Religious groups, regardless of their theology, provide assistance to millions who are unable to help themselves. Without religiously motivated volunteers, we would have scarcely any volunteer sector at all.Read the whole article, but it is something to think about, isn't it? Meanwhile, N.T. Wright takes a look at US Christians; from the Atlantic:
Green [interviewer]: But if you’re talking to young people today, and you’re trying to introduce them to what Christianity is, they may say, “Okay, fine and well, in the horrible world of ancient Christianity, where it was a terrible thing to be a woman, sure, I can see the case for a restricted sexual ethic. But we live in a different time now.” How do you bridge that divide, and address the pain people feel?Read the whole thing; most refreshing. On the other hand, seems Grudem has changed his mind on abusive relationships, but for the wrong reasons.
Wright: With constant difficulties. The primary means of communication of the Gospel, I think, is through the communities that are living it, and by people saying, “Wow, that’s interesting. They seem like really nice people, what is it about them, and they were so helpful when the baby was sick, and we just like having them as neighbors.” And then it turns out it’s because they’re followers of Jesus.
It’s in that context that it makes sense to talk about Jesus. Part of the trouble is that we’ve lived in a split world. People talk about this heavenly Jesus, who may be a savior and will come down and rapture us or whatever, but he doesn’t have muddy feet: He doesn’t live in our world. He isn’t weeping with those who weep on the ground now. Followers of Jesus are called to be those who, as Paul says in Romans 12, rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.
A careful reading of Jesus’ teaching on divorce reveals that the welfare of women (and, by extension, their children) was of central concern. When the Pharisees asked Jesus in Matt. 19:3, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”, they were asking him to weigh in on a longstanding debate among Jewish teachers. And they posed their question precisely as men seeking to preserve male prerogative in a patriarchal society. In essence, they were asking, “Do we have the right to put aside our wives whenever we want, for any reason?”Yep. As much as I'm a fan of knowing the original languages, that can't be an end in itself, which leads to this interesting post on Bernard of Clairvaux, via theLab:
One need not think very long about this to realize the serious problem with men thinking they are free to abandon their dependent wives for any reason. Such a scenario puts already vulnerable women and children in an even worse situation—literally one of life and death.
As usual, Jesus knows the motivations of his interlocutors, which is why his response to them is so firm: “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery” (vv. 8-9). No, Jesus says. You cannot set aside your wife any time, for any reason. Adultery is the only reason for which you are excused in abandoning your God-given obligations to your wife.
We see here that the protection of the vulnerable party in the relationship—in this case, the wife—is Jesus’ primary focus. And that focus drives his instructions to the Pharisees regarding divorce.
Bernard’s brilliance is not his use of so-called critical methods but in the fact that, as a monk, he had prayed, read and studied the Sacred Scriptures so intently that his vocabulary is literally a biblical vocabulary. Bernard’s words are imbued with the words of Scripture. Bernard’s thoughts are rooted in the biblical text. In his own sermons, he speaks in such a way that almost every sentence has an echo of the Bible. In this way, we know that Bernard was absolutely awash in the Bible. He was a good biblical scholar because he was wholly immersed in the Word of God.Not a bad idea. And while we're doing that, let's also be open to voices from unexpected places:
I don’t mean to identify a Huldah, Deborah, or Miriam already on the American religious scene. But if we’re going to learn any lesson from these biblical histories, it’s that time and energy spent legitimating those in power would be better spent listening for those who speak truth to power. If we dare to seek a historical type, let it be a Daniel, not a Cyrus; a Nathan, not a David; a Huldah, not a Josiah.Here is a good post on oil and money and what the descendants of Rockefeller et al. are doing to roll back the mess their forbearers started.
Ron Sider, never one to avoid controversy, has a good list of questions to ask Democratic candidates.
And, if you can get past the front-loaded rhetoric, here is a good post on the ethics of self-driving vehicles and AI in general and whether we will trust it or not. From First Things.
David Fitch has a good post titled "On Living in These Antagonistic Times: Leading the Church to Be Christ’s Reconciling Presence" on Catalyst, which is a site worth bookmarking.
I just ran across this today, but the Wesleyan in me cries to hear it.
As we blogged about, working class Americans also have the lowest marriage rates, the highest percentage of single parenthood, have been most devastated economically by outsourcing jobs overseas, have the highest rates of drug addiction, and tend to live in blighted communities. All of this means a decline in “social activity,” which includes going to church.Ouch! And what about the humanities? Lots of arguments about what direction to take them. Here's a post in favor of "vocationalizing" them; and here's a post saying somewhat the opposite. As that network of propaganda used to say (do they still?), "we report, you decide"—although I hope I don't present just one side the way they do.
Again, though, Berge documents that this social collapse and the gap between income levels has happened only recently (“since the mid-1990s”).
So the question remains, what happened to cause this?
And what can churches do to reach this biggest demographic of the unchurched? Lower income people are typically not hostile to Christianity, and many, including those who never go to church, consider themselves Christians. They are quite reachable. But today’s church growth strategies focus on attracting middle class suburbanites, well-educated Millennials, and other groups with lots of money. But, as I said in my earlier post, “The white working class is a field ripe for harvest. What is the church doing to harvest them?”
And a week wouldn't be complete without some technology going for evil. Can't seem to find that hot new item online? Maybe a Grinchbot bought it.
I won't link to the multiple Amazon-related posts that I read this week; too depressing. But, it does drive home the fact that when you worship money ($11 BILLION in profit last year), you will do anything to make more, including using people. And that brings me to the closing link, to a book entitled, of all things, Cheaters Always Win. From the description:
“Cheaters only cheat themselves,” so satisfying as a phrase, leads to nowhere. The one covenant that is in no way implicit, the deal that individuals have with themselves, is an impression left by their sense of morality. Being so deeply personal, it occupies a wide plain, impossible to see or to map. For that reason, the great religions leave it to someone more qualified, someone ethereal, to judge whether a person has cheated him- or herself. If Mr. X’s sole desire on this mortal span is to pile up money and he manages it by nefarious means, observers would be presumptuous in the extreme to suggest in a weak and yet hopeful voice that he had only cheated himself. In the flintier world of this study, we can’t say if Mr. X cheated himself, but we can certainly accuse him of being blithely aware that he was going to rook others, even before he did so.Did you catch that? “Cheaters are fully aware in advance that they are going to stomp on someone else and they do it anyway.” Ouch! It isn't an unintended consequence. It's part of the plan to get ahead. And on that note: Have a good weekend and week! (And stay optimistic because God is always at work in unexpected ways, as more than one of these posts makes clear!)
The corollary is less often heard, perhaps because everyone already knows it, probably from experience. It tends to remain in the system a long, long time. It’s terribly un-catchy. The corollary: “Cheaters are fully aware in advance that they are going to stomp on someone else and they do it anyway.” That epithet is the second defining factor of cheating.