Monday, January 28, 2013

The Untold Story of Peace in the Chick-fil-A Fiasco

Shane L. Windmeyer, founder/exec. dir. of Campus Pride
and Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A
at this past year's Chick-fil-A Bowl.
          Shane L. Windmeyer, the founder and executive director of Campus Pride (the leading organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and ally college students) wrote this in the Huffington Post about the humble and mature initiatives that Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy took this last summer with Campus Pride, during the whole blow-up over his statement on marriage and Chick-fil-A's support of organizations that oppose homosexual marriage.
          The article confirms that neither Windmeyer or Cathy changed their respective views on theology, marriage and politics, but they were able to have honest, respectful and amicable conversations that turned into what would seem a very unlikely friendship.
          Read the whole article if you can. The fact that such peace is possible in spite of division is counter-culturally hope-giving.    

Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Fun: Instructions on Worship Hand-Raising

          What I've been hearing about from my congregation is on video for all to see, explained by the instructor himself, Tim Hawkins.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Faith/Politics Meditations: The Spectrum of Faith-to-life Application

          It’s helpful, in any discussion, to make sure you’re talking about the same terms. Often, two sides of a debate will struggle to communicate or understand one another because they could be talking about the same term but assuming very different connotations, aspects or even denotations.
          That said, it should be realized that there’s a diverse spectrum of how a religious faith is assumed to apply to one’s lifestyle. And few seem to be taking that into account when arguing about religious liberty, whether or not it’s being violated, and its role in politics. Mostly, the ends of the spectrum are brought up. Both of these ends, I believe, Christians should avoid, because neither are the proper application of biblical principles to one’s individual daily life.
          On one end, there is politicized faith. The media and critics of the church are too familiar with politicized faith, those who vehemently lobby select biblical and other values (admittedly, some of them self-serving) into the halls of power, all the while leaving behind other biblical values (including humility and servanthood) behind. Politicized faith plays so much into political ideology and activity that the rest of the Bible’s relevance almost disappears and the faith itself is seemingly downplayed into a set of political stances. It should be no surprise, then, that people write literature attempting to disprove the historical and theological claims of the whole Bible just to, oddly, justify a secondary political or ideological stance. Some are afraid of how religious liberty will be used by those with politicized faith.
          On the other end, there is privatized faith. Privatized faith is just that: private. You can barely tell, if at all, that someone with a private faith belongs to a certain religion because their whole lifestyle doesn’t remotely differ from others, like a mild hobbyist who follows a TV show. Those, for example, that merely attend church but don’t apply the Bible’s teachings to their daily life (who are sometimes called Christian “nominals”) have what could be called a privatized faith. If all faiths practiced in the land of the free were privatized, then few laws (if any) would be considered violations of religious liberty (and more lawmakers’ and political leaders’ jobs would be a lot easier). But they’re obviously not.
          Both lawmakers and practicing religious folk (Christians included) need to find a healthy place in the middle of this spectrum of faith-to-life application so that, out of a selfless love for our neighbors and our country, we can better navigate the bumps on the road to unity with our diverse differences. Otherwise, more and more tragic stories of the failed integration of faith and culture will occur.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ministry of an Indoor Playground

          Found this in the Chicago Tribune today. A church in the west suburbs of Chicago has launched a creative ministry of community-building and charity, and other churches are already picking up on the idea: an indoor playground.
          No admission necessary (though donations for upkeep are appreciated). No brochure-reading or church attendance required. Just a local warm shelter (from the frigid Midwest winter) for you to bring your children to play. Have some coffee and a conversation while you supervise them.
          As a Midwest father of three kids under the age of 5, I can confirm that such a playground would fill a community need. As a pastor, I believe such a playground would certainly be the venue for new and positive conversations.
          You can read more here. It's always inspiring to see creative forms of ministry and service.  

Monday, January 21, 2013

WorldVision on Obama's 2nd Term; Dungy on MLK Day

          Today is certainly a very, very unique day. President Obama had his second inauguration ceremony, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day., so I thought I'd give a pair of links.

          Richard Stearns, President of WorldVision, on Obama's second term.

