The Gospel according to Glenn Beck

Hundreds of thousands of Americans attended Glenn Beck’s rally at the Lincoln Memorial.   In the course of honoring veterans and cultivating patriotism, Beck said that he sensed that the rally would mark the beginning of a new revival, with America turning back to God.  Though a number of Christian leaders participated in the rally, leading prayers from the podium, the invocation of so much civil religion and the prospect of a religious awakening led by Mr. Beck, a Mormon, filled some Christians with alarm.  This is from Russell Moore, a Southern Baptist minister and seminary professor:

A Mormon television star stands in front of the Lincoln Memorial and calls American Christians to revival. He assembles some evangelical celebrities to give testimonies, and then preaches a God and country revivalism that leaves the evangelicals cheering that they’ve heard the gospel, right there in the nation’s capital.

The news media pronounces him the new leader of America’s Christian conservative movement, and a flock of America’s Christian conservatives have no problem with that.

If you’d told me that ten years ago, I would have assumed it was from the pages of an evangelical apocalyptic novel about the end-times. But it’s not. It’s from this week’s headlines. And it is a scandal.

Fox News commentator Glenn Beck, of course, is that Mormon at the center of all this. Beck isn’t the problem. He’s an entrepreneur, he’s brilliant, and, hats off to him, he knows his market. Latter-day Saints have every right to speak, with full religious liberty, in the public square. I’m quite willing to work with Mormons on various issues, as citizens working for the common good. What concerns me here is not what this says about Beck or the “Tea Party” or any other entertainment or political figure. What concerns me is about what this says about the Christian churches in the United States.

It’s taken us a long time to get here, in this plummet from Francis Schaeffer to Glenn Beck. In order to be this gullible, American Christians have had to endure years of vacuous talk about undefined “revival” and “turning America back to God” that was less about anything uniquely Christian than about, at best, a generically theistic civil religion and, at worst, some partisan political movement.

Rather than cultivating a Christian vision of justice and the common good (which would have, by necessity, been nuanced enough to put us sometimes at odds with our political allies), we’ve relied on populist God-and-country sloganeering and outrage-generating talking heads. We’ve tolerated heresy and buffoonery in our leadership as long as with it there is sufficient political “conservatism” and a sufficient commercial venue to sell our books and products.

Too often, and for too long, American “Christianity” has been a political agenda in search of a gospel useful enough to accommodate it. There is a liberation theology of the Left, and there is also a liberation theology of the Right, and both are at heart mammon worship. The liberation theology of the Left often wants a Barabbas, to fight off the oppressors as though our ultimate problem were the reign of Rome and not the reign of death. The liberation theology of the Right wants a golden calf, to represent religion and to remind us of all the economic security we had in Egypt. Both want a Caesar or a Pharaoh, not a Messiah.

Leaders will always be tempted to bypass the problem behind the problems: captivity to sin, bondage to the accusations of the demonic powers, the sentence of death. That’s why so many of our Christian superstars smile at crowds of thousands, reassuring them that they don’t like to talk about sin. That’s why other Christian celebrities are seen to be courageous for fighting their culture wars, while they carefully leave out the sins most likely to be endemic to the people paying the bills in their movements.

Where there is no gospel, something else will fill the void: therapy, consumerism, racial or class resentment, utopian politics, crazy conspiracy theories of the left, crazy conspiracy theories of the right; anything will do. The prophet Isaiah warned us of such conspiracies replacing the Word of God centuries ago (Is. 8:12–20). As long as the Serpent’s voice is heard, “You shall not surely die,” the powers are comfortable.

This is, of course, not new. Our Lord Jesus faced this test when Satan took him to a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the earth, and their glory. Satan did not mind surrendering his authority to Jesus. He didn’t mind a universe without pornography or Islam or abortion or nuclear weaponry. Satan did not mind Judeo-Christian values. He wasn’t worried about “revival” or “getting back to God.” What he opposes was the gospel of Christ crucified and resurrected for the sins of the world.

We used to sing that old gospel song, “I will cling to an old rugged cross, and exchange it some day for a crown.”  The scandalous scene at the Lincoln Memorial indicates that many of us want to exchange it in too soon. To Jesus, Satan offered power and glory. To us, all he needs offer is celebrity and attention.

Mormonism and Mammonism are contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. They offer another Lord Jesus than the One offered in the Scriptures and Christian tradition, and another way to approach him. An embrace of these tragic new vehicles for the old Gnostic heresy is unloving to our Mormon friends and secularist neighbors, and to the rest of the watching world. Any “revival” that is possible without the Lord Jesus Christ is a “revival” of a different kind of spirit than the Spirit of Christ (1 Jn. 4:1-3).

The answer to this scandal isn’t a retreat, as some would have it, to an allegedly apolitical isolation. Such attempts lead us right back here, in spades, to a hyper-political wasteland. If the churches are not forming consciences, consciences will be formed by the status quo, including whatever demagogues can yell the loudest or cry the hardest. The answer isn’t a narrowing sectarianism, retreating further and further into our enclaves. The answer includes local churches that preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and disciple their congregations to know the difference between the kingdom of God and the latest political whim.

