Weekly Meanderings

Our favorite tree in Safety Harbor

Dave Dunbar, in his monthly entry to Missional Journal: “A sabbatical from politics–that’s what I proposed in the last Missional Journal. In light of what James Davison Hunter has termed the “politicization of nearly  everything” it seems wise for the church to recalibrate its approach to cultural  engagement. In spite of three decades of political activism, we have seen little  return on investment. In fact, if we accept the basic assessment of sociologists  like James Hunter and David Kinnaman, our enlistment in the culture wars  has subverted the power of the gospel.”

In effect, Michelle invites us to take a sabbatical from “branding.” And then read this one too: “As I did, I heard the soft, lyrical lilt of an African accent. Then the British-tinged English of an Indian couple. The carefully-selected syllables of an Asian gentleman. The different colors of American English spoken by people who’d grown up in places other than Chicago. Ribboned throughout the book of Revelation, there arementions of multitudes from every nation, tribe, people and language standing before God. All see him for who he really is; all bow the knee; and a song of gratitude rises from those he is redeeming. When I pray with a group like the one I prayed with last night, it brings the unspeakable beauty of God into time and space.”

Jay Bakker’s interview at Patheos, and he pokes me … and himself in the same breath.

Rachel Held Evans on women speakers at conferences. Two suggestions: write to them and complain, and don’t attend such conferences.

Jim Martin: “There is nothing like receiving the sweet love of a child, no matter the age. Yet, the reverse is also true. There is sometimes no pain like what you can receive at the hand of a child.” And then they grow up, and we mentor them into the faith … Derek posts about what he’s teaching to the young adults of his congregation.

CAS, that one makes me dizzy.

Michael Hyatt’s post about writing a blog post. His approach varies a bit from ours — his focus on making it scannable isn’t high on our list at all.

Daniel Kirk sums up the Bible’s central narrative question: “Thus, the question the whole biblical narrative must answer: will God’s plan–God’s plan to have humans rule the world, enthroned as the kings over God’s kingdom–come to fruition, or will Satan, in the end, prove too powerful?” Yes, indeed, and a little more of Israel’s Story in that question.

Pete Enns, Jesus, Kierkegaard … and Allan. You’ll have to read it.

Rob, that’s my favorite bird. I’ve never seen a Bohemian, though.

We in the BTS Dept at NPU are proud of our BTS grad-musician Becky Johnson — listen to her music if you get a chance. Awesome. (And here’s Willow’s singers’ blog.) (OK, not a little proud of the number of North Parkers on our worship teams.)

How Chicagoans reserve parking spots on the snowy streets.
Don’t even think about moving one of those chairs!

Meanderings in the News

1. Tamar Lewin: “The emotional health of college freshmen — who feel buffeted by the recession and stressed by the pressures of high school — has declined to the lowest level since an annual survey of incoming students started collecting data 25 years ago.” But … “The annual survey of freshmen is considered the most comprehensive because of its size and longevity. At the same time, the question asking students to rate their own emotional health compared with that of others is hard to assess, since it requires them to come up with their own definition of emotional health, and to make judgments of how they compare with their peers.” And this shifts everything: “While first-year students’ assessments of their emotional health were declining, their ratings of their own drive to achieve, and academic ability, have been going up, and reached a record high in 2010, with about three-quarters saying they were above average.”

2. Judge Vinson in Florida on our national health care plan: “In his 78-page opinion, Vinson, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, offered the most lengthy consideration to date of the legal questions at issue. Specifically, he agreed with the states’ argument that a person’s refusal to buy health insurance does not amount to economic activity and is therefore beyond Congress’s power to regulate under the Constitution’s commerce clause. Attorneys for the government have argued that since virtually everyone will need health care at some point and that, because hospitals cannot turn away patients who cannot pay for emergency care, people whodo not obtain insurance are effectively making an economic decision about how and when they will pay for that care. Instead of paying now through insurance premiums, they are choosing to pay later, either out of their own pocket, or by passing the cost on to hospitals, governments or paying patients. Because this decision, when taken in the aggregate, has enormous impact on the health-care and insurance markets, the government contends that Congress is entitled to regulate it.”

