The Common Good

Blog Posts By Tyler Francke

Posted by Tyler Francke 10 weeks 7 hours ago
Following the release of the popular God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines, and the innumerable responses by conservative pundits and theologians — including the cleverly titled e-book “God and the Gay Christian?” (Note the question mark. It’s very important.) — the church is discussing the morality of same-sex behavior as it never has before.That’s really not saying that much, since the idea of homosexuality being anything other than a sin hadn’t been discussed within mainstream Christianity at all before this decade or so.But still. The dialogue is cool to see. It’s much-needed, and has been for a very long time. I want to call the conversation “long overdue,” but that would be an absurd understatement, like saying a baby in the 403rd trimester is “a little late.”
Posted by Tyler Francke 14 weeks 6 hours ago
On June 10, Emilio Hoffman, a 14-year-old student at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Ore., was transformed, from a good-hearted kid with his life ahead of him to a statistic.He was an athlete, a soccer coach, a people pleaser, a brother, a son. He had a girlfriend, and he loved to make people laugh.Now, he’s a red dot on a graph, one blip in an “American victims of gun violence” total that is already absurdly high, and will no doubt be higher the next time you check it.Emilio’s crime? He went to school, on a day that another student decided — for reasons none of us can fathom — to bring an AR-15 rifle from home and start shooting people.What happened to Emilio is not a tragedy. A tragedy is when something happens that no one could have helped: an accident, a natural disaster, a crime that could not have been foreseen or prevented.
Posted by Tyler Francke 19 weeks 1 day ago
In just the latest evidence that a certain subset of conservative evangelical Christians really has no interest in occupying the real world with the rest of us, the trailer for a new movie called A Matter of Faith has hit the Internet.The film follows the travails of a Christian father, who — horrified by the fact that his daughter’s college teaches the theory of evolution as a fact (gasp!) — challenges the villainous biology professor to a public debate that will no doubt settle the matter once and for all.If this premise sounds strangely familiar, it could be that you’re remembering God’s Not Dead, a film released in March, in which a Christian student who — horrified by the fact that his philosophy professor is a committed atheist — challenges the dastardly nonbeliever to a debate on the existence of God that, no doubt, settled the matter once and for all.(I’m told that the new movie was called Christians vs. the Straw Man II: This Time It’s Personal throughout production, before filmmakers decided to rename it A Matter of Faith.)The similarities between the two pictures don’t stop there.
Posted by Tyler Francke 23 weeks 6 hours ago
“You are not only a coward but a non-believer as well.”It may not quite be at the level of Captain America’s vibranium shield, but my skin is a lot thicker than it used to be. When you start a blog that promotes something as insanely unorthodox as the idea that the author of Genesis 1-3 might have (like most other biblical authors) made use of a metaphor here and there, you come to expect that some fundamentalists are going to call Father Merrin and start reaching for the holy water.It’s unfortunate — and, often, perplexing — but you learn to get used to it.Even so, there are times I receive emailed messages like the one quoted above, and it hits like a punch in the gut. I know I should just ignore such trollishness. Usually I can. But not always.Don’t worry, though. This is not a whiny column about how mean the conservatives are to us open-minded, forward-thinking progressives. Instead, it’s about how messages like this are helping me rethink almost everything I thought I knew about the Christian faith.
Posted by Tyler Francke 25 weeks 1 day ago
Millennials are the worst generation ever, a recent study by the Pew Research Center confirmed. The other generations already knew that, of course, but the study has given them new insights into what characterizes me and my fellow Millennials beyond “They freaking love Starbucks” and “They refuse to move out of my basement.”The study’s revelations include that we’re not making all that much money, we have tons of debt, we’re racially diverse, and we use the Internet a lot (curiously absent was the fact that 97 percent of us do not like being broadly defined or labeled or otherwise demographed). We also tend to shun institutions, including religious ones, at rates far surpassing our parents and grandparents.This last little detail has not escaped the notice of conservative media outlets, whose reactions have ranged from cautious reserved judgment to something bordering on full-blown alarm.Like a true Millennial, I don’t think things are all that bad (heck, I wouldn’t know where the panic button is even if I wanted to press it). Actually, as a Christian, I think there is a lot to be excited about in the generation that’s poised to inherit the world … after we move out of our parents’ houses, that is.
