June 29, 2018

From Steve Carter, teaching pastor at Willow Creek. Thank you for this public apology (and more can be read at the link).

Last night, I had a chance to share with the Elders what has been on my heart.
 
On Wednesday, Scot McKnight wrote a post expressing concern that a profound injustice has been done regarding the women who made allegations against Bill Hybels and the subsequent Elder process investigating those claims. I agree with this conclusion.
 
Specifically, I do not think it should have been said that the women were lying or that they were colluding against Bill and the church. I believe the women and applaud their courage.
I have personally reached out to and connected with several of the victims and listened to their experiences. I have made private apologies to several of the women and their families for the way they have been treated. I thank God for the opportunity to seek grace and forgiveness from these individuals.
I recognize that I am not blameless in this. I take full responsibility for my actions that contributed to the injustice that was done to these women. I should not have been on stage for any of the family meetings, to pray or lead any part of those nights. I believe now that what our church needed initially was to practice transparency and repentance, to grieve, and to reflect on what Jesus was inviting us into and to listen to the Holy Spirit. I wish I had done more to prevent the hurtful statements that were made, and to advocate more forcefully for what I believe would have been a more humble and Biblical approach.
June 16, 2018

Hello from Italy! (And thanks to JS for alerting to some of the links below.)

Yes, Emily:

The way my experience played out makes sense within the culture that shaped me. Of course, the principles about gender and sex that we absorbed in SBC institutions and broader evangelical culture were not explained as principles. Instead, they made up an invisible web of discourse within which we learned to negotiate.

If the first thread of that web is that women’s bodies are sex objects and male-female relationships are always sexually fraught, then more of the threads could be summarized as follows:

A woman exists primarily for the benefit of the men in her life, typically her father or her husband. A woman who senses a calling apart from those roles needs to figure out how her calling complements and supports the calling of her husband. The husband’s calling, gifting, and agency takes priority over the wife’s. And this reality must be prepared for and practiced in the dating relationship. The man leads; the woman follows. (No mention was ever made of women who may not feel compelled to get married or who are not attracted to men at all.)

Men are inordinately preoccupied with and tempted by sex. Because this is their fundamental nature as men, it is the woman’s job to ensure she protects the men in her life from her body. This principle is in tension with the one stated above. In a dating relationship, the woman does not lead but she is primarily responsible for their sexual purity.

A woman cannot say yes to any sexual act before marriage. Thus, any sexual activity before marriage is shameful and makes the woman “used goods”. (Ask any girl who attended an evangelical youth group in the 90s and she’ll be able to tell you stories of being compared to chewed up gum, used duct tape, filthy water, and more.) There was no distinction made between sexual abuse and consensual sexual acts despite the fact that, statistically speaking, one in four women have been or will be victims of sexual assault in their lifetime. Any sexual activity—wanted or unwanted—outside the bonds of marriage is shameful and something for which you will suffer in the future.

A woman cannot say no to sex after marriage. A married man has the right to have his sexual desires satisfied. And a married woman’s role is to satisfy the sexual desires of her husband. Therefore, a married woman should not say no to sex except in extraordinary circumstances. The underlying assumption here is that if she submits, performs, and willingly cooperates with her husband in bed, then the sex will be enjoyable for both partners and he will not become addicted to pornography or commit adultery. In the event that either of the latter scenarios come to pass, then it might be because the wife was not fulfilling her husband sexually. (I have heard men blame the wives of celebrity pastors for their sexual indiscretions more times than I can count.)

If a man harasses, assaults, or rapes a woman, she might bear some responsibility for it. A man’s sexual desires are not easily controlled and it is a woman’s responsibility to protect the minds of the men she interacts with. Perhaps she was in a place she shouldn’t have been, wearing what she should not have worn, saying things she should not have said, or doing things she should not have done. This is born out in one of the stories in the Patterson case: A student at Patterson’s seminary who told him she’d been raped was later disciplined for being in the man’s room.

Again, these principles were and are rarely stated in the explicit way I have outlined above. Nevertheless, they were the ideological water within which many of us learned to swim.

All of these threads in the web of the evangelical sex and gender discourse would be harmful enough on their own, but they are typically paired with one overarching axiom: Men are ordained by God to be leaders in the church and the home and women are to submit graciously to their leadership.

It is this last one—divinely ordained deference to male authority—that helps explain the stories emerging from Patterson’s tenure at both Southeastern and Southwestern seminaries. When joined with overarching male headship and a “touch not the Lord’s anointed” (Ps. 105:15) view of the pastoral office (and all of its derivatives), the sex and gender discourse that exists within SBC and American evangelicalism easily leads to the perpetuation and concealment of harm against women. Certainly, I know plenty of men who hold to male headship who do not endorse the other principles outlined above. Yet, the tangled discursive web remains in place, and women and men are continuing to suffer.

Yes, Eleesha:

As the Patterson abuses were coming to light, I couldn’t help but think back to the devastating revelations about a sexual predator from a very different theological tradition, John Howard Yoder. In early 2015 (how long ago that feels, in scandal-years!) the Mennonite Quarterly Review laid out the case against the revered pacifist theologian, who had violated more than 100 women over the course of several decades. Every part of the story was awful—the violations, the years of cover-ups, victims not heard or believed, powerful men excusing each other’s worst behavior.

As with Patterson, Yoder’s egregious acts were already known (though not to their full extent) by insiders, but the urge to protect a hero, an institution, and theological insights deemed true and critically important drowned out the cries for justice. Until the cries broke through—and even then, the defensive urges rose up.

He might have failed privately, but he did great things for our church, people said about Yoder, and Patterson, and Bill Hybels, and Andy Savage.

He didn’t live up to his own theology, but that theology still stands on its merits, people said about those guys, as well as about figures as varied as Karl BarthPaul Tillich, and Martin Luther King, Jr. I’m sticking to 20th and 21st century Protestantism because that is the field I know best, but countless other examples could be cited from other time periods and Christian traditions as well.

McGowin is absolutely right that Patterson is fruit of a poisonous tree, and cutting him down—while a good and necessary step—will accomplish little unless the rotten branches are pruned and the source of the poison located. The same warped gender ideology that supported Hybels and Savage would fall to this pruning, but what about Yoder and the others? Is patriarchy so deep-seated in Christianity that it cannot be rooted out? On the other side of this question, what good fruit might be lost if we take this particular axe to the Christian family tree? Not all of these figures, or their ideas, seem to belong on the same burn pile, even though they all abused women. …

Emily Hunter McGowin articulated this position vis-à-vis Patterson, and she’s not alone. Other men and women are similarly calling for broader and deeper investigation, believing that Patterson’s abuses of women are inseparably connected to complementarian theology and the power plays that he and his proteges used to take over their denomination.

This assumption of a systemic problem also proved necessary in Yoder’s case. Theologians who admired him were loath to shelve his insights, eager to separate the scandal from the theology. But eventually, four of them wrote, they had to ask themselves,

what do we do with the places where Yoder’s actions were consistent with his theology? We must be willing to consider the possibility that in pursuing these relationships with other Christian women, Yoder just might have been applying his radical theology, though in ways the rest of us had, to his mind, not the courage to imagine.

Feminist theologian Cynthia Garrity-Bond wrote even more forthrightly,

I believe the weight of an accused theologian’s sexual charges must be brought to the foreground before, during and after examination of their writings. Using a hermeneutics of suspicion let the student wrestle with the weight of said theologian and their sexual misconduct. Absent a full disclosure and examination, only a false exegesis is given.

I heartily concur with McGowin that “this tangled mess of misogynistic axioms … must be rooted out and disposed of—within the SBC and American evangelicalism as a whole.” I only wish we could stop there. The roots of this problem are deep, the branches are wide, and the fruit is sickening.

