Over the weekend, Newt Gingrich decided to wade into a minor cultural skirmish by claiming that the new ABC dramedy GCB is an attack on faith fueled by anti-Christian bias.
As Gingrich is, from my perspective at least, prone to flights of intellectual fancy, I was at first prone to roll my eyes and ignore his latest sojourn into the ridiculous. But upon further reflection, I thought it merited a response because his notion that a satire could be the latest cannon fodder in the alleged war on religion (which usually means “war on Christianity” to those who invoke it) speaks to a larger cultural conundrum: Christians and our sense of humor (or, rather, the lack thereof.)
Everyone who calls me to speak somewhere, it seems, wants me to address the issue of declining church membership, and particularly how to connect with younger adults. The problem is that sometimes the invitation is built on a false premise. It’s the hope of many churches that if they can find a way to connect with younger people in a relevant way, those young adults will join the church and save the institution for future generations.
And while this is possible in some situations, it’s really the wrong question to be asking.
The explicit question I get asked, time and again, is “How do we better serve younger people?” And if the question really ended there, we could have a pretty productive conversation. But there’s an implied subtext in most cases that we have to tease out, and often times, the church isn’t even willing to admit that this footnote is married to their question. So although the words above are what are spoken, here’s what they really want to know:
“How do we better serve younger people (so that they will come back to our institutions and save them)?”
More U.S. Kids Living In High-Poverty Areas: Study; Debunking Poverty Myths And Racial Stereotypes; How Does A Conservative Evangelical Become A Corporate Tool Supporting A System That Coerces Apple's Suppliers' Workers To Have Abortions? (OPINION); Gingrich Joins With Arizona Faith Leaders To Court Latinos; Why Are Young People Leaving Evangelical Christianity?
Now, a growing number of African-American nonbelievers are reaching out to others in their communities to help them confront these challenges. They are calling on atheists of all colors to make the fourth Sunday in February -- Black History Month -- a "Day of Solidarity with Black Nonbelievers."
About 15 groups in as many cities -- Dallas, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles -- have scheduled events for Feb. 26. Some will share a meal, others will make formal presentations and discuss the role of African-American freethinkers in history. But the real goal is to let closeted black atheists know they are not alone.
If you’ve watched 6 minutes of news in the last few weeks, you know what this is all about: Christian leaders hurling attacks and using faith as a weapon to score political points. From presidential candidates to public leaders, rhetoric in recent weeks as gone from ‘heightened’ to ‘dangerous.’
To counteract this incendiary environment, prominent evangelical, mainline, and Catholic pastors, theologians and denominational heads have joined together to take a stand. The open letter, which currently has over a hundred signers, supports the President in light of the recent attacks by Franklin Graham (see clip below), but the letter also speaks to the larger issue at hand, specifically that, “No politician or government will ever reflect God’s will perfectly, but we prayerfully call on political leaders and members of the media to return to the issues Jesus and the prophets were most concerned about and to stop using faith as a weapon to advance partisan politics and self-interest.”
The Surprising Faith Of 8 American Presidents (OPINION); Santorum Questions Obama's 'World View,' Not Faith; Educating Two Generations (OPINION); The Inside Story On Climate Scientists Under Siege; Obama's 'Radical' Option For America's Nuclear Future; Pain Without GainFacing Death, A Top Pastor Rethinks What It Means To Be Christian; The End Of Church (OPINION).
On Ash Wednesday, Catholics and many others will walk around with ashen crosses (or, by the end of the day, what look like indeterminate smudges) on our foreheads. Those ashes are strong symbols of core principles of the Catholic faith — symbols of repentance, identity, reconciliation, and renewal of baptism in the faith.
As a voting rights lawyer who is about as passionate about my work as I am about my faith, I can’t help but see parallels between the moral guidance I am given by my faith, and the policy choices that confront us in the secular world. These principles are reflected in the way we worship – and also in the actions we take in the secular world. This has led me and others to the conclusion that the 4 million Americans who lost their voting rights while incarcerated, and now live in our communities, deserve the chance to vote again upon release. It is both the just and the moral thing to do.
