LINK: Jonathan Martin - "our resistance, is repentance"

There's a lot in this essay that I appreciated. There's a lot that frustrated me and that I disagreed with. It's also not the best writing that Martin has ever put forward. But I was moved by two points: 

"The most basic terms of loving our neighbors as ourselves does not require theological degree—but a restoration of the sacrament of footwashing. If you deem Muslims as your enemy, your call as a disciple is to wash their feet. If you have thought LGBTQ folks are your enemy, your call is to wash their feet. If you think fundamentalist Christians are your enemy—and I am especially sympathetic to this view in the moment—your call is to wash their feet."

Years ago, a good friend of mine preached a sermon that I remember often: "The Master says 'Love'." His point was this: if you don't have love - or charity, for the KJV-only crowd - then everything else is nothing but empty religious pageantry. We're called to love our friends, love our families, love our neighbors, and the hardest part, to love our enemies. 

Love without expecting anything in return. Love when people hate you for your beliefs. Love when they want to take away your rights. Love, and give, and be gracious, so that the religious elites look at you and say, "You're a friend to sinners and tax collectors." Love the way Jesus loved. 

Martin goes on to say that we should have conversations with those with whom we disagree, we should invite them into community, not to normalize them, but to demonstrate the love of Christ. This means that conservative Christians should engage with liberals and sinners and progressives, and those of us who are frustrated by the Evangelical Right need to reach out to them, even when doing so is anathema. Martin says:

"But I will not have the terms of those conversations dictated to me by whatever was drafted in the smoky backroom by people who are mostly just mourning the loss of a civil religion I believe Christ came to overthrow, or from people who don’t know the devil when he’s kissing them hard on the mouth."

I believe Martin is wrong on some points in this essay, but he's spot on with his analysis of the pro-Trump evangelical right. Christianity has, for a long time, enjoyed a place of favor and privilege in the United States, and that has led to some really bad theology. It's also allowed folks to claim Christianity without any real sacrifice. I understand why the changes in our culture lately make some people uneasy, but at the same time, I can't help but feel like it's a good thing.

Martin's essay messy and a little disjointed. I also feel like he's conflating different, unrelated issues in his discussion of the hurricane, white supremacism, and the Nashville statement. But he's right about this. In the face of adversity, the Church needs to respond with love and kindness and grace and charity.  

What's Missing in Western Christianity?

John Pavlovitz:

We may feign some generic concern others; content to fire off half-hearted prayers or cut-and-pasted Scripture sound bytes. We might invest the briefest moments to attend to another’s needs if we can do so without sacrificing too much time or convenience, but if we’re honest with ourselves, we so often see those who are different or in want or in crisis, not with compassion, but with contempt or perhaps worse; indifference.

I was especially touched by this. Click through to read the entire post. 

What’s So Bad About Gluten?

From the New Yorker:

Fad dieting is nothing new in America; it’s what we do instead of eating balanced, nutritiously wholesome meals. Scarsdale, Atkins, South Beach, Zone, flexitarian, pescatarian, and paleo have all been awarded their fifteen minutes of fame and then shoved aside for the next great diet. They are rarely effective for long. Some nutrition specialists say that the current preoccupation with gluten-free products reminds them of the national obsession with removing fats from foods in the late nineteen-eighties. “Low-fat” foods are often packed with sugar and calories to make up for the lack of fat. The same is true of many products that are advertised as “gluten-free.” (emphasis added)

The conclusion is interesting - maybe the problem is that we've started adding extra gluten to so many foods as a shortcut. I don't put a lot of faith in anecdotal evidence (I cut gluten and lost 30 pounds and then won the lottery!), but I know people who have gluten sensitivities who don't suffer from celiac disease. I've heard stories of folks who had apparent psychological disorders that were corrected by a gluten-free diet. Perhaps with gluten, as in all things, moderation is key. 

What If We Could Weaponize Empathy?

"I expect you to act like a group of friends who care about each other, no matter how dumb some of us might be, no matter what political opinions some of us hold, no matter what games some of us like or dislike."

This is a principle I hope to espouse in all discussions, be it online or IRL. I haven't always done this well, but I want to. 

Google News Publisher Not Happy With New "In The News" Box

I think what amuses me is that people think Fox News, CNN, and the New York Times are "reliable."

Have you watched CNN coverage lately? They spend more time talking about pop culture than world news. It's a joke. Better reporting of real events (Ferguson, MO comes to mind) is coming from Twitter than the major news sources. 