3. Science and Faith, narrowly defined: “A Pew Research Center poll on science offers some complex answers to these questions. On the one hand, scientists topped the list of professions who contribute to the well being of society (70% “a lot”), handily trumping clergy (40% “a lot”). More than 8-in-10 (84%) said science has had a mostly positive effect on society and has made life easier for people (83%). Moreover, 6-in-10 Americans, including majorities of all major religious groups, believe government investment in research is essential for scientific progress. Yet this same poll found that a majority (55%) of Americans say science and religion are often in conflict, and 36% say science sometimes conflicts with their own religious beliefs. A majority of white evangelicals (52%) and more than 4-in-10 (44%) Catholics agree that science sometimes conflict with their religious beliefs. But looking below the surface, it turns out that the conflicts are limited to specific terrain. Among Americans who acknowledge a conflict between their religious beliefs and science, one area of conflict stands out: evolution (41%). Americans’ views on this subject are telling. Roughly one-third (32%) believe living beings have evolved due to natural selection, 22% believe a supreme being guided the evolutionary process, and about one-third (31%) they have existed in their present form since the beginning of time. The data suggests that the new science initiatives should find strong general support among religious Americans as long as they steer clear of the issue of evolution.”

4. Ross Douthat: “In “The Looming Tower,” his history ofAl Qaeda, Lawrence Wright raises the possibility that “America’s tragedy on September 11 was born in the prisons of Egypt.” By visiting imprisonment, torture and exile upon Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Mubarak foreclosed any possibility of an Islamic revolution in his own country. But he also helped radicalize and internationalize his country’s Islamists, pushing men likeAyman Al-Zawahiri — Osama bin Laden’s chief lieutenant, and arguably the real brains behind Al Qaeda — out of Egyptian politics and into the global jihad.” But as he goes on to say: “Unfortunately, Middle Eastern politics is never quite that easy. The United States supported Mubarak for so long because of two interrelated fears: the fear of another Khomeini and the fear of another Nasser. Both anxieties remain entirely legitimate today.” And then this: “Sooner or later, the theories always fail. The world is too complicated for them, and too tragic. History has its upward arcs, but most crises require weighing unknowns against unknowns, and choosing between competing evils. The only comfort, as we watch Egyptians struggle for their country’s future, is that some choices aren’t America’s to make.”

5. Mona Charen says it will get worse: “The men and women on the streets of Egypt’s cities have been inspired by the example of Tunisia and the hope of a better life. But the Muslim Brotherhood has been preparing for this day for decades. As Michael Ledeen’s grandmother warned: “Things are never so bad that they can’t get worse.”

6. Nick Kristof on standing with the people of Egypt: “All of this presents the White House with a conundrum. It’s difficult to abandon a longtime ally like Mr. Mubarak, even if he has been corrupt and oppressive. But our messaging isn’t working, and many Egyptian pro-democracy advocates said they feel betrayed that Americans are obsessing on what might go wrong for the price of oil, for Israel, for the Suez Canal — instead of focusing on the prospect of freedom and democracy for the Egyptian people. Maybe I’m too caught up in the giddiness of Tahrir Square, but I think the protesters have a point. Our equivocation isn’t working. It’s increasingly clear that stability will come to Egypt only after Mr. Mubarak steps down. It’s in our interest, as well as Egypt’s, that he resign and leave the country. And we also owe it to the brave men and women of Tahrir Square — and to our own history and values — to make one thing very clear: We stand with the peaceful throngs pleading for democracy, not with those who menace them.”

7. David Brooks: “The Obama administration’s reaction was tardy, but no worse than, say, the first Bush administration’s reaction to the uprisings in the Baltics and Ukraine. The point is, there’s no need to be continually wrong-footed. If you start with a healthy respect for the quest for dignity, if you see autocracies as fragile and democratic revolts as opportunities, then you’ll find it much easier to anticipate events.”