As we approach Ash Wednesday during this Holy Season, I encourage all Christians, guided by their core beliefs, to consider this idea.
DES PERES, Mo. — More than 100 Lutherans streamed into the basement classroom at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Des Peres recently for a Bible study called "Islam Through a Lutheran Lens."
It was a better-than-expected showing, and people carefully balanced their Styrofoam coffee cups as they rearranged extra folding chairs into rows to capture the overflow crowd.
"We're going to be looking at (Islam) though the lenses we have been given through God's word, the Scriptures and the Lutheran confessions," the Rev. Glen Thomas told them. The executive director of pastoral education for the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod had taught a similar series of classes in the fall called "Mormonism Through a Lutheran Lens."
"How many people here know a Muslim?" Thomas asked.
Three hands went up. Thomas pressed on.
There are many differences that exist between women and men. Just start with basic biology and it’s apparent. However, if we start at the beginning we discover something foundational that speaks to who we are at our deepest level of identity.
In the creation narrative the writer tell us that God created humankind “in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1.27). Men and women are first identified as image bearers. While we have differences we also have sameness, and both are rooted in God.
We must keep this in mind in any conversation about the differences between men and women. For whenever we speak about our differences we must do so with caution. As Ken Wilber rightly points out, “… as soon as any sort of differences between people are announced, the privileged will use those differences to further their advantage.”
In the history of our world men have typically occupied places of privilege. As a result, men have used the differences between themselves and women to gain advantage and establish dominance over women. This is still prevalent in our world today — even in the Church.
I really want to give people like John Piper the benefit of the doubt. Given that he’s a minister in the Baptist tradition, it doesn’t surprise me when he only refers to God as “he” or when he talks about the man’s role as spiritual head of the household. I grew up Baptist, so I’ve heard it all before.
But he goes too far with it. Way too far. And given the breadth of his influence, his message serves to normalize the marginalization of half (slightly more than, in fact) the world’s population. While I expect he believes he is fulfilling a divine call in sharing his message, I believe I’m serving a similar call in holding him to account.
Piper, recently keynoted a conference called “God, Manhood and Ministry: Building Men for the Body of Christ.” On first blush, this sound both exciting and very necessary. Men are leaving organized religion in droves, and in many cases, they are walking away from their families as well. I agree wholeheartedly that today’s man needs some clarity, support and guidance in how to exhibit Christ-like traits of strength, conviction, love and dedication both in the home and in communities of faith.
None of this, however, requires the relegation of women to a second-tier role, which is precisely what Piper seems to be doing.
Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus is a true Internet phenomenon, garnering more than 18 million views and sparking a global debate.
As with most internet phenomena, the viral video has given birth to dozens of similar videos from folks around the world, each adding a different (sometimes serious, sometimes not) perspective to the debates.
Whilst none has had quite the same impact as the original in terms of millions of hits, clicks and media coverage, there are conversation starters aplenty in many of these intriguing (and entertaining) videos.
See a roundup of some of the most interesting responses inside the blog...
Evangelical Leaders Struggle To Crown A Candidate; George W. Bush Cancels Visit To Swiss Charity Gala Over Fears He Could Be Arrested On Torture Charges;Class Conflict Awareness Rose Significantly From 2009 To 2011: Report; Evangelicals Taking Second Look At Romney; In The Fight Against Poverty, It’s Time for A Revolution (OPINION); Iranian Government Delays Pastor's Death Sentence For Apostasy One Year Hoping Media Will Forget; Tavis Smiley, Of Poverty Tour, Hosts “Reawakening America” With Panelists Cornel West, Suze Orman, Michael Moore; A Pro Snowboarder's Guide To Climate Change; Okay Progressives, What's Your Alternative To Ron Paul?; Congressional Chaplains Minister To A Sharply Divided Flock.
In a recent column for USA Today, Gary Bauer (former GOP presidential candidate and President of a conservative political organization called American Values) makes a big biblical blunder. He addresses the issue of the role of faith in politics and uses Jim Wallis as an example of a Christian with whom he shares religious heritage but not political conviction.