J.L. Bell on what “bear arms” means:

Last month Dennis Baron, a professor of English and linguistics at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, published an op-ed essay in the Washington Poston the language of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

Two new databases of English writing from the founding era confirm that “bear arms” is a military term. Non-military uses of “bear arms” are not just rare—they’re almost nonexistent.

A search of Brigham Young University’s new online Corpus of Founding Era American English, with more than 95,000 texts and 138 million words, yields 281 instances of the phrase “bear arms.” BYU’s Corpus of Early Modern English, with 40,000 texts and close to 1.3 billion words, shows 1,572 instances of the phrase. Subtracting about 350 duplicate matches, that leaves about 1,500 separate occurrences of “bear arms” in the 17th and 18th centuries, and only a handful don’t refer to war, soldiering or organized, armed action. These databases confirm that the natural meaning of “bear arms” in the framers’ day was military.

Lawyer Neal Goldfarb checked more variations of the phrase in the same databases and came to the same basic conclusion.

In the 2008 Heller case, as everyone involved in this discussion knows, the U.S. Supreme Court decided otherwise. Writing for the court, Justice Antonin Scalia treated “bear ams” not as an idiom with a military meaning but as a general phrase about carrying weapons.

The data shows otherwise—hardly anyone in the eighteenth century used it as Scalia did. As with the Reynolds case I wrote about here, the court’s finding is simply at odds with historical facts. The Heller ruling overturned legal understandings that prevailed for most of the twentieth century and changed the law going forward, but such rulings can’t change the actual past.

The Second Amendment reflects the Founding generation’s faith in the militia system of community self-defense that they had all grown up with. It said nothing about private ownership of firearms to hunt, to protect one’s home or person, or to make loud noises. Perhaps they viewed those activities as falling under the Tenth Amendment. We can’t know because the Tenth is so vague.

That said, the idea of a militia in the Founders’ time depended on widespread ownership of firearms by the (mostly white) men who made up the militia. Even if we go back to reading “bear arms” to refer only to military activity, as the Founders no doubt understood it, they still envisioned a public self-defense system in which most white men owned muskets, trained regularly with those muskets, and knew which officers to turn out for while carrying those muskets.

I think the big question of the Second Amendment lies in its opening premise: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State.” We no longer have a militia system that the Framers would recognize. Instead, we have a large standing army with advanced weaponry, many of those troops deployed overseas—a situation that would startle the Founders, if not alarm them. If the premise of the Second Amendment no longer applies, what does that mean for the conclusion?

Thank you Amanda Southworth:

Sitting alone in a lifeguard tower watching the sun sink below the horizon, Amanda Southworth had a decision to make.

This Los Angeles teen, gripped by depression and anxiety, could continue on as she had, not eating, addicted to painkillers and attempting repeatedly to kill herself, or she could grab a lifeline and use her love of coding to save her own life and others.

On that chilly summer evening in 2015, she hatched the idea for AnxietyHelper, a mobile app that offers the resources she herself needed, and embarked on a journey of healing and recovery that has led to a career in the tech world.

“I can honestly say that technology has saved my life,” said Southworth. She says she hasn’t harmed herself or attempted suicide since. “When I found something greater than myself, I realized that I am not just a person with a life. I am a person who has something to contribute.”

Now 16, she’s dropped out of high school and last month started her own company — but not the way most young technology entrepreneurs do. Astra Labs is a software nonprofit funded by donors and a $25,000 grant from the TOMS Social Entrepreneurship Fund. She spoke to USA TODAY from Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose Friday.

Southworth’s commitment to creating mobile apps and other software that help others was reinforced this week. The deaths of designer Kate Spade and chef and television host Anthony Bourdain were grim reminders of the toll of suicide, the tenth-leading cause of death in the United States and one of three that is increasing, particularly for teens.

The suicide rate for white children and teens ages 10 to 17 rose 70% between 2006 and 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although black children and teens kill themselves less often than white youth do, the rate of increase was higher, 77%.

Southworth estimates she’s been mentally ill for more than half her life. She says she attempted suicide at least seven times.

Excellent interview about FB:

Many of us find ourselves worrying about trends that feel both potent and recent: a growing inability to distinguish between fact, opinion and lies, and a declining capacity for thoughtful, collective discussion. Someone who has reflected deeply on these issues is Siva Vaidhyanathan, Robertson Professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia. Trained in both history and American Studies, he brings the long view to the challenges of media, culture and democracy in the first decades of the 21stcentury. The author of five books, his first book on big tech – The Googlization of Everything — and Why We Should Worry – was published by University of California Press in 2011. His latest book – Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy, just published by Oxford University Press (go, UPs!) – couldn’t have come at a more important time. We spoke recently about the intricate relationship between media and democracy, and the critical role that cultural institutions – including scholarship, publishers and libraries – need to play in countering this pernicious hold on our attention….

You note that Facebook undermines efforts to deliberate deeply about important matters and talk about the importance of scholarship over the long-term. You finish with “a plea for a reinvestment in institutions that promote deep thought conducted at analog speed”. How would you like to see us step up to these challenges?

That’s a good idea regardless of whether or not Facebook was ever invented. But now the problem is more urgent – we need other ways for humans to learn about the world and interact with each other, healthier ways, less commercial and addictive ways. We should explicitly build out public forums, we should subsidize journalism, we should enhance our public support for universities, museums and libraries. We should promote and take more seriously the scientific project, which we now completely take for granted. We have to understand that historically the scientific enterprise is key to all the US has built. The leaders of the Peoples’ Republic of China get that and yet we seem to have forgotten. So, building up those institutions is crucial no matter what. But they’re even more crucial now that we have this direct threat to our ability to think, and that’s ultimately what we’re talking about here. There’s a frenetic process of distraction through our devices that draws us away from newspapers, magazines and books, out of conversations with smart people from whom we could learn. The lure and gamification of Facebook is a big part of that – it prompts us to reward Facebook for rewarding us, and that’s why it’s so addictive.

May 23, 2018

What Christian Women Want, By Leslie Leyland Fields, editor of the recently released The Wonder Years.

How did Beth Moore stay silent for so long? Humility, perhaps? Grace? By now, many have read the popular Bible teacher’s “Letter to my brothers,” posted on her Living Proof Ministries Blog on May 4. Sadly, her account of the treatment she’s received over the last three decades at the hands of evangelical pastors and leaders is all too familiar. Women like me, who attend, speak and teach in conservative evangelical churches, are accustomed to the excesses of complementarianism, the teaching that men and women are equal but have distinct roles in the home and in church.

Over the last four decades, I’ve been involved in churches where women were not allowed to pray from the pulpit, to serve communion, even to take the offering. Young boys could pass the collection plate, but not women. Though these churches were more than 50% women, only one woman was allowed on the board—as a secretary. In one church, someone asked me one year to run for that position. I wondered how that would work. With three graduate degrees and some formal theological training, I would have been the most educated person on the board, but I would be relegated to recording the decisions of the men rather than participating in them.

Another board member conceded to me that a woman’s voice could be helpful when making important decisions because we were “emotional,” and possessed female intuition, which helped balance men’s reason. This narrative continues. Ann Voskamp writes recently of her son returning home from a meeting at church where these very words were spoken. And no one challenged them.

For decades, I sat under the Bible teaching of men in church who knew little about the basics of hermeneutics. I sat under a pastor who took off with his secretary one winter, leaving the church in shambles. I sat under a pastor who was arrogant and dismissive of women. I recently spoke at a Bible college on discipleship from a book I had authored. Despite the fact that the book had won a respected award, because I was a woman, male students could not attend my session.

All of this is routine for women in conservative churches. But I have not been called a heretic, as Moore has. I have not been routinely undermined by pastors. I have not generated the kind of vituperative spirit directed against Moore. In some ways we could shrug it off as the price of fame. But it’s far more.