8. Mark Bittman: “Here are some ideas — frequently discussed, but sadly not yet implemented — that would make the growing, preparation and consumption of food healthier, saner, more productive, less damaging and more enduring. In no particular order:…”

9. Reuters: “Anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks has been nominated for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, the Norwegian politician behind the proposal said on Wednesday, a day after the deadline for nominations expired.”

10. Matthew Lee Anderson: “If Sanders accomplished only that, The Deep Things of God would be a notable contribution to the burgeoning literature aimed at helping evangelicals become more thoroughly Trinitarian. But he goes a step further, arguing not only that evangelicals need the Trinity to make sense of the gospel, but that we need it to make sense of ourselves as well. Our current evangelical milieu notwithstanding, Sanders writes that “evangelical Christians have been in reality the most thoroughly Trinitarian Christians in the history of the church.”

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  • Regarding the Pew Center Poll, I’m shocked that scientists are overwhelmingly listed as contributing more to society than pastors (as a scientist myself). Why then the discrepancy between taking the “goods” of science and then thinking scientists are lying regarding evolution? We can’t steer clear of evolution. But I think we do a disservice by focusing on it so much while at the same time ignoring so many other important and potentially controversial scientific findings.

  • Lying is a bit strong… let’s go misrepresenting instead. Okay, now I feel better… 🙂

  • Maybe the sabbatical from politics is not a bad idea for us. I really struggle on that one, because what are you to say to those who are sold out to one or the other political side and make it known? And how can one not speak out on issues like health care, etc.?

  • Daniel

    Good advice from Dunbar. I regularly back away from the political battles and it really does help my spiritual life and perspective. I don’t like what I start to sound like when I have a steady diet of politics.

    Not everyone can do this, of course but most of us just tune into the cable news channels and surf to our favorite political web pages out of habit.

  • rjs

    Rachel’s post is interesting. Lack of credential likely plays a role – but not completely. Many credentialed women take other paths … getting back to some of the discussion on last week’s meanderings.

    Submissiveness, ghetto culture, and expected ‘voice’ … yes, but ghetto culture (pigeon-holed into “women’s ministries” etc.) and expected voice play a substantially larger role than submissiveness. Even in the secular academy successful women have been pigeon-holed into specified areas, many of the earlier generation got into the game by focusing on women’s studies type issues. Others got into the game by gravitating toward fields or subdisciplines where the number of women reached a critical mass. It is interesting though – this expectation of voice and attitude. I had been speaking with a man about my age at church and it was fine that I am a scientist, even a professor, as long as I was in a “soft” science … (biology, synthesis etc.) … when he found I teach quantum mechanics (for example) it was too much, he gradually started avoiding me because it challenged his expertise and sense of self-worth (superiority).

    The last point Rachel raised is interesting – actually I disagree a bit with her conclusion. Those groaning men need to be reminded constantly – although the voice and demeanor of the complaint needs to be carefully tailored to achieve the desired goal. The comfort level of the “old boys” needs to be challenged and their awareness raised.

    But there is a bigger issue to add to her list … mentoring, mentoring, mentoring. And this includes opening doors and making opportunities for one’s “proteges.” No one succeeds in a vacuum. It is hard to break into the game when one doesn’t really understand the rules and has no guidance.

  • DRT

    Chairs grow on the streets in Pittsburgh too.

  • tscott

    Steer clear of evolution…..so similar to the approach in the last century of steering clear of television and the movies. The meaning of intension in natural selection and memetics is evolving. As has been the case throughout centuries, the creative Christians are to be Catholic(Tielhard, Girard, et.al.) or the geese in Kierkegaard’s story who slim down and launch from the congregation.

  • rjs

    In a sense scannability is on my list … not with bullet points and numbered lists, but in readability, formatting, and outlining the major points (bold face, italics, etc.). Make the post easy to read and easy to follow. (I don’t often manage to stick to 500 words though … even comment #5 above is 300.)

    Whether I succeed or not, and how often, that’s another question.

  • Hannah

    Regarding women speaking at conferences, a woman who writes a book and blogs does not equal we want to hear you speak at a conference. I will choose to attend a conference based on the topic and the quality and depth of the speaker.