Sojourners Editor Jim Wallis and I are both evangelical Christians. But we come to radically different conclusions about government's role in addressing poverty. Wallis thinks Republican tax cuts are unbiblical, and that more government spending and taxes are the main antidote. But nowhere in the Bible are we told that government should take one man's money by force of law and give it to another man. Jesus' admonition was a personal command to share, not a command for Caesar to "spread the wealth around."
First, Bauer mischaracterizes Wallis’ position. Sojourners and the entire Circle of Protection have called for a balanced approach to deficit reduction. This means that taxes should be on the table. But, the Circle acknowledges that there does need to be spending reductions and explicitly states that some of those reductions will need to come from entitlements.
Now, on to the biblical problem.
Jimmy Carter is the 39th president of the United States, founder of the Carter Center and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He has authored many books, the most recent being "Through the Year with Jimmy Carter: 366 Daily Meditations from the 39th President." In the wide-ranging interview that follows on the blog, the Huffington Post's Senior Religion Editor Paul Raushenbush spoke to President Carter by phone about the role faith played in the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty, the time of his greatest alienation from God, faith in the White House and his personal daily devotional practice. This post originally appeared on HuffPo.
To start, a story.
A few years ago a female student wanted to visit with me about some difficulties she was having, mainly with her family life. As is my practice, we walked around campus as we talked.
After talking for some time about her family situation we turned to other areas of her life. When she reached spiritual matters we had the following exchange:
"I need to spend more time working on my relationship with God."
I responded, "Why would you want to do that?"
Startled she says, "What do you mean?"
"Well, why would you want to spend any time at all on working on your relationship with God?"
New Law Aims To Shine Light on Conflict Metals; Immigration Effort Mistakenly Holds U.S. Citizens; North Korea’s Persecution of Christians Expected to Continue After Kim Jon Il’s Death; Muslims push Lowe’s boycott over reality series; Two Muslim religious leaders sue airlines for discrimination; Christianity goes global as world’s largest religion; (Opinion) Obama’s simplistic view of income inequality.
Person Of The Year - The Protester; Newt Gingrich's Vision For The Impoverished -- A Reflection Of Our Values (OPINION); Teaching About HIV/AIDS In The Church; Catholic Bishops: Don’t Treat Illegal Immigrants As Criminals; Christianity 2.0; Keystone Pipeline A Tough Decision For Obama; How Many Innocent People Are In Prison?
While some folks holler and scream about Rick Perry’s ad, the blunt truth is that this has always been the consistent strategy of modern day politics.
Sadly, religion has become fair game for politicizing – at its best or worst depending on your perspective. What I’m saying is that I while I really dislike Rick Perry’s ad and strongly disagree with his assertion that President Obama has waged war against religion. But that’s not the point. My point is that we’ve allowed the politicizing of religion (and other things) to be FAIR GAME.
Listen folks: I’m not criticizing Rick Perry (or other candidates) because, truth be told, we’d probably do the same politick-ing. I’m actually critiquing you and me. I’m critiquing us.
They are dangerous. And no, I’m not talking about the five Muslim families in Dearborn Michigan depicted in TLC’s new series All American Muslim.
I’m talking about the Florida Family Association(FFA). They are a group with a campaign targeting the show's advertisers and who have successfully gotten Lowe's to remove their commercials.
From the FFA website:
The Learning Channel's new show All-American Muslim is propaganda clearly designed to counter legitimate and present-day concerns about many Muslims who are advancing Islamic fundamentalism and Sharia law. The show profiles only Muslims that appear to be ordinary folks while excluding many Islamic believers whose agenda poses a clear and present danger to liberties and traditional values that the majority of Americans cherish. ...Clearly this program is attempting to manipulate Americans into ignoring the threat of jihad and to influence them to believe that being concerned about the jihad threat would somehow victimize these nice people in this show.
Yup. That’s their complaint. Having a show that would dare to depict “ordinary” Muslims.