Saturday, December 21, 2019

In case you've been living under a rock this last week...

Christianity Today published an op-ed endorsing impeachment and removal of the current president. All that needs to be said was in that op-ed. Of course, the resulting onslaught of criticism is to be expected. When you put your hope in an idol, any idol, and that idol gets attacked, you fight back, right? That's what the Israelites did when Jeremiah confronted them. That's what happened to Amos when he confronted the Northern Kingdom. Of course, that doesn't make it any fun for the ones being attacked. Here's the final paragraph of the editorial:
We have reserved judgment on Mr. Trump for years now. Some have criticized us for our reserve. But when it comes to condemning the behavior of another, patient charity must come first. So we have done our best to give evangelical Trump supporters their due, to try to understand their point of view, to see the prudential nature of so many political decisions they have made regarding Mr. Trump. To use an old cliché, it’s time to call a spade a spade, to say that no matter how many hands we win in this political poker game, we are playing with a stacked deck of gross immorality and ethical incompetence. And just when we think it’s time to push all our chips to the center of the table, that’s when the whole game will come crashing down. It will crash down on the reputation of evangelical religion and on the world’s understanding of the gospel. And it will come crashing down on a nation of men and women whose welfare is also our concern.
Well said. Yes, I wish they had taken a stand years ago, but at least they did it now. Galli is well-aware that it probably won't make a difference in the general evangelical population. CT has always been a magazine for the evangelicals who tend to be more intellectually inclined.

Here's a couple responses that I would consider balanced: The Atlantic; John Fea has had numerous posts, but this one sums up the hypocrisy of certain "court evangelicals". I could link to others, such as Warren Throckmorton, but you get the idea.

The Anxious Bench reflects on Ron Sider and his influence. Summary statement at the end: "Ron Sider is still trying to evangelize the evangelicals."

Meanwhile, someone raised evangelical reflects on that heritage. Worth pondering. In my experience, people are always receptive to bringing up church history, the church fathers, etc. when explaining why a certain doctrine is the way it is, and why another one is incorrect. What they won't tolerate, though, is when I start drawing conclusions on how we should live based on those doctrines. In other words, keep it in the mind and you are fine. Touch my stuff, and you are in serious trouble. That seems to be a recurring theme, doesn't it? Genesis 3 anyone?

Speaking of that, remember the Wheaton professor who wore a hijab? Remember her name? I didn't think so; neither did I, but her life is slowly being put back together. A documentary is being made. Read the article for a small taste of what it must be like to be an Afro-American woman at an evangelical school who dares to say something less than acceptable to the alumni. Remember, for small evangelical schools, the alumni are what keeps the school afloat. As high as the tuition is at those schools, that doesn't pay the bills. Not even close. And the endowments aren't huge. I know; I went to one: Asbury College (now University). And over the years, I've watched the alumni at other small schools force those schools to give "the left boot of fellowship" to professors who said things they didn't like. Didn't matter whether what they said was true or not. Of course that shouldn't surprise us, should it? The Old Testament prophets wouldn't win any popularity contests, would they?

But the US evangelical scene isn't the only evangelical scene in disarray. Brexit, the never coming, never going away issue for the (un)United Kingdom has evangelicals there in disagreement.

And speaking of the UK, my favorite Classicist, who happens to have been born on my birthday (only a few years earlier), Mary Beard, reflects on the current status of higher education. Many good points there; do read it.

As long as we're in academia, how about a feel-good piece? Times Higher Education (THE) asks "Is there still a place for kindness in today’s harsh academic environment?" And then gives personal testimonies by academics on how little acts of kindness went a long way when they were just starting out. I'll have more to say on that next week (I hope) as I recount a couple from my past. Meanwhile, be sure to check it out; here's a taste:

This act of academic kindness occurred some years ago, but I only heard about it recently, from its beneficiary. She was teaching part-time at my university when, at short notice and in the middle of the marking season, she was shortlisted for a full-time post at another institution. Two of my colleagues—one a full-time lecturer, the other part-time herself—took all her marking off her so that she had time to prepare for her presentation and interview.

