Please Don’t Start another Non-Profit

Chris Heuertz, who has been faithfully running an anti-trafficking organization for two decades, has some advice for young, social justice-minded Christians who want to start a organization that will do good in the world: Don’t.

Chris Heuertz

About 8-10 times a year I get random calls from sincere 20-somethings asking me for advice about the non-profit organization they want to start. Usually these new, innovative ideas are cause-driven organizations that aim to help victims of human trafficking or women and children caught up in the commercial sex industry.

I don’t want to be a dream-killer, but in nearly every one of these scenarios my advice sounds something like this, “Please do not start another non-profit.”

Seriously.

Here’s why:
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Should Churches Be Able to Build Anywhere?

The current home of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Minnetonka, in Wayzata.

According to a federal law passed in 2000, the answer is basically yes.  To wit, a Unitarian Universalist church in Wayzata, Minnesota has won an out-of-court settlement to build a new church in the middle of a residential neighborhood, against the objections of the City of Wayzata:

In a church-state dispute with echoes across the country, a Wayzata congregation has won its battle to build a new church in a residential neighborhood.

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Minnetonka will be allowed to tear down a house and build a church and parking lot in its place, according to a federal court-mediated settlement reached last week between the church and the city of Wayzata.

To underscore the church’s victory, the settlement also requires the city and its insurer to pay the church $500,000 in damages and attorney’s fees.

The 2000 federal law under which the church sued Wayzata, which effectively allows religious projects to trump local zoning restrictions, is being tested in a growing number of communities around the country. Cases resulting in victories for congregations have cropped up in California, Maryland, Colorado and elsewhere.

In its 2010 federal suit, the Unitarian church also charged Wayzata with violating its First Amendment rights to free speech and religious worship.

My question is this: In this day and age, is it appropriate for churches to be built in residential neighborhoods? There is so much commercially-zoned property these days, it seems to me that churches should be built in those areas.

In other words, isn’t it more neighborly for a church to build in a commercial zone than in the middle of a residential neighborhood?

A Christmas Song from Solomon’s Porch

The Bible Made Impossible: Part Three – The Fatal Flaw

This post is part of a three-part series on The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture by Christian Smith

The AilmentThe Cure – The Fatal Flaw

This is an extremely difficult post to write, primarily because I consider Christian Smith a friend.  I am a huge fan of his work, and I have admiringly cited him in almost all of my academic work.  Both his research and his theory are, I think, the very best in the sociology of American religion these days.

Also, I have stood in solidarity with him in the past as he struggled with the theology and policies of Young Life.  In fact, knowing something of his struggle in that regard, I am tempted to think that his struggles there led directly to this book.  And possibly to what I consider its fatal flaw.

Further, I think this is a very, very good book, and I’m glad that Brazos published it.  It is both well-written and well-researched, as are all of Smith’s books.

To summarize the posts of the last two days, Smith argues that biblicism, practiced by a large number of conservative evangelical Protestants in America, is an untenable position to hold.  It is, he argues, ultimately unreasonable.  For instance, biblicists claim that the Bible is without error, yet they seem unable to account for the myriad evangelical interpretations of a particular passage or issue in the text.

Instead, Smith proposes a christological hermeneutic, which he borrows from Karl Barth (by way of Jeff McSwain, who was at the center of the Young Life controversy).  In this reading, Christ is the key – Christ renders unimportant the contradictions in the Bible; Christ makes the archaic prohibitions in the Bible inapplicable (e.g., women should wear head coverings and stay silent in church); Christ and his salvific acts supersede all arguments about ancillary biblical issues and texts.

So far, so good.

But here’s the paragraph from the introduction where this all comes undone for me, and herein lies the reason that this post is so difficult to write:

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