          Tony Dungy on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Friday Fun: Frigid Southern California

          I particularly enjoy this video, as someone who grew up in the north Midwest.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Manti Te'o, Truth and Ethics

          Only four NFL teams are left in this year's race for the Lombardi Trophy, so more and more attention and hype are being given to draft prospects. Many talented and aspiring college football players, knowing that the nation's eyes are on them and that career opportunities and large paychecks are within reach, do their best to play hard and at least appear to be people of integrity, so professional football teams (and their future employer) won't be hindered by their off-the-field issues.
          Over the years, we've seen a variety of unorthodox and unethical ways that both college and professional football teams have built themselves and their W-L records (e.g. SMU's recruiting scandal of the 1980's, the New England Patriots' illegal videotaping, the New Orleans Saints' "Bountygate"), but this story is something else. And it could only happen in our world of massive social media.
          Yesterday, it was reported that the inspiring and captivating story of Notre Dame LB (and future NFL Draft first-round pick) Manti Te'o's deceased girlfriend was a hoax. It's amazing how much the media was duped.
          There's more information coming, mainly begging the question of whether Manti Te'o was a victim or a perpetrator. So, either he was duped or he's lying. Either option could jeopardize his draft status. 
          Let's remember to always be seekers of truth, not kitsch, and maintain ethics in our endeavors, not shortcuts. It's getting a bit spooky how much deception there is in this kitsch-loving, subjective, social-media-saturated world.   

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

SEAL Team Six vs. Zero Dark Thirty

          I watched SEAL Team Six, as it went straight from the National Geographic Channel to Netflix. I haven't yet seen Zero Dark Thirty, as it's only in theaters.
          But, it's curious to see the various differences.
          Zero Dark Thirty is an Oscar contender (5 nominations) with some backlash (including from senators such as John McCain) for graphically portraying that brutal torture was necessary method to find bin Laden's location. It has (just) a few more "big" names on the cast and crew and a decent amount more violence, even with the torture scenes aside. Overall, it's well-reviewed, but it faces many questions about accuracy, and seems to bring up the whole debate over torture to the viewers to the strongest degree since Rendition.
          SEAL Team Six, while a TV-movie, is also a dramatic historical film, but it strives more for a mockumentary format that potentially focuses more on the personal lives of relationships between the team itself. While there is no "torture scene" and the violence is tame, I thought it still did well to portray the team and their mission with a convicting and realistic intensity. Others didn't give as positive a review, partially because of its aforementioned tameness, but also because of its suspicion to be a "pre-election surprise" plug for President Obama (who doesn't get that much footage in the film).
          Anyone seen Zero Dark Thirty? And SEAL Team Six? Thoughts?      

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Two Ironies Regarding Louie Giglio and the Inaugural Debacle

          For those who haven't heard, last week the White House invited Louie Giglio, pastor and founder of the popular Passion Movement, to give the benediction at President Obama's second inauguration ceremony, due to his lauded work against human trafficking worldwide. There was loud backlash due to a gentle yet "anti-gay" sermon of Giglio's from the 90's. So, two days later, Giglio respectfully withdrew the invitation and the Inaugural Committee vowed to find someone more "fair-minded," whose views "celebrate the strength and diversity of our country."
          I found two ironies in yet another predictable clash of faith/culture:

          1) The White House's questionable definition of diversity.

          2) Most of the blogosphere's busy and vitriolic debates over this issue and how it relates to either intolerance or an infringement upon religious freedom, etc. occurred on Fri., Jan. 11, otherwise known as Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Hope people weren't too distracted . . .

          Addendum: Timothy Dalrymple writes a fictitious letter from President Obama to Louie Giglio.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Peter Tebow and the Theology of Football

          No, the title here is not a typo.
          The NFL playoff process further reduced the Lombardi trophy running to four teams this past weekend. However, the games didn't go over without one intriguing football/theology incident. And I'm not talking about Ray Lewis.
          A good pastor friend of mine posted about this on Facebook. Apparently, Peter Tebow, a current Denver resident and the older brother of outspokenly Christian NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, celebrated the Denver Broncos' loss (and playoff elimination) to the Baltimore Ravens. Peter Tebow, to say the least, strongly implied that this loss was a potential God-given karma for trading his brother to the New York Jets last off-season.
          My friend said the following:
          "Remember, Christians, the world is watching you! Don't give them a reason to doubt that what you say you believe is true! We are not perfect, but we DO control what we put on Facebook/Twitter and what it says about us and the Savior we represent!!"
          You can read the whole story here.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Friday Fun: Appreciating Sound Engineers

          This is a comedic and special shout out to all the sound engineers of my church. This is what they have to do when I sing (slight exaggeration).