In their book On Kindness (2009), Adam Phillips and Barbara Taylor argue that kindness is now seen as “a virtue of losers”. They attribute this to the ascendancy of free-market individualism, which has cultivated competitiveness and mistrust and led to “a life of overwork, anxiety, and isolation”.

If they are right, then kindness should also be endangered within the university. The new managerialism urges us to see ourselves as hard-nosed entrepreneurs competing for awards, grants and research time, while also making us feel that no amount of success will ever appease the gods of compliance. It makes the modern university not so much a cruel as a callous place, one where feeling harassed and stressed makes us thoughtless and self-absorbed. We are rarely unkind on purpose, but being unkind by accident usually has the same effect.

What is remarkable, though, is the doggedness of our desire to be kind. There is still room in academia for what A.H. Halsey, in The Decline of Donnish Dominion (1992), calls “commensality”, which literally means sharing a table and which he uses to mean that intangible sense of collegiality on which we thrive. Universities would grind to a halt without these millions of small, inconspicuous acts of goodwill.

On that same hopeful note, here is a nice advent meditation. A small excerpt, but it's a short enough piece you should read the whole thing:
Instead, Jesus completely disregarded the idea that the woman or himself were defiled, inherently capable of defiling others, or needed separation from others. The woman wasn’t an obstacle to overcome on his way to arguably more important tasks, nor was she an object of defilement he had to protect himself from. Jesus instead acknowledged and blessed her publicly then went on his way unflustered, undeterred.
Paranoid? Think you are being followed? Well, you probably are, but it's that smartphone in your pocket that's doing the following. And the data are being monetized to target you with ads for stuff you don't need, but probably think you want. Read this. Of course, I doubt you'll give up your phone (I won't), but at least consider turning off tracking on as many apps as you can. And, remember that the ads you see are designed to own you. You read that right. They aren't just trying to part with your money; they want your soul. They want you to buy into the lie that without stuff you are less a human.

OK. This is getting long, but I have three more links, all tied to bad practices by the current administration (and in one case, the past two administrations):

You've been lied to about the war in Afghanistan. OK, you already knew that, or at least suspected it. But the real crime is

The lack of accurate statistics should bother us, just as the misrepresentation of them should disturb us even more. But the greatest outrage over these numbers is the fact that the United States never seriously considered that they needed to document the loss of Afghan lives in the first place.

We need to stop and pause at this reality because within it is the entire reason why the war has become the disaster that it is today. The United States never cared about counting the bodies of dead Afghans caused by the war they started. They didn’t count the dead, they didn’t count the wounded, and they didn’t count the displaced or traumatized.

They didn’t count the Afghans because the Afghans didn’t count.

As Christians, that should bother us. 'Nuff said there. Next, the new rules about sexual assault on campuses. What? I can't even begin to describe how wrong that is. Ask any rape counsellor about that idea. Want the number of reported assaults to go down without actually doing anything to prevent them (and possibly even encouraging more!)? They just wrote the ticket.

Final link. The FCC is stealing part of the radio spectrum set aside for improving car, bicycle, and pedestrian safety and giving it to, wait for it, Facebook and other commercial entities. As if you don't already check your Facebook status too much! Here are the bullet points, but read the whole article for more details:

The FCC recently announced it was reducing the airwave spectrum for vehicle-to-vehicle communication in cars.

This technology is supposed to reduce the amount of car wrecks by communicating from car to car things like speed, acceleration, hard braking, and red lights.

The move could set back the forward movement of vehicle-to-vehicle or vehicle-to-infrastructure communication in the U.S.

On that note, I'll end. This world is a mess, but Jesus is the hope. Someday, he will come back and set things straight, but in the meantime, we are called to live in love to our neighbors, praying for them and assisting them. All this can only happen by the power of the Holy Spirit living within us and through us. Don't forget that and fall into self-righteousness and pride—or despair that you don't reach some goal.

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