When Christians Play Well with Others

I’ve got two articles elsewhere today. They carry the same title, but they’re a bit different. One is an OpEd in the Minneapolis StarTribune:

It may have been the jet lag, but a couple of articles in the Sept. 1 Star Tribune rubbed me the wrong way.

After 30 hours of planes, layovers and passport control lines, I’d returned home from Sri Lanka to see headlines and photos of Christians happily worshipping outdoors (“Summer in the Cities: Heavens above“) and Muslim worshippers being suspiciously watched and photographed by their neighbors (“Cities tread warily on holy ground“).

I am a Christian — a Christian theologian, not to put too fine a point on it — so I’m generally sympathetic to my coreligionists. But here’s what was striking: the Lutherans of Burnsville have been worshipping outdoors, unmolested, for four decades. Meanwhile, the Muslims of Bloomington, only seven months in, are under duress because they’re causing traffic problems in the neighborhood.

I visited Sri Lanka, the tropical island that hangs like an earring off the southern tip of India, at the invitation of World Vision. A Christian development and relief organization, World Vision is best known for its child-sponsorship program, and that’s what I was there to see.

The other is an article at Relevant Magazine:

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Death to Homeschooling!

I originally wrote this post in 2005, but it somehow didn’t make the migration from Blogspot to Beliefnet to WordPress to Patheos.

Like many people who have their first child approaching kindergarten age, I have been thinking about all of our options for next year: neighborhood public school, public French immersion, charter school, private school, homeschool.

But it seems to me that if I am truly committed to living a missional life, then I must enroll my kids in the public school. That is, I am committed to living a life fully invested in what I might call the “Jesus Ethic” or the “Kingdom of God Ethic,” and also fully invested in the society — in fact, you might say that I live according to the Kingdom of God for the sake of society.

In his seminal work on education, Democracy and Education (1916), John Dewey made this point. In an increasingly industrial/technological society, Dewey argued, we learn in order that we may be able to learn. In earlier times, one could learn what it means to be a blacksmith, for instance, by apprenticing under a blacksmith; by the end of the apprenticeship, one had learned pretty much all there is to know about making the metal glow red hot, pounding it into a horseshoe, and sticking it into the water (remember seeing that on an elementary school field trip?).

But things change too fast now for that kind of result-oriented education. Now we must learn how to learn so that we can adapt to our ever-changing environment (ever tried to teach your parent or grandparent to use a computer or an iPod?).

Similarly, formal education was formerly for the societal elite. But in a democracy, education is for all, with the understanding that the more educated we all become, the more humane we will be toward one another (this, of course, is open to debate).

So it seems to me that to withdraw my children from public education is to not play my (God-given) role as a missional member of society — like I can’t just choose to withhold my taxes. We give our children all those vaccinations when they’re young not necessarily to protect themfrom polio (since the chances of any one of my children getting it is exceedingly small) but because we live in a society, and part of the contract within the society is that we will never again let polio gain a foothold.

So I can’t think, “I’ll just pull my kids out of the public schools — what difference will one less follower of Jesus make in a school full of hundreds of kids?” I don’t, as a Christian, have the option to “opt out” of the societal contract. Instead, I live under a mandate to be the most involved, missional societal participant that I can be.

And one more thing. Dewey argues strongly that it is in the social environment that a child learns to learn. Here are the brilliant words of one of Dewey’s successors, George Albert Coe,

What education does is, in a word, to bring the child and society together. It increases one’s participation in the common life. It puts the child into possession of the tools of social intercourse, such as language and numbers; opens his eyes to treasures of literature, art, and science that society has gradually accumulated through generations; causes him to appreciate such social organizations as the state, and develops habits appropriate thereto; prepares him to be a producer in some socially valuable field of labor, and evokes an inner control whereby he may judge and guide himself in the interest of social well being.”

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You can find all of Tony’s books HERE, and you can sign up to be the first to know about his next book, Did God Kill Jesus? HERE.

Dems Pushing Their Chips to the Gay Side of the Table

This is in my front yard.

After years of trying to have it both way with LGBT voters — “We support you, but we can’t do it publicly because we’ll never win if we say it out loud” — it seems that the Democrats are going all in on the pro-LGBT vote. Last night was a coming out party of sorts for the DNC:

If there’s one group in the Democratic coalition that can definitely say the past four years have improved its lot, it’s LGBT voters, whose mood was triumphant at the start of the convention. Beyond the affirmation of marriage equality, the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the Obama White House has made a host of executive changes on everything from providing benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees to lifting the travel and immigration ban for people with HIV.

“I remember us being good Democrats … and the party telling us, not yet. Right?” Randi Weingarten, the openly gay president of the American Federation of Teachers, told the crowd as they murmured in agreement. “Well, ‘yet’ has come!” she said to roaring applause.

This is just another sign that the tipping point has been reached. And it is yet again up to congregations and denominations and plain old Christians to decide whether they want to be on the right side or the wrong side of history.

Why This Christian Will Always Own a Gun

My friend Bruce Reyes-Chow has proclaimed that he will never own a gun, and he’s encouraged all fellow Christians to sign a petition against gun violence. I won’t sign it, because I don’t sign petitions. Well, I do sign silly petitions. I don’t sign real petitions, because they’re silly. They don’t do anything. And Christian leaders are real fond of them.

But that aside, I own a gun now, and I plan to own one until I’m too old to take to the field and hunt. 

Bruce makes a half-hearted exception for “those who have grown up in a culture of hunting.” But that does not include me. I did not grow up in a hunting family. My love of hunting is my own, and I do love hunting. I started hunting in my 20′s, and I took it upon myself to apprentice under a friend from church who is an experienced hunter. He taught me several lessons that stay with me to this day.

- My gun has a trigger lock.
- My gun is stored in a locked safe.
- My shells are kept in a different place from my gun.
- My children do not know where the shells or either of the keys are.

Also, when I’m hunting, I am absolutely militant about hunting safely — minding my muzzle, unloading before approaching a road or coming back to the truck to take a break — and I will only hunt with others who practice gun safety.

But, of course, this isn’t what Bruce is writing about. He’s writing about gun violence in our society. And in that I agree with him, even as I sit in a Sri Lankan hotel and watch BBC coverage of yet another shooting in America, this time at a shopping mall in New Jersey.

Bruce is writing about people who use guns, not to hunt, but for self-defense. He writes,

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