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How do we change the world?

For much of my life, I held the opinion that Christians were wise to keep their noses out of matters of state and culture. After all, Planet Earth, along with its unsavory inhabitants, is headed to hell in a handbag. A literal hell, with flames and tears and gnashing teeth.

Therefore, we should spend our limited time wisely, plucking souls from the gas-soaked Louis Vuitton before the match is lit, moving as many people as possible from lost to found.

What is the point of pushing social and political change in light of the reality of hell, to make the ride a little more comfortable?

How valuable is a vote or a tiny carbon footprint when eternity is crouching around the corner? Christians should be planting churches, not running for office or helping Al Gore combat Global Warming. Right?

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was operating from an Either/Or worldview, either focus on the culture or focus on God’s kingdom. But much of the faith experience—much of life in general—is actually Both/And.

Grace and Truth.

Justice and Mercy.

The Here-And-Now and The Hereafter. 

John Piper says that “Christians tend to be in two camps: Caring only about suffering now or caring only about suffering in eternity.”

Sadly, for years I proudly pitched my tent at Camp Eternity—not that Camp Now is a better alternative.

Ignoring eternity to clean up the present is like dressing someone up for a car wreck.

So, what is the proper approach? Read More…

Takeoff and Landing and Life

Flying—sitting in a tiny chair suspended at 30,000 feet—has a way of narrowing my focus to important matters; it puts me in deep thought. I think about the loved ones I left safe on the ground below; I worry that they’re worried.

I think about deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot that can form in the legs of frequent flyers and, according to an article I once read in an in-flight magazine, aspirate to the lungs and cause death. But, mostly I think about life.

It’s fragile and painful and wonderful.

To me, flying highlights the experience of living. It represents the journey, the ups and downs, the turbulence of the everyday, the shared vulnerability with complete strangers.

The most beautiful metaphor for life I have experienced on an airplane was on a flight to Pensacola, Florida a few years ago. My mother sat on the aisle, my wife in the middle, and I sat by the window on a crowded plane headed south.

Tanya, my wife, does not enjoy flying, but her least favorite part is the takeoff. And as the pilot issued final call and headed towards the runway, I felt Tanya’s fingers clamp around my knee, eyes shut, teeth clenched. The faster we went, the more she tensed up, and as I looked over to comfort her, I noticed my mother placing her hand into Tanya’s sweaty palm, giving her something else to squeeze.

Eventually, the plane leveled out and reached cruising altitude and Tanya’s fear subsided. However, when we approached our destination, as the plane drew closer to the ground, fear set in again, but this time not for Tanya.

My mother’s neck stiffened and she forced her head deep into the headrest and closed her eyes, preparing for impact. Tanya, calm and alert, noticed this and, without hesitation, reached for my mother’s hand. She held it until the plane landed and slowed to a stop.

The roles had reversed. In less than two hours, the comforted became the comforter, and vice versa. Read More…

We don’t need more Christian Music

As I write this, the world is buzzing with frantic anticipation for the arrival of music’s biggest night.

Somewhere, right now, Lady Gaga is being lowered into some kind of pre-civil war, steam punk inspired Transformers costume. Nicki Minaj is sifting through a Skittles bag, searching for the perfect wig color.

That’s right, the Grammy Awards are upon us. Millions of viewers will tune in to see which of their favorite artists will be awarded for their recent musical endeavors. They are looking forward to live performances from some of the world’s most talented individuals.

I am one of those viewers. For a long time I had no interest in the Grammy’s or popular music. It seemed like any pretty face with a gym membership and functioning vocal cords could get a record deal. Lately, there seems to be a resurgence underway, people shifting back to an appreciation for musicianship and strong lyricism.

Great bands like Mumford & Sons have gone from playing small festivals to packing out stadiums. This doesn’t make the hipsters happy, the ones who knew them before they were big, but I love it. I love music.

Having grown up in a religious context, I am well aware of the dividing line that splits many Christians between what we call “Christian” and “Secular” music. I have never done too well with this line, but I understand it. Much of the music that exists, regardless of genre, is pathetic. Degradation of women. Celebration of crime. Promotion of infidelity and promiscuity.