Posted by Tyler Francke 28 weeks 2 days ago
Every so often, the young-earth groups come up with an idea that is just so plainly, utterly, obviously wrong — in every sense of the word — that it demands a response from a larger subset of believers. To do otherwise would be to make a mockery of the Christ we claim to follow — a man who was hated by the religious establishment of the day precisely because he called them out for their hypocrisy and refused to let them claim divine fiat for their immoral actions.I'm speaking of the so-called Ark Encounter. If you're not familiar with the project, it's the latest brainchild of Ken Ham (of recent "Ham on Nye" fame) and AiG, a planned "biblical" theme park centered around a scale, wooden replica of Noah's ark, constructed according to the instructions in Genesis (except this one will be built by teams of modern-day professionals rather than a single, unskilled old man, won’t be seaworthy, and won’t hold two of every unclean animal and 14 of every clean one).Ham and his team have been discussing these plans for years, but few outside their devoted following paid them much heed till now, probably because the project’s well-publicized funding issues led us all to believe the thing would never be built. But, according to a statement by Ham last week, enough investors are on board to “start” construction on the 510-foot-long, boat-shaped building. The cost of completing the first phase of the theme park has been estimated at more than $70 million.
Posted by Tyler Francke 29 weeks 3 days ago
I hate the phrase, “Love the sinner; hate the sin.”To be clear, I don’t deny that God hates sin, or that it has dire consequences, or that it exists, or that everyone does it, or that it’s the reason Christ had to come to earth and be crucified in the flesh. I affirm these beliefs. They are not the reason I hate “Love the sinner; hate the sin.”I hate the phrase because I think it’s a totally screwed-up, backwards, un-Christlike, and unbiblical way to approach ministry and the world in general.It may be a corrupted bastardization of “Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum,” a quote from a letter by Augustine of Hippo that can be roughly translated as “With love for mankind and hatred for sin.” I have fewer problems with that construction; unlike its modern-day successor, it does not create a subtle but virtually insurmountable divide between speaker and those spoken of.
Posted by Tyler Francke 31 weeks 4 days ago
There was a moment during last week’s “debate” between Bill Nye the Science Guy and young-earth creationist Ken Ham that I think was more telling than any other.During the Q&A session, Ham was asked what seemed to me to be a very simple question: “Hypothetically, if evidence existed that caused you to admit that the universe is older than 10,000 years and creation did not occur in six days, would you still believe in God, and the historical Jesus of Nazareth, and that Jesus was the son of God?”What was most telling was not really what Ham said, as much as what he didn’t say, which was “Yes.”In my mind, this question was a softball pitch. It couldn’t possibly be easier. And Ham was given two minutes to answer the thing? His response should have taken all of two seconds: “Yes.”
Posted by Tyler Francke 32 weeks 3 days ago
If you perused some of the headlines coming out of Slate the past couple weeks, you’ll find that, not only are Texas schools teaching creationism , schools all over the country are teaching creationism , and — even as we speak — lawmakers in South Dakota and elsewhere are introducing legislation that will let their schools teach creationism.Such news leads me to one of two conclusions: Either the proponents of teaching creationism — a viewpoint I thought it was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1987 — have been very busy lately, or what passes for “creationism” in the eyes of the mainstream media these days has become pretty fuzzy.I lean toward the latter.Look, I’m a writer and a journalist, too. I get it. I understand the desire for a sexy, emotionally heavy word that “seems” to describe the given topic and will — of course — generates millions of clicks from the churning, polarized body politic that powers the Interwebs.But this willy-nilly misapplication of the terms “creationist” and “creationism” simply has got to stop, and here’s why.