  • cas

    Scot, I read and liked the Baker interview last week, but I didn’t like what he said about you, in part because I recalled reading some condescending words about you from McLaren a while back … something to the effect that you only stay in the evangelical fold to minister to us poor schmucks. Was that before or after you supposedly wrote unkind things about him?

    Oh, and thanks for the link to my crazy agenda!

  • rjs


    No books and blogs don’t = good speaker. Topic, quality, and depth make a difference. But this is where mentoring and practice really come into play. In general good speakers (or preachers) aren’t born to it – they learn and grow. (“Tiger mom” had it right – you have to practice and work to be good at anything, and it isn’t “fun” until you are good at it.)

    Be miraculously good and we’ll listen (maybe) – this is the message to women, but not to men.

    Moody recently took over the only nearby seminary here – where a friend of mine is studying. The woman in his class (grandfathered in when Moody took over), I am told, was removed from the chapel speaking schedule and was no longer allowed to practice.

  • Susan N.

    Favorite link this week: Jay Bakker’s interview with Timothy Dalrymple. “Fall to grace” — I like the paradoxical, upside-down sound of that. That the flawed faith of Jay’s youth has been redeemed makes me happy and hopeful. This is one witness who is cheering him on! Go Jay, Go God!

    Related to a couple of other links in this week’s meanderings — namely, Dave Dunbar’s Sabbatical From Politics and Rachel Held Evans’ Women Speakers at Conferences (or lack thereof), I refer to the closing paragraph of the Jay Bakker interview, in his own words:

    “By no means do I see myself as a part of the solution. I might be a part of the problem. It’s hard to know when to speak and when to hold your tongue, or when to take a stand and when to keep your peace. Does it help when someone like Scot McKnight writes what he wrote about Brian McLaren? Or does it create an us-versus-them environment? Or does it help when I write critically about Mark Driscoll? We believe very different things. How do we allow the truth of those differences to be out there in the open, without falling into warring camps? In the midst of our differences, we must become more of a church, more of a body. How do we do that?”

    In theory, purposing to disengage from politics (church and state) sounds so nice. There’s a fine line between staying informed of current events and becoming too immersed and overzealous about the outcome. Frequently, when I’m quietly minding my own business, the politically-aggressive types are making it their business to be “in my face” in a provocative way. Being really honest here, it takes an enormous amount of energy to stay connected with these types of people and be gentle and gracious.

    Moving on to Rachel’s suggestion not to whine and groan and nag about the problem of few women in high-profile, leadership positions, I’m not sure it is healthy to remain silent altogether. I tend, at this point in my life, to favor honest, open dialogue about a problem. Pretending it doesn’t exist, hoping it will just go away, and “bearing up” under the burden has rarely proven helpful in my personal experiences or in looking at historical periods where change was desperately needed.

    Back to Jay Bakker’s closing thoughts… So difficult to know what to say and when to be quiet. No doubt it is always a good thing to stay humble — remembering that we could always be wrong/don’t have all the answers at any given moment, be willing to say, “I’m sorry…I was wrong.” And, be forgiving of others who have made the same mistake. “Forgive us, Lord, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

  • Scot McKnight

    cas, I haven’t heard about that or seen anything in print about it.

  • cas

    It was a good while back Scot. I’ll try to find it and send you the link via email.

    Since readers are so kindly clicking over to my blog, please take a minute to give me your opinion on this post regarding the Planned Parenthood sting operations. It’s called “What Place Deceit in the Abortion Debate?”:


  • Pat Pope

    Scot, is that for real with the chairs?? Too funny.

  • Susan N.

    cas @ #10 – Ha…Count me as one “poor schmuck” who is grateful for Scot’s books and JC blog/community. I also like Brian McLaren. Though I don’t always agree with everything, I greatly appreciate the spirit in which the truth is spoken by both. Gentle and gracious words…peacemaking words…that’s what I generally “hear” from both.

  • Scot McKnight


    Covert news snooping is not right. The deceitfulness disturbs the world of truth where honesty and trust must obtain for society to work.

    Having said that, what results from such deceit deserves serious attention.

