Whatever happened to the working class?

When I was in college, I worked on a construction crew, and it did me a lot of good.  I developed a lot of respect for the guys I worked with, who worked with their backs and their hands with skills that were far beyond me.  Politicians used to talk quite a bit about “the working class,” also known as “blue collar workers.”  But no more.  Even liberal democrats are pushing policies that are supposed to help “the middle class.”

Part of the problem may be that the working class considers itself middle class.  And with good reason:  A factory or construction worker may well own his own home, have a car or two, and have other accoutrements once associated with the middle, college-educated class.  Such are the wonders of the modern economy.  And yet, unemployment, the decline of American industry, stagnant wages, and other economic woes are hitting blue collar workers hard.  But hardly anybody is speaking for them or about them anymore. [Read more…]

How pastors and other leaders deal with inner chaos

There are lots of books about leadership, particularly leadership in churches.  The book that won the Award of Merit (2nd place) in the category of Christianity & Culture in the Christianity Today Book Awards, goes much deeper than most.   Mark Sayers, in Facing Leviathan: Leadership, Influence, and Creating in a Cultural Storm, shows how leaders–that is to say, pastors–are often caught up in battling their own inner chaos.

In his discussion, he also shows why so many leaders (pastors) adopt an anti-establishment, neo-bohemian mindset in insisting on changing the institution they are trying to lead.   But the book is not a critique, as such, but a very personal treatment of its author’s own experience as a pastor, one that will be of great help to other pastors and leaders, burnt-out or otherwise, trying to do their best for the people following them.

After the jump, see the mini-review I wrote about the book as one of the Christianity Today judges. [Read more…]

T.S. Eliot as inventor of the Hipster

Literary scholar Karen Swallow Prior is kind enough to credit me for mentoring her through graduate school.  I’m proud to see that she has become a “public intellectual,” writing regularly for both Christianity Today and The Atlantic.  You have got to read her essay about how the whole mindset of the hipster is captured in T. S. Eliot’s “The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock.” [Read more…]

The case for a North American century

Many have been saying that  America is in decline, that our political, cultural, and economic contributions are slipping. China, some say, is the up-and-coming nation.  Others say that the age of the dominant world power is over.

But an op-ed piece by former General David Petraeus and Brookings Institute researcher Michael O’Hanlon say that the United States, in partnership with Canada and Mexico, has economic and demographic advantages over all comers that may make for a “North American Century.” [Read more…]

The dissolution of religious institutions

In an article about a prominent non-denominational pastor who has decided that he needs to go to seminary, the writer, Michelle Boorstein, discusses  non-denominational churches as an example of the larger phenomenon of “the dissolution of religious structures.”

Now we usually think of the decline of religious institutions in our culture in terms of fewer people going to church, the rise in the number of “nones,” the general climate of secularism, etc.  But this suggests that Christians too are complicit in the decline.  [Read more…]

Luther, Madison, and the Two Kingdoms

Rev. Matthew Harrison, the president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, discusses a letter President James Madison sent to a Lutheran pastor in 1821 upon reading one of his sermons:

It is a pleasing and persuasive example of pious zeal, united with pure benevolence and of a cordial attachment to a particular creed, untinctured with sectarian illiberality. It illustrates the excellence of a system which, by a due distinction, to which the genius and courage of Luther led the way, between what is due to Caesar and what is due God, best promotes the discharge of both obligations. The experience of the United States is a happy disproof of the error so long rooted in the unenlightened minds of well-meaning Christians, as well as in the corrupt hearts of persecuting usurpers, that without a legal incorporation of religious and civil polity, neither could be supported. A mutual independence is found most friendly to practical Religion, to social harmony, and to political prosperity.

 President Harrison then goes on to give a very clear and perceptive explanation of the Doctrine of the  Two Kingdoms, which Madison was picking up on, which gives an alternative both to the view that the church should try to rule the world and the view that Christians should withdraw from that world. [Read more…]