My parents didn’t want me singing along in celebration of these things, and I respect that. The solution? Listen to “Christian” music. It’s wholesome.

But while “Christian” music is void of sex and drugs and stickin’ it to the man, for me, much of it is void of originality, art, and honesty. There are exceptions, which I will cover later, but I have felt this way since childhood. Read More…

Abortion. I know. It’s a tough topic.

I’m surprised you even clicked the link. Abortion is one of the most polarizing topics in history. Whether you call it murder or mother’s choice, you are generally advised to keep it to yourself. Take your issue to the ballot box, but keep it off the table. Right?

Well, since this blog is committed to hanging out at the intersection of theology and culture, and since this past Tuesday was the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, here goes nothing.

I have attached a 30 minute audio clip of a sermon by Matt Chandler, Lead Pastor at The Village Church in Dallas, Texas. Wherever you sit in the debate, I think you will find this talk thought provoking. I hope you’ll take the time to listen.

Life (Matt Chandler)

Since I know many of you will choose not to listen, I am including some highlights from his sermon below.

He opened up discussing the tragedies at Sandy Hook and Penn State. It is important to note that he was by no means minimizing the events.

“I contend to this day that we would have been shocked, but we would not have nearly been as undone if he had simply shot the adults.”

“We really dug in because, for us, the soft spot in American culture is our children. Don’t touch our kids. We’ll change the laws about it. We’ll relook at how we’re handling health about it. You can’t do it. It’s the one thing that really brings us together and makes us collectively have a desire for justice.”

“… to see our absolute outcry over thirty children who were abused (Penn State) or murdered (Sandy Hook) and the lackadaisical, non plugged in, non concern about 53,000,000 abortions that have occurred since Roe v. Wade in 1973.”

On arguments in favor of abortion: Read More…

149 Less Slaves

I recently shared a documentary on [theo]culture about the mission to rescue more than 27 million men, women, and children from a life of slavery.

That’s right. Slavery.

It isn’t just a dark era is history past. Today, in this country and abroad, people are purchased and sold like animals.

Most of us are oblivious. We’re too busy checking Facebook. And the major news outlets, with the exception of CNN, would rather talk about Lindsay Lohan’s latest bender than bring attention to this modern-day tragedy.

Thankfully, there are organizations on the ground actually making a difference. International Justice Mission, one of the organizations behind the documentary, released some encouraging news this weekend.

With the help of affiliate human rights group, Jana Jagriti Kendra, 149 men, women, and children were released from captivity in Hyderabad, India. You can read the full article here.

The men and women shared how they had been physically beaten and forced to work 18 to 22 hours a day – sleeping for an hour or two and then resuming their back-breaking work in the brick kiln. A pregnant woman told how she had pleaded for rest when she was pregnant; instead, she was kicked by her manager. One man had raw wounds so deep that the bone showed through. Read More…

3 Ways NOT To Handle Theology

theology

: the study of religious faith, practice, and experience; especially : the study of God and of God’s relation to the world

It is one of those topics that makes many people uncomfortable. Like politics, theology is, by nature, divisive; most of the time there is no middle ground and it forces people to choose sides. Ironically, it often brings out the worst in people.

Still, I believe theology is necessary. In fact, I believe it’s unavoidable. Each of us has an opinion on God, or is in the process of forming one based on study or experience.
In light of that, here are 3 ways not to use theology. There are many more, but let’s start here.

1. Theology as a weapon

I’m right. You’re wrong. Nana-nana-boo-boo! is cute in the mouth of a child, but when it comes from an adult, a supposed “mature” follower of Christ, it’s devastating, especially with the thought of Heaven and Hell looming in the distance.

Regardless of your seminary training or lack thereof, your take on eschatology, or whether you’re a Presbyterian, a Complementarian, or a hardcore Vegetarian, if your message is wrapped in pride it will be ineffective. Even worse, it will be repulsive.

Quoting scripture to prove points and establish belief is great.I recommend memorizing this one first:

Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. (Ephesians 4:15 NLT)

At some point, biblical truth has to flow from the mind (knowledge) to the heart (love for others) and out through the hands and feet (service and generosity). Read More…
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