Even as her letter circulated online, a seminary student who runs a website dedicated to theology and “discernment” chastises Christian leaders for giving her the “silent treatment.” Instead, “you should have been roundly and loudly rebuked by every one of them.” This student goes on to say, “You are utterly unqualified to do what you do.” He concludes his rant with these gracious words:

“God isn’t talking to you. Stop saying He is. You sound crazy. If he is, you’d likely not be such a horrible Bible teacher. Be Gone.”

There are arrogant nutters in every field, and theology has never been exempt, but what is particularly striking is the meanness and the personalness of the attack. How is it that some men with such a high view of scripture have such a low view of women? His response validates and illustrates the heart of Moore’s plea:

“I came face to face with one of the most demoralizing realizations of my adult life: Scripture was not the reason for the colossal disregard and disrespect of women among many of these men. It was only the excuse. Sin was the reason. Ungodliness.”

A number of pastors and leaders responded positively, even apologetically. Pastor J.D. Greer, who is expected to be the next Southern Baptist president, expressed gratitude for her words and reiterated “misogyny must have no place in our churches.” Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile, issued a public apology to Moore, confessing his failure to defend her when others questioned her credentials and reputation.

“I’ve been in rooms where your name was mentioned with disparaging tone. And rather than ask a few basic questions…I said and did nothing. I wasn’t any different from Saul standing by holding clothes while Stephen was stoned,” he said.

Perhaps the most striking response came from Andrew Walker, the director of policy studies for the Southern Baptist’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission: “What amazes me about our failure toward our sisters is that the expectation for us is not even extraordinary. It’s simple decency, kindness, and respect.”

But as hopeful as these responses are, this is not simply a matter of male leaders cleaning up their courtesy. There’s more at stake than good manners. There’s a darker shadow, I believe, behind the “colossal disrespect” accorded to Beth Moore. The larger issue concerns male leadership in the church. But it’s complicated, of course.

I believe there’s an assumption that theology belongs to the professionals, which is another way of saying that theology belongs to men. The great majority of seminary professors and seminary students are men. In 2013, women comprised just 20% of students in evangelical seminaries. Fewer women attend seminary for obvious reasons: Pastoral and ministry positions are less available to women in evangelical churches. How do you bear the cost of a seminary education when full time employment upon graduation is unlikely?

A seminary education is expected, even required for most pastoral and leadership positions. This is reasonable and good. I want my leaders and pastors to be educated in Hebrew and Greek. I want them to be knowledgeable in Church History. I want them to study textual criticism, all that they may “rightly divide the word of truth.” A few years ago I was one of a few who voted unequivocally against a pastoral candidate because he lacked seminary training and exhibited an ignorance of hermeneutics. But in professionalizing the pastorate and leadership positions, I wonder if we have prioritized education and theology over character. I wonder if we have privileged knowledge over humility and the fruits of the spirit. And I wonder if we have unfairly disadvantaged women, to our collective harm.

Enter the outliers. When women like Beth Moore, Ann Voskamp, Rachel Held Evans, Jen Hatmaker, and others outside of the academy gain international prominence for their Christian books and teachings, they’re suspect. Their theology and their character are ruthlessly scrutinized, particularly since, gasp! they don’t possess a seminary degree or hold an office within a church. Rachel Held Evans writes about her encounters with patronizing seminary students:

I am not criticized; I am “lovingly corrected.”  We do not discuss where we agree or disagree; I am informed of what I got right and what I got wrong.  It’s not a peer-to-peer conversation; it’s a session of “pastoral counseling,” initiated by a man who is not, in fact, my pastor. 

Often and unfortunately these successful women are seen as rivals rather than as co-laborers. Yet when they began writing and teaching, they labored in obscurity, hoping not for fame and influence, but simply to be faithful to the gifts and calling they’d received from God. I count myself among them.

So here is what Christian women want: We want to partner with our brothers in Christ to follow Jesus as faithfully and as fully as we can. We want to fulfill the Great Commission given to all of us, “To go into all the world preaching the gospel, making disciples of all nations.”

I cannot claim that every woman’s motive is pure, nor can that be said of men, but even when men were preaching Christ “out of envy or selfish ambition” as others were doing while the apostle Paul was imprisoned, he rejoiced, because “The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.”  Are we rejoicing that “Christ is preached” by both men and women? Or are we wrestling jealously over gender and territory?

As I struggle to understand misogyny in the church, I have one more flickering light to shine on that shadow. I have argued before, in the context of transgenderism and LBGT rights, that the Church makes too much of gender. That we obsess over gender differences, gender roles and definitions of masculinity and femininity rather than moving together toward Christ-likeness. I make this argument again, but for different reasons. We’re living in the midst of unprecedented social shifts in men’s and women’s roles in the culture at large. Higher education and the work force were primarily the realm of men for centuries. Now women and men are equally represented in the work force, and women significantly outnumber men in higher education. In the recent Great Depression, women fared much better than men in both the workplace and education. Is it possible that these disorienting gender shifts outside the church are fueling the grip on gender roles inside the church?

And there’s part of the rub. Most of the popular authors and Bible teachers are functioning outside the church. They’re not operating under the authority of pastors and an ecclesial structure. Nor are these women observed in submissive roles to their husbands. Though their audiences and followers are almost exclusively women, I believe this makes some men dismissive, critical and anxious.

These days, I understand feelings of anxiety. Beth Moore’s candid account of decades of misogyny joins a discouraging lineup of news and headlines. Evangelicals are written off as a political lobby group rather than as a people committed to living out and sharing the good news of Jesus. Bill Hybels, one of the founders of Willow Creek and the godfather of the evangelical mega church movement, is deposed after a thirty year career of sexual allegations was brought to light. Paige Patterson, the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is under fire for allegedly advising wives to remain submissive to abusive husbands. The #MeToo movement is joined by #ChurchToo, where we read distressingly of sexual abuse that has happened within our churches in recent decades.

I don’t always know how to respond to these issues. But I suspect they are not unrelated. I suspect that at their heart they are bound up in the dark desires of ambition, pride, and power. How easily we forget that the power of the gospel is the power to love, to relinquish, to serve, to lay down our lives for one another, men and women both.

My own story of sexism and struggle ends happily and more definitively. My family and I joined another church. A conservative church where men and women pray from the pulpit. Where men and women collect the offering together. Where men and women serve the elements of communion.

I cried often that first year. Not because I was a woman. Not because I was more emotional than men. Not because I was the “weaker vessel.” I cried because for the first time, I felt fully included in the body of Christ. I felt fully human. Whole. That’s all Christian women want.

 

 

 

May 19, 2018

As we come to the completion of the Spring Term at Northern we also come to the end of the school year with meetings and events and completions and readings of DMin projects (I have fifteen, count ’em, graduates in our DMin in NT Context program graduating!), and add to that a wonderful time on Northern’s campus with Bishop Todd Hunter and the Telos Collective … lots of stimulating conversations.

Thanks to JS for so many links this week.

Peter Wehner:

Mr. Patterson’s comments are hardly the worst of it. Bill Hybels, the founder and senior pastor of one of the most influential churches in America, Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois, recently resigned after charges of improper conduct and abuse of power that he denies. The pastor Andy Savage recently resigned from his megachurch in Memphis after it was revealed that he had sexually assaulted a high school student years earlier. Les Hughey, the founder and pastor of another megachurch in Scottsdale, Ariz., resigned after several women accused him of sexual misconduct when he was a youth pastor in California decades earlier (conduct that Mr. Hughey claims was consensual). And the flagship evangelical magazine Christianity Today published a story in March by its editor in chief urging an independent investigation into Sovereign Grace Churches over allegations of sexual abuse and cover-ups that the network denies.