    I saw that news report, didn’t follow it carefully but am grateful you have taken up the issue.

  • scotmcknight


    Real is not strong enough. Moving someone’s chair creates rumbles if not more.

  • Benj Petroelje

    Re: Hunter’s call to faithful presence and a sabbatical from politics … I am in the middle of Steinbeck’s “East of Eden” right now and came across this brilliant line, “Aron was content to be a part of his world, but Cal must change it” (345).

    The context is two boys stumbling upon an anthill – Aron lays down for hours observing the “economy of the ground” while Cal “[kicks] it to pieces.” Obviously the quote above is saying somethind deeper than mere anthills.

    So in light of Hunter’s call to a sabbatical and my reading in Steinbeck, which is better – being a part of our world or changing it? (Don’t intend a false dichotomy here – but I am intrigued by Steinbeck’s “question”)

  • cas


    First,I could not find anything either that McLaren had said about you beyond his rather gracious response to your CT book review, so it is possible I read condescension into that response. My recollection is that I had read something condescending in a written interview, but I retract, given that I can’t find it.

    Second, I agree that the facts that the Planned Parenthood videos bring to light are disturbing. However, I reject utilitarianism as a pro-lifer and that position extends to how we advance our arguments.

  • DRT

    A couple items

    There was a abortion clinic sting in Richmond VA (near me) and the stingers are being downright dishonest in their accusations. My local NPR did a thorough story on it.

    rjs said mentoring (a few times). I have to add my voice to that from a couple perspectives. First, I believe that it is the duty of women who have made it to organize other women and tell them how they did it, what the challenges are that they face and provide a role model to them. Most of the literature out there is male oriented and women have unique conditions. This is partly why I get so upset by heiarchial gender religious groups. For women to get a fair shake we need to be go over the top helping them, not make it harder.

    Second point on mentoring, all women looking to fulfill their desires should go out to women who have made it and get their advice. You deserve to be helped! And seriously, the best way to get someone on your side that is in a higher position is to go and ask them their advice about what you are doing. They will begin to have an interest in you and that is exactly what is needed. This works for guys too, but that’s another point.

  • RJS,

    Saw an article awhile back about the most emailed stories and they were often longer ones about science. No reason to keep it short if what you write is of good quality, which your always is.

  • Christine

    So, what’s with the chairs?? It’s okay to save parking spots in this manner – i.e., no legal consequences? What am I missing? We’ve had major snowstorms where I live, albeit rarely, but haven’t witnessed this phenom.

  • DRT

    Christine, not sure if you saw up higher, but in Pittsburgh they used to do the same thing (not sure if they do now since I left).

    What else would you use?

  • Christine

    DRT, yup, but I don’t understand why it’s necessary to ‘save spots’ along streets to park cars. Why isn’t it a first-come, first-serve situation? Do folks do this during ‘normal’ weather when they’re gone for the day so that they have a place to park at night? And if not, what makes it okay to do so during the snow?

    Seems weird to me, but I don’t doubt that folks get irate if their chairs are moved!!

  • scotmcknight

    They save them because they shoveled them out.

  • Christine

    Okay, Scot, now I get it.

  • EricW

    From Dalrymple’s interview with Jay Bakker:

    When I was about 20, I told a friend of mine, D. E. Polk, that I thought and felt as though God hated me.

    That should be “Paulk,” not “Polk.”


  • Pat Pope

    Scot, I just saw a detailed story on this practice in our Sunday paper. One woman had her tires flattened years ago for taking someone’s spot. Whoa!

  • Diane

    I want to add my voice to those here saying that women need to feel free to speak up and speak up plainly about not being invited to speak at conferences. It’s a red flag when the word “nag” or “whine” is used in relation to women. Those terms are demeaning words we associate with spoiled children. Women voicing an opinion or asking for a place at the table are not nagging or whining. We never say that Jesus nagged or whined about the Pharisees. We don’t say that Martin Luther nagged or whined about the Roman Catholic Church. Intelligent adults speak truth to power or confront injustice. Those who belittle them betray their own immaturity.