Redeeming Halloween

Every year at this time, I marvel at the irony in the annual “Christians v. Secularists” battle about naming and usage of holidays. The big two, of course, are Halloween and Christmas. Leave it to Evangelical Christianity to reject Halloween – an historically Christian holiday – and embrace Christmas, a pagan holiday co-opted by early Christian leaders. I just want to make a few comments in this regard.

First, Halloween. The name “Halloween” is derived from the phrase “All Hallows Eve”, which precedes November 1, All Hallows Day (or All Saints Day). This name dates back to the 16th century; All Hallows Eve can be found in records dating in 1556. Historically, on this day, the Church would have a feast to remember initially the martyrs, but the celebration was expanded to include the celebration of all the saints who had died. This celebration dates back to 609 B.C. and Pope Boniface IV.

The practice of Trick-or-Treating dates back to the Middle Ages, known as “guising,” where the poor would travel from home to home, asking for food in exchange for prayers for the dead. The threat of “trick-or-treat” calls back to Celtic tradition, where people would leave out treats to placate evil spirits. If a home didn’t provide a treat, it ran the risk of suffering the wrath of those spirits. Trick-or-treating first appeared in the U.S. in 1911, but rose to prominence in the 1950s.

I never heard this about Halloween until I was an adult. Even in my mid-twenties, I heard stories about the occult and witchcraft and the evils of Halloween. The church I was then attending held an annual “Harvest Party” (a pagan celebration indeed!) as an “alternative” to Halloween.

It’s a shame that this holiday – which I believe we should observe (in the traditional sense) – has been hijacked by us. There’s nothing evil about Halloween, and there’s nothing wrong with dressing up and celebrating the day. I’m a new father, and this year my six-month-old will be going Trick-or-Treating. I’m looking forward to the treats he receives. As he gets older, I intend to spend time with him teaching about the significance of the day, but encouraging him to enjoy the fun.

Patriotism in the 21st Century

I read this in a manuscript I'm working on. A Korean War Vet who had no interest in fighting, but went because his country asked him to, said of patriotism in modern American culture:

I fear that people are getting so caught up in ... personal freedom to do anything they want at any time, that the love for their fellow man and their country has fallen by the wayside.

Well said, sir. God bless you, and thank you for serving.

Celebrating the Death of Bin Laden

Some thoughts on 'celebrating' bin Laden's death. Don't get me wrong - I'm not mourning the guy. But this passage echoes my own sentiments:

When I saw that folks were celebrating in the streets at the news of bin Laden’s death, my first reaction was a cringe. Remember how we all felt watching videos of those al-Qaeda guys dancing on Sept. 11?

Are we simply creating star-spangled recruitment tapes for a new generation of terrorists killing in the name of their new martyr?

Complications after a night of jubilation - The Washington Post.

Don't Say 'The Bible Says So'

Great post about engagement and evangelism in the 21st Century:

G. K. Chesterton, the famous British writer, was once invited to a meeting of the leading intellectuals in England. They were asked if they were shipwrecked on an island, what would be the one book they would want to have with them. Everyone expected Chesterton, a prominent Christian, to say “the Bible.”

When it came his turn to speak, however, Chesterton said that if he were shipwrecked on a desert island, he’d like to have “Thomas’s Guide to Practical Shipbuilding.”

via Don't Say 'The Bible Says So', Christian News, The Christian Post.

Terrific Resources about Human Trafficking

This is a subject I've wanted to get more into, because the idea of it crushes my heart. Sex trafficking isn't something that happens in Thailand or some other third-world country - it happens here, in the United States, all the time. And there's not nearly enough being done about it. Terrific article in the New York Times this past week by Nicholas Kristoff. In his companion blog, he offers a suggestion to resolving this epidemic:

The approach that seems to be gathering steam is the Swedish model, in which johns are prosecuted but the women/girls themselves are treated as victims and are given social services but are not prosecuted. The advantage of this is that it cracks down on demand, which in turn reduces the incentive for trafficking girls in Sweden. A growing number of countries are moving to adopt that approach, and police officials in New York City are studying it as well.

Another great story by NPR about prostitution in the United States (warning - this is a straightforward report. Not for the uber-sensitive).