Complicating matters has been the rock-solid support of white evangelicals for President Trump, a man who has been accused by nearly 20 women of sexual misconduct and has a long history of misogynistic attacks; and for the losing Republican Senate candidate from Alabama, Roy Moore, who was accused of varying degrees of sexual misconduct by nine women, including one who was 14 years old when the alleged incident occurred. Watching all this unfold has been painful for many of us who have identified with the Republican Party and the evangelical movement for much of our lives.

However we feel about these developments, it is clear that large segments of evangelical Christianity have a serious problem related to women. It’s disturbing, in part because this is contrary to the early history of Christianity, which did so much to elevate and dignify the role of women in the ancient world.

Part two, Matthew Bates.

Question 3:

If the content of the “gospel” (euangelion) is Jesus’s story and “faith”(pistis) is best considered allegiance when speaking about what is necessary for salvation, then how does “justification by faith” fit?

The dikaio- word family in Greek stands behind English translations involving justification and righteousness. Dikaiosynē in Greek means “righteousness,” the quality of being legally just or innocent. Meanwhile the verb dikaioō (“to justify”) means somehow to cause that righteousness. Yet in English we must use an extra verb such as “to declare” or “to cause” to explain the verbal action connected to righteousness.

The “by” in justification by pistis (“faith”) describes the means or the agency by which justification is brought about. It involves both Jesus’s allegiance and our own allegiance. How so?

Jesus as the righteous one showed pistis (allegiance) to God the Father by dying on the cross. He did this so that we might then show pistis (allegiance) to Jesus as the king. This is why Paul says in Rom 1:17 that the righteousness of God is revealed ek pisteōs eis pistin (best translated as “by allegiance for allegiance”). When Paul says the righteousness of God is revealed ek pisteōs eis pistin he is saying that it is revealed first of all “by allegiance”—that is, by Jesus’s allegiance to God the Father in living an obedient life even unto death. Second, the “for allegiance” means for the sake of bringing about our allegiance to Jesus the king as we are united to him.

In this manner, Paul’s citation of Hab 2:4 in Rom 1:17 intends both Jesus and humanity in general: “the righteous [one] will live by pistis.” Jesus was the ultimate righteous one. He gave trusting allegiance to God, and he was raised, so he lives. The same is true for us when we are united to Jesus the king and follow the same pattern. We live because allegiance unites us to his resurrection power now and beyond the grave. It is just as Paul indicates, for both Jesus the king and for us in him, “The righteous one will live by allegiance.”

The gospel proper includes Jesus death for sins and his justification, as his resurrection is proof of his innocence. The resurrection proves God declared Jesus “not guilty.” Our own justification is not part of the gospel itself, but rather the effectof the gospel. We are united to Jesus the righteous one by publically declaring allegiance to him as the Messiah-King. Our own justification depends upon on-going union with Jesus the king. This allegiance (pistis) need not be perfect, for Jesus is the forgiving king, but it must be relationally embodied and externalized—for this is what pistis means.

Although it is imperative that the church never neglect the truth of justification by faith, it remains the most surprising false gospel of all. The gospel is not justification by faith. The gospel declares how Jesus became the atoning king. Allegiance to Jesus as the forgiving king is the only saving response to the gospel, and the premier occasion to express it is baptism. For allegiance alone unites us to Jesus the righteous king so that we are justified in him.

Sarah Thebarge, Smile!

Somehow my cancer treatments affected my ability to fall — and stay — asleep.  So I haven’t slept through the night in more than a decade.

I’ve tried everything — Ambien, Valerian root tea, melatonin, meditation — but nothing has helped.   So I’ve just lived with it.  Lived with anxiety at bedtime, wondering how much sleep I’ll be able to get before it’s time to get up in the morning.  Lived with fatigue that caffeine barely lifts.  Lived with giving myself pep talks when I get out of bed after having lay awake most of the night.

A few months ago, my insurance forced me to switch to a new oncologist.  I filled out a symptom survey at my first appointment.  Fatigue?  Check.  Hot flashes?  Check.  Joint pain?  Check.  Insomnia?  Check.

My oncologist asked me about each symptom, including insomnia.  When I told him I haven’t slept through the night since my mastectomy 12 years ago, he asked if anyone had referred me to a sleep specialist.

No, I said.  And I was a little embarrassed because I’m a health care provider, and I feel like I should’ve thought of that, but it never occurred to me.

A few weeks ago, I had a consult with a sleep specialist at UCSF who referred me to a sub-specialist and ordered some tests to see what’s going on inside my brain that’s disrupting my ability to sleep like a normal person.  At the end of the visit, he pulled a blank piece of paper from his desk, wrote something down, and handed it to me.

“This is your assignment,” he said.

The assignment was a single word:  “SMILE.”

I was baffled.  Why is an internationally-respected specialist who practices at one of the top hospitals in the U.S. critiquing my facial expressions!?  I thought, slightly offended.

When he saw my raised eyebrows, he began to explain.

“When you’re lying in bed and you can’t sleep, you get anxious, which releases adrenaline and cortisol, which make it even more difficult for you to sleep,” he said.  “So when you can’t sleep, instead of getting anxious and worried about the fatigue you’ll experience the next day, just smile.  It counteracts your stress response, and increases the likelihood of you falling asleep.” …

I also learned that most of us have the association backwards — we think happiness causes people to smile, but often it’s the opposite.  Smiling causes people to be happy.  Somehow changing our expression changes our mood and makes us more positive and hopeful.  It changes our biochemistry and our neurotransmitters.

AP:

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — One used to deal drugs on the streets of New Orleans. Another grew up in Chicago with two drug-addicted parents. A third survived the tough streets of New York and Washington, D.C., where he once stared down the barrel of a gun.

All three young black men became board-certified doctors.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Pierre Johnson, Maxime Madhere and Joe Semien Jr. said they knew the odds were stacked against them when they entered Xavier University of Louisiana in 1998 with hopes of becoming doctors. Black men make up a small percentage of doctors in America, and they knew getting through college and medical school wouldn’t be easy.

Their early lives, college struggles, and victories are chronicled in “Pulse of Perseverance: Three Black Doctors on Their Journey to Success.” They said they wrote the book to show African-American boys that athletes and entertainers aren’t the only examples of black achievement and success.

Madhere, an anesthesiologist in Baton Rouge, said they’re fortunate and have a responsibility to share their experiences with the next generation.

“Young boys need to know it’s not a game in these streets. They need to know that we are completely marginalized as people of color when we mess up. They also need to know you don’t have to rap or shoot a ball to get out of their circumstances,” said Madhere.

Semien, Johnson and Madhere each set a goal early on to become a doctor. Semien, an obstetrician/gynecologist from New Orleans who practices in Lake Charles, describes in the book how he became intrigued by a sixth-grade anatomy class. Madhere discovered his love for medicine after volunteering at a hospital. Johnson said he “just knew” he wanted to heal people after dealing with his parents.

Getting there, however, wasn’t easy.

Dan Rabb:

BEIT SAHOUR, West Bank (RNS) — Smiling as he sings, Pastor Danny Awad faces his flock with eyes closed and palms turned skyward. The 30 or so worshippers scattered across two narrow rows of benches clap or sing along as the synthetic drone of an electric keyboard hums out a song of praise.

“Hallelujah!”Awad says, still smiling, as the song comes to an end. He rests his hands on the lectern, looking comfortable in front of the wooden cross that stretches floor-to-ceiling on the wall behind him. He motions for the others to be seated and prepares to deliver his sermon.

At first glance, this airy little church, modestly decorated with artificial flowers and faded posters of New Testament verses, could be any evangelical gathering from Topeka to Texas. Sunday morning hymns spill out its open windows into the small pasture outside. One detail sets this small community of believers apart, however, and has made it something of an apostate within the global evangelical community: the Palestinian flag that hangs prominently from the pulpit.