It’s sad to see so many Christians confusing Mormon politics or American nationalism with the gospel of Jesus Christ. But, don’t get me wrong, I’m not pessimistic. Jesus will build his church, and he will build it on the gospel. He doesn’t need American Christianity to do it. Vibrant, loving, orthodox Christianity will flourish, perhaps among the poor of Haiti or the persecuted of Sudan or the outlawed of China, but it will flourish.

And there will be a new generation, in America and elsewhere, who will be ready for a gospel that is more than just Fox News at prayer.

Is this right?  Or too harsh?  Civil religion, I suspect, goes better with Mormonism than with Biblical Christianity.  So far the Tea Parties have avoided religious issues, sticking to economic and small-government issues.  Does the Beck rally herald a deepening of the movement, or the sell-out of Christians to an interfaith–and essentially Mormon–quest for political power?

HT:  Rich Shipe (one of those concerned evangelical pastors)

For IT help, go to the Bulldog

I’ve talked about Stewart Lundy, the Renaissance man who is equally adept at continental philosophy and the latest computer technology.  He has set up a business, Bulldog Technology.  If you need help with web design, your blog, your business computer needs, software solutions, or even fixing  your computer, consult with the Bulldog.  Seriously.  He’s good and so are the people he has working with him.   His prices are low.  The quality of his work is high.  Here he tells about his services:

// why we started
Bulldog Technology Solutions was formed to reconcile art and technology. For many, technology is worse than Greek, it is Geek, an obscure dialect known only by obscure technicians who jabber on unintelligibly and never really communicate much of anything. We aren’t going to give you a lot of tech babble. We aren’t going drone on and on about computer parts. We aren’t going to speak “geek” to you. We hope to provide you with dependable service at affordable rates so that you can trust your technology to serve you in the most effective manner possible.

// what makes us different
We promise to be prompt, efficient, and sensitive to your technology needs. We want to make your technology seem effortless. If we design a site for you, we want it to look good and to look easy. We will work to give you the most intuitive presentation possible so that you can use your technology better than ever before.

Price is the most obvious difference between us and our competitors. We charge less for superior service, more personable people, and more consistent care. We want you to get the most out of your technology. We want your technology to be secure, stable, and solid. For this reason, we offer maintenance services, security updates, and diagnostics. We want your computer to run faster, longer, and better than before.

// so what now?
Give us the opportunity to help optimize your technology. If you need diagnostics, repairs, or optimization, we offer the lowest prices you will find. We are the best computer company you could hire. We only have one reputation, and we are committed to keeping that reputation what it is: excellent. Your computer’s productivity will be increased after a visit from Bulldog Technology…we guarantee it!

Also the bulldog blog is a good way to keep up with the latest developments in online technology.

I invited Stewart to put an ad in the sidebar here. (He is the one who knows how to do that, not me!) So if you have IT or website needs, contact him. He has just gotten married and I figure he could use the work.

International adoption

Michael Gerson writes a moving column about international adoption:

Scott Simon — the sonorous voice of NPR’s “Weekend Edition” — has written a short, tender book about the two most important people in the world. At least to him. “Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other” recounts the arrival of his two daughters, Elise and Lina, from China, while telling the stories of other families changed by adoption.

Simon describes himself as skeptical of transcendence but as taking part in a miracle. “My wife and I,” he says, “knew that Elise and Lina were our babies from the moment we received their postage-stamp portraits. Logically, I know that’s not possible. But I also know that’s how my heart, mind and body . . . reacted to their pictures. . . . I would take the photo out of my wallet in the weeks before we left to get each of our girls and hold it against my lips to whisper, ‘We’re coming, baby.’ ”

It is an unexpected form of human affection — meeting an unrelated stranger and, within moments, being willing to care for her, even to die for her. The relationship results from a broken bond but creates ties as strong as genetics, stronger than race or tribe. It is a particularly generous kind of parental love that embraces a life one did not give.

International adoption has its critics, who allege a kind of imperialism that robs children of their identity. Simon responds, “We have adopted real, modern little girls, not mere vessels of a culture.” Ethnicity is an abstraction — often an admirable abstraction, but not comparable to the needs of a child living in an orphanage or begging in roving bands. Adopted Chinese girls are refugees from a terrible oppression — a one-child policy that Simon calls “one of the great crimes of history.” Every culture or race is outweighed when the life of a child is placed on the other side of the balance.

