t Have Time” from Your Vocabulary by Melanie Pinola; * Could a Checklist Empower Your Ministry?

* “Whenever you find yourself thinking ‘I don’t have time’ change it to ‘It’s not a priority.’ Watch how quickly your perspective shifts when looking at life’s challenges this way.”

* “It worked for the airlines, the surgeons, and maybe it will work for the ministry.”

Stillness: The Practice of Stillness by Michael Hyatt

“… you must do nothing for at least fifteen minutes a day. … I have … practiced this discipline for twenty-two days in a row. Honestly, this has been one of the most transformational things I have ever done.”

Taxes: Taxation, Charity, and Robbery by James F. McGrath

“I’ve heard the argument made that the government taxing the wealthy and redistributing that wealth to those less fortunate than them is not taxation, but robbery. I wonder how many of those who say such things are Christians or Jews , and would also think Deuteronomy 26:12 was robbery?”

The Blind Side & Lifeway: Hollywood’s Blind Side by Mark Joseph

“Various writers are publicly kvetching about the decision by a Baptist-owned bookstore chain called Lifeway to stop carrying The Blind Side DVD because, according to the Southern Baptist Convention it contains “explicit profanity,” takes ‘God’s name in vain’ and contains a ‘racial slur.’ … But are the Baptists really at fault here? Aren’t they entitled to carry whatever product they want for whatever reason they want? And who are we as non-Baptists to castigate them for what they decide to stock in their stores, especially those products which offend their deepest religious sensitivities?”

Vision: The 5 Major Obstacles to Personal Vision by Will Mancini

“It’s very important to diagnose your life concerning the common obstacles that keep you from things like setting goals, defining your personal vision or achieving our life dreams. I believe there are five primary blockades to consider.”

Warfare: A Day Job Waiting for a Kill Shot a World Away

“When he was deployed in Iraq, ‘you land and there’s no more weapons on your F-16, people have an idea of what you were just involved with.’ Now he steps out of a dark room of video screens, his adrenaline still surging after squeezing the trigger, and commutes home past fast-food restaurants and convenience stores to help with homework — but always alone with what he has done.”