This is not the heartland, but the Holy Land. The Baraka Bible Presbyterian Church, led by Awad, sits off the main road in the West Bank village of Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem. It’s an evangelical church that is proudly, defiantly Palestinian.

In the context of the Middle East, where “evangelical” has become political shorthand for conservative Western Christians with a distinctly pro-Israel orientation, the idea of a Palestinian evangelical can seem like a contradiction in terms.

Time and again, the Baraka Church has found itself caught in the conflict inherent in that moniker. The congregation broke off from its parent organization, the Bible Presbyterian Church, after a dispute over what Awad and others saw as the American church’s pro-Israel leanings.

Only Hauerwas:

No task is more important than for the Church to take the Bible out of the hands of individual Christians in North America.”

Perhaps the only surer way to enrage an American Christian than threatening to take the Bible out of his hands is threatening to take away his gun (no doubt, Hauerwas would bid both farewell gladly). Hauerwas wants to remove bibles from the pews because he is worried that individualism—the conceit of self-sufficiency—has thoroughly corrupted American Christians’ ability to interpret Scripture.

Lost in the smoke, American Christians “feel no need to stand under the authority of a truthful community to be told how to read.” This despite centuries, if not millennia, of church teaching that a rule of faith is necessary to preserve orthodox theology. In the end, it was not so much a commitment to Scripture that separated out the world-hating gnostics from those who worshipped God enfleshed, nor raw assent to scriptural authority that separated out the Arians from the Trinitarians. All sides used the Bible to make their arguments. In the end, it was the rule of faith, the pattern handed down across time by the apostles, that enabled Christians to interpret Scripture rightly.

By taking the Bible out of the hands of Christians, Hauerwas hopes to remind them that the Bible can only be read well when it is handed down. Interpretation, where it is faithful, always occurs within a tradition. As G. K. Chesterton would remind us, “Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead” (Orthodoxy). Hauerwas has no patience for individualism, for it denies the necessity of thinking with those who merely happen to be dead. But even more crucially than Chesterton’s point, individualism forgets that we are indebted to the dead, those whom the tradition gives voice, for collecting, preserving and passing the Bible, as well as its proper interpretation, along to us. We inherit a set canon from those who came before. Without the tradition, we would not have a Bible.

“I do not want students to think for themselves[.] I want them to think like me.”

At the beginning of a course, Hauerwas never fails to tell the classroom, with grinning candor, that his goal is not to make them independent thinkers but instead little Hauerwasians. His point, beyond quite literally desiring to make a peaceable army of minions, is this: we never think for ourselves; we learn to think by submitting ourselves to instruction by others. As John Maynard Keynes warned any would-be freethinkers, “practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist.” Individualism pretends as if humans were actually capable of independence, forgetting that we owe our life and our ability to think to others. Insofar as individualism is a refusal to submit to the authority and critiques of others, individualism is a refusal to think.

Together, individualism and liberalism eat away at the conditions and virtues necessary for community, leaving Americans incredibly lonely and without any story by which to make sense of their sad condition. As Jesus warns, when an unclean spirit is driven out of a man, “it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself … And the last state of that person is worse than the first” (Luke 11:24-26). So it is when liberalism drives out religious narratives from our self-understanding. Just as Legion is the name of the myriad demons Jesus drives out in Mark 5, Nationalism is the name of the many demons that have taken residence in American churches.

Elissa Nadworny:

A teenage brain is a fascinating, still-changing place. There’s a lot going on: social awareness, risk-taking, peer pressure; all are heightened during this period.

Until relatively recently, it was thought that the brain was only actively developing during childhood, but in the last two decades, researchers have confirmed that the brain continues to develop during adolescence — a period of time that can stretch from the middle school years into early adulthood.

“We were always under the assumption that the brain doesn’t change very much after childhood,” explains Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at University College London.

But that’s simply not the case, she says, and educators — and teens themselves — can learn a lot from this.

Blakemore has a new book, Inventing Ourselves, The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain — where she dives into the research and the science — and offers insights into how young adults are thinking, problem-solving and learning. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Cleveland Clinic and CVS:

The eyes have it — strain, that is. As our enthusiasm for using computers, tablets and smartphones grows, our eyes are paying the price.

Upwards of 90 percent of computer and device users experience a problem so common there’s a name for it: computer vision syndrome (CVS). CVS comes with symptoms such as decreased or blurred vision, burning or stinging eyes, sensitivity to light, headaches, and back and neck pain.

If these symptoms affect you, use these tips from ophthalmologist Rishi Singh, MD, to ease the strain and avoid the pain.

1. Adjust your viewing angle

The angle of your gaze plays a key role in CVS. For the best angle, the center of the monitor, tablet or phone should be 20 to 28 inches from your eyes and 4 to 5 inches below eye level. If you’re looking back and forth between a screen and reference materials, keep those materials where you can see them with minimal head movement.

2. Reduce glare

Letters on a screen are not as clear as letters on a printed page. Too little contrast between letters and background or glare on the screen makes your eyes work harder. The result: sensitivity to light. Position your screen to avoid glare from overhead lights or windows. Close the blinds on your windows or switch to lower-watt bulbs in your desk lamp. If you cannot change the lighting to minimize glare, buy a glare filter for your screen.

3. Rest your eyes

When using a computer or device for an extended period of time, take regular breaks to prevent eyestrain. Every 20 minutes, look away from your computer and look at a distant object for 20 seconds. This will give your eyes a chance to refocus. After two hours of continual computer use, rest your eyes for 15 minutes.

4. Blink often

People normally blink about 18 times a minute, but computer users tend to blink only one-fourth as often. This increases the chance of developing dry eye. To reduce this risk, remind yourself to blink more often. And refresh your eyes periodically with lubricating eye drops.

5. Get your eyes checked

Uncorrected vision problems — farsightedness or astigmatism, problems focusing or coordinating the eyes and eye changes associated with aging — can contribute to eyestrain and musculoskeletal pain.

Even if you don’t need glasses or contacts for daily activities, you may need them for computer or device use. If you do wear glasses or contacts and need to tilt your head or lean toward the screen to see it clearly, your lens prescription may need to be adjusted. Get an eye checkup to make sure your prescription is right. Doing so can help prevent pain in the neck, shoulders or back that results from contorting your body to see the screen.

April 28, 2018

From Dan Meyer, pastor at Christ Church of Oak Brook, a church, pastor and staff valued by Northern Seminary:

Dear Friends,

In light of the allegations now swirling around the former senior pastor of the Willow Creek Community Church AND the larger national movement drawing needed attention to the stories of women treated in harmful ways, this message comes to inform you that Christ Church will not serve as a host site for the Global Leadership Summit (GLS) this coming August. For those of you who have registered for the conference or planned to bring others, I know this may be a shock or an inconvenience. I apologize for that. This is why I am writing to you.

This decision has not been arrived at quickly or lightly. The GLS has been a well-attended event at Christ Church. It has provided valuable leadership insight for our staff, members, and guests. We will continue to look for opportunities to bring a similar conference or, if appropriate, the GLS itself, to our facilities in future years. We’d like to see the largely constructive witness of Bill Hybels, the Willow Creek Church, and its Association continue. But, given the high identification between Bill and the GLS conference,  this year we are taking a purposeful pause.

Both the Christian and the American traditions have seen the value of stopping normal activities to observe a moment of silence … or to lower a flag to half-staff … or to issue a collective cry of lament — in the face of significant crisis, turmoil, or loss. We believe that the stories of the women that are now being told are deserving of this pause to LISTEN, REFLECT, and CHANGE.  We feel that UNLESS we stop to listen, some stories that need to be heard will not be told and we as a community will lose the opportunity those voices can give us to become more compassionate, just, and holy.