On Stardom

miley, cyrus, miley cyrus, billy ray cyrus, hannah montana, justin beiber, justin bieber, haircut, justin bieber haircut, justin bieber middle finger, justin bieber first kiss, drugs, pot, weed, marijuana, celebrity, achy breaky heart, gq, gq magazineI just finished reading the GQ interview with Billy Ray Cyrus. It’s heartbreaking.

The interviewer seemed a too jaded, unable to share the pain of the subject. Either that, or he doesn’t believe that Cyrus feels the pain (or even has a right to. And maybe that’s it. The writer sees Miley’s situation as a joke, as not serious, and thus is unable to empathize with Cyrus’s concerns).

But I think I can understand, at least a little bit. When I see the young pop starlets flash and burn out, my heart breaks. It seems like Hollywood has become a voyeuristic culture of self-loathing and Schadenfreude, sadistically taking pleasure in the destruction of young lives.

I don’t enjoy borrowing from the far-right Evangelical worldview, which often smacks of isolationism and self-victimization, but I can’t help but share a nuanced version of their ideology: Hollywood and all of it’s trappings are poison; not just to the audience, but to the participants. Their souls are crushed; young, talented dreamers full of potential and hope are exploited for their talents, then made pariahs in their inevitable flame-out. And all of us are to blame.

We love them because they’re new and not famous, just like us. We love the story that got them there, because it’s our dream, too - to make it big. But once they’re big, like crabs in a tank, we hate them for the same success we dream of, and we take sick satisfaction in watching them self-destruct under the pressures of the fame, in the ever-watching eye of the paparazzi.

Maybe we’re to blame. I work for a web company that tracks and responds to popular news, and never in my life have I heard so much talk about Justin Beiber. We covered his birthday, his haircut, the subsequent auction for the shorn locks, his first kiss, and that he flipped off photographers who wouldn’t leave him alone.

I don’t care about Justin Beiber. I guess he’s a talented kid, and he’s acted on a couple of shows that my wife and I watch on TV. But I don’t care about the details of his life. He’s being scrutinized in a way that no kid should ever have to be. I remember me at 17; I certainly wouldn’t have wanted that much attention. How can society ever expect these kids - who we foolishly call role models - to grow up to be decent adults when they aren’t given room to, well, grow up?

You’ve heard of the observer effect - the act of observing a phenomenon changes it - and never is that more true than in the case of these children. We watch them struggle and fail, then turn and criticize the parents for not raising them better. For his part, Cyrus admits that he was too much of a friend and not enough of a father to Miley, but his failure is as much ours. In a world dictated by shock-value and popularity, every time we log-on to see the latest public disaster, we continue to contribute to these children’s delinquency.

Guest Post: So You Think You Can Write?

I published a guest post on titled "So You Think You Can Write," offering advice to young freelance writers hoping to dive into the market. It appeared on February 14. Take a look and tell me what you think! If you're interested in a free consultation, you can contact me. I offer free copywriting, editing, and SEO services to non-profit organizations.

The Death Penalty

death, penalty, indiana, indianapolis, IMPD, IPD, David, Moore, Officer David Moore, Thomas, Hardy, murder, murderer, guilty, old testament, jesus, bible, grace, new testament, revenge, capital punishmentI'm against it. There are people on both sides of the argument in the Christian community, and basically, I err on this side - it's not a sin to keep a guy in prison forever, and it may be sinful to kill someone, even if they commit murder. Sort of a variation on Pascal's Wager, perhaps, but it's where I land.

In Indianapolis, we recently had a tragedy - a criminal who had been in and out of prison for most of his adult life was released from prison early by error, and shot a police officer during a routine traffic stop. That officer ultimately passed away.

My emotional response is, "This guy should be dead." But I struggle with that, because its vengeful and from a place of anger and hatred. I don't know how to process it. A political voice in Indianapolis, Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, posted a blog on this issue:

Let's be honest, some people are just evil and have reneged on their membership to the human race and it's time for their privileges to be revoked. You may say the death penalty is wrong and two wrongs don't make a right, but it sure as hell makes it even.

Sadly, I can at least identify with this mindset. I don't fully agree, but the argument is compelling. So I ask this question - is there ever a time where someone is so evil, so wicked, that it is simply better for them to be dead?