It is one of the noblest things about America that we care for children of other lands who have been cast aside. Simon recalls his encounter with an immigration officer in Chicago when bringing Elise to America: ” ‘When you cross that line,’ he said, ‘your little girl is a citizen of the United States.’ Then he put one of his huge hands gently under our daughter’s chin and smiled. ‘Welcome home, sweetheart,’ he told her.” This welcome to the world is one of the great achievements of history. After millennia of racial and ethnic conflict across the world, resulting in rivers of blood, America declared that bloodlines don’t matter, that dignity is found beneath every human disguise. There is no greater embrace of this principle than an American family that looks like the world.

Instead of undermining any culture, international adoption instructs our own. Unlike the thin, quarrelsome multiculturalism of the campus, multiethnic families demonstrate the power of affection over difference. They tend to produce people who may look different from the norm of their community but see themselves as just normal, just human.

Every adoption involves a strange providence, in which events and choices are random yet decisive. “Those of us who have been adopted,” says Simon, “or have adopted or want to adopt children, must believe in a world in which the tumblers of the universe can click in unfathomable ways that deliver strangers into our lives.”

via Michael Gerson – International adoption: From a broken bond to an instant bond.

Read the rest of it, including Gerson’s own personal story of the fruit of international adoption.

Go here to buy Simon’s book: Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other: In Praise of Adoption

St. John the Hensley

My newest grandson, John Peter Hensley, was baptized yesterday.  It happened to be on the commemoration of the martyrdom of John the Baptist.  Pastor Douthwaite preached a remarkably good sermon, tying both of those events together, linking John the Baptizer with John the Baptized.  Finally, he announced that just as we have St. John the Baptist, we now have, by virtue of his baptism, St. John the Hensley.

And as if that were not enough, throughout the sermon, he also tied everything into vocation.  A sampling (Adam and Joanna being his parents; Johnno being the Australian nickname for John):

Not all heard John’s preaching as good news. And Adam and Joanna, I can fairly surely say that you will not hear all of little Johnno’s preaching to you as good news – especially when he calls out to you at 3 am, calling you to your vocation as father or mother to come and feed him, or to change his diaper. But he will call out, whether you like it or not, because that’s his vocation right now, calling you to your vocation, and so being God’s gift to you. That you may serve as you have been served. That you may love as you have been loved.

You won’t believe how good this sermon is.  You have got to read the whole thing, which has more insights than I can summarize.  The sermon is posted here:  St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist Sermon.

St. John the Hensley

Color photos of Tsarist Russia

A Russian photographer used a complicated method to create color photographs way back before the Communist revolution.  The photos of Russia under the Tsar, dating from 1909-1912, are quite stunning, reminding us that history consists of real people, just like us.  See Russia in color, a century ago – The Big Picture – Boston.com.

 

How Netflix pays its employees

Have you heard about the compensation system at Netflix?:

The online movie service, which today launched an iPhone app for subscribers to watch TV and movies on the go, has no vacation policy at all.

That doesn’t mean Netflix doesn’t allow vacation. Rather, operating under the idea that its engineers and professionals should be treated as adults, Netflix allows salaried employees to take as much vacation as they’d like.

In story in Britain’s Daily Telegraph last week, Dan Pink, author of the excellent leadership book Drive, shares the scoop on Netflix’s flexible vacation rules. If they don’t get their work done, or simply turn in mediocre performance, the company is candid about their fate: “adequate performance,” reads a slide presentation on the company’s web site, “gets a generous severance package.”

That slide deck made its way around the Internet last summer, as out-of-work techies salivated over Netflix’s generous and flexible benefits and pay. But while most of the attention at the time–it was August, after all–centered on the company’s hands-off approach to vacation, Netflix’s way of compensating its employees is just as radical, if not more so.

The Los Gatos, Calif.-based company takes a market-based approach to pay, believing that to get the best employees, it must pay above-market rates. Rather than setting a new staffer’s salary against what his internal peers make–an approach many companies take–Netflix carefully studies what that person could earn at other companies in combined salary and bonus, and then sets their pay a notch higher. Then, end of the year cash and stock incentives are not paid.

While that’s a highly unusual approach, what’s really radical is what comes next. Employees get to choose how much of their total pay comes in cash versus equity. Risk-averse employees can take the safe route, requesting the entire sum in cash. Those who want to tie their fortunes to Netflix’s can take half of it in equity, or other combinations of cash and stock. “If you have a high performance team, with fully formed adults,” asked Netflix’s Chief Talent Officer Patty McCord when I interviewed her recently, “why are we being paternalistic about compensation?”

What Netflix is doing with both its vacation and pay policies is to make its in-demand engineers feel like rational, thinking adults. The company trusts them to make decisions, and to act in the best interests of both their company and themselves.

But by not paying an annual bonus, it’s also fostering the sort of environment that doesn’t encourage outsized risk-taking by employees doing whatever they can to meet their annual goals. That hardly means the company doesn’t wave any sticks: Netflix’s zero tolerance for mediocrity means employees are incentivized to keep their jobs at a company that pays them above-market salaries and treats them like the professionals they are.

via PostLeadership: Netflix vacation policy is only the tip of a radical compensation iceberg – Jena McGregor.


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