Jesus was, in his time, a radical defender and advocate for women. He clearly valued the voice of men as well.  But Jesus also went out of his way to ensure that women’s testimonies were equally heard. It is not incidental that Jesus welcomed women into the circle of his followers, held them up as among the greatest exemplars of faith and love, and chose to make them the first witnesses of the Resurrection. He did all of this amidst a culture that did not even accept a woman’s testimony in court.

If we are to be followers of Jesus, then we need to care greatly for the voices of women, as well as men. That’s why we’re stopping to listen. As we take a purposeful pause this year, please join us in praying  for all those involved in the turmoil of our time – for Christ Church, the Willow Creek community, the wider church, and our nation, as we seek to find clarity, repent of our sins, and heal.

Let me say in closing that this issue goes beyond politics and pundits and all the anxieties and frustrations we understandably feel about how “the other side” will pillory our opinion or truncate the truth. The #MeToo movement drives to the very root of the Christian understanding of the creation. Jesus’ treatment of women was simply a restatement of the original intention of God’s creation: “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen 5:2). In summary, if we love the Bible and God and the creation he has made, then we will be the fiercest champions of both women and men that can be found upon the earth.It is worth canceling a conference to declare that value.

 

Rev. Dr. Daniel D. Meyer | Senior Pastor
Christ Church | Oak Brook and Downers Grove

July 3, 2017

IMG_0065Why go to church? What are the pros and what are the cons? Last post we looked at the cons, so today I want to look at the Pros.

The church is to be a light on a hill, a place for fellowship, a sacred setting for worship — a gathering for instruction, exhortation, and worship.

Again, I take John Pritchard’s clever little book Why Go to Church? in SPCK’s “Little Books of Guidance” series. Pritchard is also the author of Going to Church: A User’s Guide.

I teach at Northern Seminary and at the center of our mission is to prepare pastors and leaders for and in the church. So, we are big on church at Northern, and it’s reflected in my colleagues who are deeply committed to local church ministries.

We are active participants in Church of the Redeemer, and weekly worship, fellowship, and instruction are central to our family’s life. Our daughter and husband participate at Willow Creek and our son and family participate in Church of the Redeemer, too.

Many today think being a Christian and a follower of Christ are not necessarily connected to participating in a local church. Others today pray a pox on the church as an institution and see local churches as toxic.

It is hard to read the New Testament or to know the history of the church and devalue the church or its local church expression. In fact, many today are regaining a sense of the importance of the church and are rooting this renewal in appreciating the deep traditions and liturgy of the church. Many are returning to the church.

Church is about worship, and he sees two elements of that worship: soul food and soul music, Scripture and Sacrament. He knows that Spirit matters for if Spirit is absent, worship is absent too:

All this means that the form of worship isn’t as important as the fact of worship. The acid test is whether an act of worship is truly alive and life-giving, not whether it’s liturgically perfect. A Christian from South America had visited England and was invited to tell a meeting back home what had impressed him about the Church in Britain. He replied: ‘All the services start punctually. Even if the Spirit hasn’t arrived yet!’ It’s the Spirit who gives life to worship. What matters is not what form of words we use but that our spirits are ignited by divine fire. Wherever the worship goes and whatever its shape, what really matters is that we catch the tail of the divine tiger, and hold on.

What are your best reasons for going to church?

Here are Pritchard’s ten reasons, and I would add “Because it’s the Body of Christ in this world.”

  1. Because we’re on a journey
  2. Because we’re looking for a framework to live in
  3. Because it’s a place of moral seriousness in a trivialized culture
  4. Because churches make an honest attempt at community in a culture that’s forgotten how to do it
  5. Because I’m a learner, and church seems to be a community of learners
  6. Because the building talks a different language, and it’s fascinating
  7. Because I might strike lucky
  8. Because I want to get in touch with God
  9. Because when times are hard, there are resources to be found there
  10. Because there’s a saint or two to be found in there, and saints are exciting
March 13, 2017

Jonathan Algier:

[SMcK: He does not mention but Andrew McGowan’s book is the best place to begin.]

Performance worship is now the norm. I fear this is the case with practically all evangelical megachurches and their emulating congregations, which now includes a growing number of desperate mainline congregations, as well. We also see it in the hip, edgy, urban emergent congregations that tout their return to liturgy, but still find themselves enslaved to commercial entertainment forms. Yes, performance worship has killed worship, and it’s done it in several key ways.

Performance worship substitutes entertainment for liturgy. Our new worship language even reflects it. We once had sanctuaries, but not we have “auditoriums.” We once had chancels, now we have “stages.” We once had altar guilds, now we have “weekend stage managers.” We once had a liturgy, now we have a “performance set” (some call this a “worship set” in an effort to maintain some decorum). We once had worship services, masses, liturgies, now we have “traditional” or “contemporary” worship, “modern” worship, worship “experiences.”

At the heart of these changes is a focus on customer service. We want to offer a performance product that will rival anything offered by mainstream commercial entertainment so that they will choose to park their butts in our seats.

Congregations built on entertainment, provided by a combination of rock musicians and celebrity pastors, to be blunt, are more orgasmic than organic. The slavish, masturbatory pursuit of the feeling itself inevitably leads to the worship of something other than Christ. It rejects the Christian story in favor of our own. It rejects true human connection in God’s church and replaces it with introspective preoccupation. It ends with the narcissistic worship of self. It can deliver a spark, yes, and it may get butts in the seats, but in the end, it leaves us wanting. The excitement over the bright shiny objects that attract masses today will eventually wane, and the church will have to offer something brighter and shinier to hold out hope for the future.

Oh, and when we’re successful at selling our worship product, we call that “evangelism.”

December 13, 2016

One beautiful bird, and I spotted five of them the other day on my way to Willow Creek Community Church for a morning conference event. But 30,000!

CHICAGO — Chicago birders went wild Wednesday when thousands of sandhill cranes flew over the city.

The birds were a rare sight over city limits a decade ago, but they’ve become far more common lately due to protection of their wetland habitat.

Members in the IL Birders Exchanging Thoughts group reported seeing the birds over Lincoln Park Zoo, Old Town School of Music, Soldier Field, other Lake Michigan spots, Bucktown (Damen and North), West Ridge, University of Chicago and elsewhere in the city. Some of the birders estimated as many as 30,000 cranes flew over the city Wednesday.

May 7, 2016

IMG_0050This professor not only listed his “visible” successes but also his “invisible” failures:

A professor at Princeton University has published a CV listing his career failureson Twitter, in an attempt to “balance the record” and encourage others to keep trying in the face of disappointment.

Johannes Haushofer, who is an assistant professor of psychology and public affairs at the university in New Jersey, posted his unusual CV on Twitter last week. The document contains sections titled Degree programs I did not get into, Research funding I did not get and Paper rejections from academic journals….

The flurry of interest led Haushofer to his crowning “meta-failure”.

“This darn CV of Failures has received way more attention that my entire body of academic work.”

The 7 worst snacks — the dietitians speak:

Speaking of “professors,” how can these guys get by with this plagiarism? Indisputable x3.

When I [Rachel] was researching the Omnibus Curriculum for my posts on Doug Wilson and Classical Christian Education, I noticed that Steve Wilkins and Randy Booth had both written essays. Wilkins and Booth were Wilson’s co-authors for two books that were pulled for plagiarism. Wondering if they had plagiarized any text in their Omnibus essays, I decided to check Wilkins’ essay on Of Plymouth Plantation by running sections of the text through a commercial plagiarism checking software. I found that portions of text were unoriginal and without citation. In other words, I found plagiarism.