QUOTE: What I Believe (or, Your Faith is Too Small)

madeline, l'engle, lengle, madeline l'engle, l engle, engle, l, a wrinkle in time, a, wrinkle, in, time, book, lewis, clive, staples, lewis, c, s, cs lewis, c s lewis, brad titus, brad, titus, bradley, titus, bltitus, b, l, titus,,, christmas, joy, love, christianity, christian, religion, god, jesus, christ, jesus christ, mystery, mystery of godliness, holiness, faith, religion Madeline L'Engle:

What I believe is so magnificent, so glorious, that it is beyond finite comprehension. To believe that the universe was created by a purposeful, benign Creator is one thing. To believe that this Creator took on human vesture, accepted death and mortality, was tempted, betrayed, broken, and all for love of us, defies reason. It is so wild that it terrifies some Christians who try to dogmatize their fear by lashing out at other Christians, because tidy Christianity with all answers given is easier than one which reaches out to the wild wonder of God's love, a love we don't even have to earn.

I read L'Engle's book A Wrinkle In Time when I was in elementary school, but I feel like I need to rediscover her writings. I know she's somewhat of a universalist, but I think she was a peer and a friend of C. S. Lewis, who is my favorite author of all time.

But I like the quote - and it's a position I've been moving towards lately in some degree. Yes, there are things that we can know, but there is so much about God and eternity and life and creation that are so far beyond our comprehension and imagination ... sometimes we make Christianity too small and tidy. I have more to say on this issue, but it will have to wait for another blog post.

Net Neutrality - Why You Should Care

Net, Neutrality, obama, FCC, open, internet, steve, wozniak, woz, free, press, freedom, first, amendment, netflix, comcast, att, at&t, cable, modem, DSL, t1, t3, high, speed, data, wireless, wired, sprint, t-mobile, verizon, google, apple, android, iphone, ios, smartphone, os, ipad, searchImagine the following scenario: General Motors - the car company - owns several construction companies in the Midwest, and finances the building of roads and highways across Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Kentucky. They receive tax incentives to build, maintain, and improve these roadways, are granted exclusive rights to the roadways (so no one else can build a competing roadway), and they charge anyone who wishes to use these roads an access fee.

In an effort to bolster car sales, GM proposes the following rules: anyone who drives a GM car or truck (Chevy, GMC, Cadillac, Buick, Pontiac, or Saturn) is allowed to use the roadway for free. People who drive cars made by Ford or Dodge pay the same nominal fee, and anyone who drives a foreign car pays an additional "domestic roadway compatibility tax" that is a percentage of the value of the car being driven.

Because Toyota has been such an frustrating competitor to GM, all cars manufactured by Toyota are prohibited from being driven on the GM roadways. Anyone who owns a Toyota vehicle must instead purchase a "GM Roadway Authorized Vehicle."

Ridiculous, right? I'm sure most people would agree that this sort of scenario would be completely unacceptable. Even though GM did build the roadways, they did so while collecting kickbacks from the government (also known as your tax dollars), and then they turned around and charged you an access fee to be able to use the roads. There is no reason why GM should be allowed to limit what brand of automobile can be driven on the roadways. However, this is the same thing that is happening with Net Neutrality rules.

On Tuesday, the FCC announced new Net Neutrality rules that are so toothless, so vague, and so full of loopholes that the Internet Service Providers shouted with glee. Now, Comcast, AT&T, and other ISPs can dictate what you do on the internet, where you can go, and how quickly you can do it. What does this mean now?

It means that sites such as Netflix and Hulu - sites that ISPs hate because they use bandwidth - could be severely limited or even banned by an ISP. Or, they could instead promote their own video subscription site to the exclusion of other sites.

Another aspect of the failed Net Neutrality rules is that it doesn't offer consumer protection for wireless Internet access. What this means is that AT&T could prevent iPhone owners from browsing sales on Verizon's website, or that Sprint could prevent users from visiting, requiring them to use Sprint's services to check sports scores and news. You think that's far-fetched? How eager do you suppose AT&T is for iPhone users to watch Netflix over their 3g network?

Finally, changing these rules gives improved access to rich, established companies who can afford to pay higher access fees, leaving other sites to battle through a bottleneck to reach the end user. This means the next Internet start up, won't.

For more information about Net Neutrality, including commentary from industry experts, see the links below:

The only people who are happy with these rules (or who want to do away with them altogether) are the Republicans and the Industry. That's a sure sign that the consumer is getting hosed.

Net Neutrality is just the start of it. What's to stop a company from limiting access to anything critical of a bill that they like, or a politician that they endorse? The internet is about the free exchange of ideas, no matter how wacky or ridiculous. Letting business dictate what we can do online is dangerous, unAmerican, and just plain wrong.