I noticed that there were large text captions on the images throughout the essay. I checked a couple of those and found that there were significant amounts of text taken from other sources and not cited.

At that point, I began to wonder if other essays had similar problems. I started by looking at various image captions. I found several examples of plagiarism. I also looked at portions of essays and large text inserts as well. What follows is a representative sample of the over 100 instances of plagiarism that I found. There are examples from image captions, essay text, end notes, sessions text, and text inserts. There are many more examples that I found, and given the size of the volumes, I was not able to search everything. I would also like to note that all of the research here was done exclusively by me.

[The proper response is not to attack Rachel but to admit the truth.]

Julie Zausmer:

A journey of 411 National Park Service sites begins with a single monument.

Mikah Meyer visited the Washington Monument on Friday, just like more than 600,000 other people do every year. But for Meyer, it was especially momentous: the first stop, he says, on a three-year trip to visit every single Park Service site in the country.

In the coming months, Meyer plans to quit his two jobs, dump his possessions at his pastor’s house, move from his North Bethesda apartment to a utility van and set out to become the youngest person ever to visit all 411 Park Service sites.

The trip will take the 30-year-old Nebraska native to 25 battlefields and military sites, 19 nature preserves, 129 historical spots, 112 memorials and monuments, four scenic roadways, five national rivers, 10 national seashores and more.

“It’s not just Grand Canyon, Acadia, Yellowstone,” he said, standing at the base of the monument. “It is this whole system of things that make us Americans.”

The 1,116-day road trip he has mapped out is a spiritual quest to connect with his late father, he says. It’s also a chance to demonstrate that gay men can be outdoorsy — and to persuade youngsters glued to their smartphone screens to check out the natural beauty in their home states.

Ask Bill (Bill Hybels) speaking about ministry to the LGBT community, beginning at 19:08.

Karen:

I once came home to find a quail roaming around in my den.

Upstairs.

I had no idea how it got in the house.

Nor did I know how it had managed to climb the stairs, open the door to the den and then shut the door behind itself.

It could not have flown into the room. The only windows to the room are covered by screens.

I didn’t know what to do with a quail in the den, so I did what any thinking woman would do – I left it there until Tim came home.  He scooped up the quail and took it back to the grasslands behind the house from whence it likely came.

Tim had a pretty good idea how the quail ended up in the den: “The neighbor put him there.”

Oh. Yeah. Of course, I agreed.

The week prior to the quail in our den, I had confronted the neighbor about his speeding a four-wheeler in the fields behind the house. Such off-roading activity being illegal within city limits, which we clearly are, and because it was nesting season for the pheasants and quail that made their homes in the grasslands the neighbor was disrupting. All those babies just waiting to hatch.

Good for Addison Russell:

As the Chicago Cubs’ starting shortstop, 22-year-old Addison Russell is building a reputation as a complete ballplayer. An elite fielder with a reliable arm, Russell got two hits Wednesday to help the 20-6 Cubs sweep the Pittsburgh Pirates. Russell also has driven in 14 runs and contributed clutch, game-winning hits. But he’s missing something that first became part of his game during high school.

In the season’s home opener, Russell, playing without a wad of cancer-causing chewing tobacco in his mouth for the first time at Wrigley Field, cracked a 3-run home run that propelled his Cubs to an amazing 5-3 win.

“Which I think is awesome,” says South Barrington dentist Katina Spadoni, who is glad Russell is helping the Cubs compile the best record in baseball but uses her “awesome” to describe Chicago’s upcoming ban on smokeless tobacco at sports venues. “I think this whole ban on smokeless tobacco is a great start.”

The ban doesn’t take effect until June, but Russell, as fans might expect, got the jump on snuffing out the deadly habit. The shortstop, who tells Daily Herald Cubs beat reporter Bruce Miles that he’s chewing gum instead now, smashed a key triple in one of last week’s victories against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Smokeless tobacco causes oral, esophageal and pancreatic cancer, and it may play a key role in heart disease, gum disease and other oral lesions, according to the National Institutes of Health. Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn died in 2014 at age 54, and he blamed his salivary-gland cancer on his 20-year habit of chewing tobacco. Somewhere between a quarter and a third of MLB players still chew tobacco, according to most estimates.

Unlike cigarettes, which harm others with secondhand smoke, chewing tobacco is a self-destructive addiction. But Chicago’s ban, pushed by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, aims to protect children.

it’s OK for the city of Salem to terminate a contract on the basis of what it believes but Gordon College can’t terminate a contract on the basis of what it believes.

Gordon nevertheless faced criticism from faculty members, students and alumni who disagreed with the request, and the mayor of Salem, Mass., terminated the college’s contract to manage the city’s Old Town Hall, saying in a letter to Lindsay that he “now advocates for discrimination against the LGBT community.”

Nate Silver explains the Donald Trump phenomenon:

To me, the most surprising part of Trump’s nomination — which is to say, the part I think I got wrongest — is that Trump won the nomination despite having all types of deviations from conservative orthodoxy. He seemed wobbly on all parts of Reagan’s three-legged stool: economic policy (he largely opposes free trade and once advocated for a wealth tax and single-payer health care), social policy (consider his constant flip-flopping over abortion), and foreign policy (he openly mocked the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq War, which is still fairly popular among Republicans).

Previous insurgent Republicans, such as the tea party candidates of 2010 and 2012, had run both as “anti-establishment” candidates and as more conservative than their rivals. Trump kept the anti-establishment branding, although this was also a selling point for Cruz, who often ran neck-and-neck with Trump among voters who said they felt “betrayed” by the Republican Party in exit polls.

But whereas Cruz offered a mix of anti-establishment-ism and movement conservatism — and whereas Marco Rubio offered movement conservatism plus a strong claim to electability — Trump’s main differentiator was doubling-down on cultural grievance: grievances against immigrants, against Muslims, against political correctness, against the media, and sometimes against blacks and women. And the strategy worked. It’s a point in favor of those who see politics as being governed by cultural identity — a matter of seeking out one’s “tribe” and fitting in with it — as opposed to carefully calibrating one’s position on a left-right spectrum.

What’s much harder to say is whether Trump is a one-off — someone who defied the odds because a lot of things broke in his favor, and whose success will be hard to repeat — or if he signifies a fundamental change in American politics. Trump hasn’t brought success to a wave of tea party candidates in gubernatorial and Senate primaries; in Indiana, in fact, the same voters who elected Trump also gave establishment-friendly U.S. Rep. Todd Young a 67-33 victory in the state’s senatorial primary over the tea-party-aligned Marlin Stutzman. And the Democrats have had a relatively orderly nomination process. Still, it’s hard to imagine that American politics will ever be quite the same after this. [HT: LNMM]

Jennifer Van Allen:

Given that Michael Wardian had multiple pelvic stress fractures and sports hernias, one would think that his rehab would have involved a lot of quality time on the couch.

But it was just the opposite. Although Wardian, a professional runner, didn’t run for three months, he biked, hiked, walked and aqua-jogged his way back to health.

“I wanted to maintain my fitness,” said Wardian, 41, of Arlington, a 2:17 marathoner and a veteran of 150 marathons and ultramarathons. “I asked detailed questions about what I could do instead of what I could not do. And I did those things at great length and with vigor.”

Wardian may be an elite, but his treatment regime — which involved staying as active as possible during rehab — is now routine for injured athletes of all levels of fitness.

In the past, ailments such as stress fractures, IT band syndrome, plantar fasciitis and runner’s knee were typically treated with rest, ice and over-the-counter painkillers. But this approach only compromised hard-earned fitness and deprived the injured of the emotional benefits of exercise when they needed it most. What’s more, it kept runners, triathletes and other athletes stuck in a cycle of chronic injury.

Jim Martin on the charmer, the bully and the church.

Years ago, I noticed that the spouses of such men often thought the husbands were highly intelligent and they (the wives) perceived themselves to be not as smart, lower in intelligence, lacking in common sense, etc.

The truth is that such men are often juvenile, self-absorbed, and completely lacking in empathy for other people. While these men may be very connected in a congregation, they do not display spiritual maturity, godly character, or any sense of graciousness with others.  They reveal their immaturity not their maturity.

The reality is that such a person’s spouse and children are cherished by God even if this person doesn’t cherish them. After all, it is the Father who determines our value and worth not another. Even though such a person might work to  drain his spouse and children of any sense of self-worth, he cannot alter their true worth.  Our true worth is determined by the Father, not another. In his eyes, each one of us has great value.  See Matthew 6:25-34 where Jesus reminds us of just how valuable we really are in the eyes of God.

Helping young men grow up into responsibility … good guys here:

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – A group of young men committed to helping others is aspiring for bigger and better things.

With every blade of grass, a lesson is being learned. Respect, responsibility and how to be a role model. “We teach them how to cut grass, we teach them the importance of being men,” says Rodney Smith, Co-Founder of Raising Men Lawn Care Service.

So far, they’re mentoring 15 boys in the program. “It can keep kids away from idle hands. When they have nothing to do, they tend to find themselves in trouble,” says co-founder Terrance Sprot.

They’re taking it upon themselves to create something better within their community. “When you’re doing something from the heart outside of yourself, these kids actually see a sense of self-worth they probably couldn’t get anywhere else,” says Sprot.

Meanwhile, people who applaud their work are hoping to have their charitable act of cutting grass featured on the Ellen Show.

Because Raising Men Lawn Care isn’t just about the kids; they’re also giving back to the community by mowing the lawns of single moms, and the elderly, free of charge. “It’s expensive and a lot of them can’t afford it,” says Smith.

Disaster relief can be disastrous:

When Nature grows savage and angry, Americans get generous and kind. That’s admirable. It might also be a problem.

“Generally after a disaster, people with loving intentions donate things that cannot be used in a disaster response, and in fact may actually be harmful,” said Juanita Rilling, director of the Center for International Disaster Information in Washington, D.C. “And they have no idea that they’re doing it.”

Rilling has spent more than a decade trying to tell well-meaning people to think before they give.

In 1998 Hurricane Mitch struck Honduras. More than 11,000 people died. More than a million and a half were left homeless.

And Rilling got a wake-up call: “Got a call from one of our logistics experts who said that a plane full of supplies could not land, because there was clothing on the runway. It’s in boxes and bales. It takes up yards of space. It can’t be moved.’ ‘Whose clothing is it?’ He said, ‘Well, I don’t know whose it is, but there’s a high-heeled shoe, just one, and a bale of winter coats.’ And I thought, winter coats? It’s summer in Honduras.”

Humanitarian workers call the crush of useless, often incomprehensible contributions “the second disaster.”

In 2004, following the Indian Ocean tsunami, a beach in Indonesia was piled with used clothing.

There was no time for disaster workers to sort and clean old clothes. So the contributions just sat and rotted.

“This very quickly went toxic and had to be destroyed,” said Rilling. “And local officials poured gasoline on it and set it on fire. And then it was out to sea.”

May 20, 2015

The Church is an institution of disappointment; it is not a disappointing institution.

I have been doing full time local-church work for almost 15 years now, and I have noticed that every Sunday the same two kinds of people come up to me.  One of them is overflowing with joy and gratitude for the way that they experienced a small measure of the presence of God, and the other type of person is disappointed because they didn’t have that experience.

To be fair, these two categories are very fluid.  Often a person is in the first category one week, and the second category the next.  “Nothing can compare to last week’s assembly.”  “Why don’t we sing that hymn again?”

And often people who have spent years of being apathetic or disappointed with church will find a new spark that changes the way they experience it.  These people often are unaware that the main thing that has changed with their experience of church is them.

I am not saying this to try to label everyone in church.  I am sure that there are plenty of other kinds of people each week, but in my experience these are the people who come talk to/email/reach out to me.  And after 15 years of this, I have started to realize that God might be just as active in the second group’s life as He is in the first.

All throughout Christian history, the way the saints have talked about life with God is consolations and desolations.  Consolations are those little graces that seem to make life a little more beautiful, the joy of a new child, the beauty of a familiar hymn, the fellowship of other Jesus followers, and the communion of the saints.  Desolations are those things that we don’t brag about.  The late-term miscarriage we had, or the road rage we had on the way to church, or the passive aggressive exchange we had with a Christian brother over something silly.  Or worse, the way our small group took our spouse’s side when we were getting divorced, or how they didn’t come when we were in the hospital.

To be involved in any human community means accepting that we are going to be disappointed, and because churches can touch some deep part of the human soul, sometimes churches can disappoint us the most.  The danger of this truth is that a lie can start to creep in, to use Scot McKnight’s words that “We need to find the perfect church”  If we had just been at Willow Creek or Saddleback or the opposite of those places we would not have been overlooked, our song would have been sung, and all would be well.

But wherever you find church, you will find disappointment.  If you ask most preachers, you will find out that Sunday nights are the hardest parts of their week.  It is when most of us have what I call “the preacher hangover”.  Our heads are fuzzy, and we find ourselves saying “Did I really say that?”  Sunday nights can be legitimately depressing for anyone who dares to speak on behalf of God.  Because we work all week long to say one thing, we give it our best shot, and no matter how good we do, no matter how hard we work, we will fail.  Because we can’t say the only thing we want to say, which is “God”

We can’t give them God, because God doesn’t work like that.  On our best days we can only help them realize the deep thirst our people already have for Him.  On our best days we can only call attention to the dull ache that every human has for the love of God.

On our best days, churches can give a kind of consolation to the soul.  We can comfort and breathe life and a bit of the sacred into the world, but over time, as God starts to draw people closer to Him, even those familiar consolations will grow dry. We will use words like “boring” or “mundane” to describe what used to give us great excitement.  Because those things weren’t God, they were only signposts that helped point to Him.

I say all this to say these three things to people who find themselves disappointed with Church

1)   Sometimes your complaint is a calling.  Maybe the reason it bothered you so much that no one came to visit you in the hospital is because you know that’s not who the church is supposed to be.  And you are the church.  It is easy to blame leaders/members/systems.  But maybe the reason this is gnawing at you so much is because God is tapping you on the shoulder to minister to others out of the disappointment you have.

2)   When you are disappointed with a church is the worst time to leave your church, especially to go to another church.  I have seen the other side of this. People will come to Highland (the church I serve) and for a month or two they think it is the best thing since God made the blueberry pop-tart, but over time, the same disappointment creeps in.  It turns out that humans are in this community too, and we don’t always do things right, we don’t always sing the songs that are on your IPod, or say just the right things, or respond in just the right ways.  And if you change churches enough you will never learn to love the actual God, the same way you might never learn to love actual people.

3)   Disappointment isn’t always bad.  In fact, that is often when people grow the most.  It is when we learn that we were leaning too hard on certain things, good things, but things that can’t bear the weight of our ultimate love.  It is when we have to realize that God isn’t synonymous with what causes us to have goosebumps or an “aha” moment.  God actually has bigger things in mind for our lives than a perpetual state of individual bliss.  That was true for Jesus, and servants are not greater than their master.

And here is my word of encouragement to pastors out there.  Over the past 15 years, I have realized that we church people who are disappointed are the same people God uses to change and serve and bless the world.

The church is a constant disappointment to many, but she is also the one who has started most hospitals, orphanages, relief aid charities, universities, leprosariums, and the like.  She has passed on a way of self-sacrifice from generation to generation.  More than any institution in human history, the church has changed the world.

She is an institution of disappointment, but she is not a disappointing institution.

 


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