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Celibate Christian Author Reviews “Gay Christian Network” Lee’s “Torn”

          For those who need a little “who’s who” in the debates over homosexuality and Christianity:
          Justin Lee is a single homosexual and a raised Baptist who believes in most the fundamental tenets of Christian doctrine, lifestyle (including sexual monogamy, etc.) and the authority of the Bible, save for the Scriptural disapproval of homosexual practice. Nonetheless, he’s the founder of the Gay Christian Network and works for conversation and peace, not hostility. Lee recently wrote Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate, a book that is part memoir and part guidance for peacemaking between Christians and practicing homosexuals. It’s been lauded and promoted by institutions such as the Huffington Post.  
          Christopher Yuan is a single homosexual who has vowed himself to celibacy after becoming a Christian while in prison for drug dealing. Since release, he has obtained degrees from Moody Bible Institute (where he is currently an adjunct professor), Wheaton College Graduate School and Bethel Seminary (DMin pending) and has been a speaker at churches, schools and prisons. Yuan is the co-author of Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God and a Broken Mother’s Search for Hope.
          Recently, Yuan reviewed Lee’s Torn on The Gospel Coalition.

          “Lee explains the church has failed in its responsibility to extend Christ’s love to gays and lesbians. Evangelicals are often perceived as being against gay people and quick to lecture about how they’re living in sin. Yet, Lee points out, Jesus spent time with outcasts and sinners. ‘If even [Jesus] could meet sinners . . . how much more should we Christians—all sinners ourselves—treat [gays]?’
          “I agree with Lee that vitriol and venom often accompany the discourse from both sides and that believers must be more loving. But what does ‘more loving’ mean? If homosexual sex and same-gender romantic relationships are sinful, then wouldn’t the most loving thing be to help people not sin in this way? Or, if God blesses homosexual unions, then shouldn’t we affirm these unions also?”

          You can read the rest here.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

One Last and (Finally) Orthodox "Creed" for Scott Stapp?

          Members of my high school Christian rock band will confirm it. And I’ll admit it right now: I was a bandwagon Creed fan in high school. I memorized their first two albums (My Own Prison and Human Clay), bought a poster, and, regrettably (but temporally), let their music have a bit too much influence in my songwriting. Why did I like Creed so much? 
          Musically, they struck an appealing and dramatic balance and mixture of acoustic or other guitar ambience with a grunge-like intensity, and their frontman (Scott Stapp), for the most part, actually sang, not shouted. With the rise of rapcore and bands with more distortion- and/or technology-heavy sound, I appreciated Creed’s post-grunge with a touch of Southern rock vocals.
          Spiritually, I only believed the best about them. I really believed (or at least wanted to believe) they, or at least Stapp, were a “Christian band,” even though they disavowed any such stereotypical “agenda.” Nevertheless, Creed’s lyrics (written mostly by Stapp) and liner art dripped with Scriptural imagery and often could at least be interpreted to illustrate a Scriptural truth. Stapp seemingly had a potential testimony that could illustrate God’s grace, and Creed was comfortably in the mainstream and high on the Billboard, where most the stereotypical, agenda-holding and less-mysterious “Christian bands” couldn’t find themselves.
          So yeah, Creed (or at least my self-made image of them) fulfilled all high school visions of what a “Christian band” should be.  
          But then, there were red flags, break-ups and downright scandal. The next paragraph just covers the surface.
          Stapp’s interviews on VH1’s “Behind the Music: Creed” were vague at best and cynical at worst about his relationship with the Christian God. Him and his wife divorced. Creed’s third album, Weathered, to me, was a bit predictable, kitschy and corny (and I kept hearing from critics how much Stapp's voice was imitating that of Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder). The band broke up and Stapp had to deal with issues in his personal life (broken relationships, addictions, etc.). I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a band and its reputation fall apart so quickly, my view included. When Scott Stapp reportedly recording a solo track about how inspired he was by Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, I really wasn’t interested in hearing the song. Having already found better exemplary role models for music ministry, I had moved on. This was 7-8 years ago.
          And now I stumble upon The Gospel Coalition’s review of Scott Stapp’s recent memoir, Sinner’s Creed. The review focuses more on and celebrates Stapp’s warnings on the dangers of any type of fame, and a little less on how reformed (with a lower case, mind you) and intentional Stapp seems to currently be with the Christian God. His relationship with the “Faceless Man” (Human Clay) was always mysterious, but maybe it’s finally clear and positive. As for the reunited Creed’s career in our majority hip-hop and techno/pop era? That’s another matter.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Kaylee's 3 Years Old! and What's in a Name

          "It looks like you guys are having another girl," the ultrasound technician told us in Delaware, more than three years ago. Now she's an intelligent and feisty little girl who loves to sing. She's coming into her own, as her older sister goes off to Awana, preschool and a different Sunday school class.
          This year, I thought I'd tell a bit about why we named my children the way we did, as I did for my son 3 months ago and my daughter 2 months ago. I'll put forth the same disclaimer. Yes, I am a bit meticulous when it comes to naming my children, and all my children's names are carefully based on deeply biblical names and concepts. This speaks more to the idea that I'm an obsessively creative person (read: eccentric theological nerd) when it comes to naming my children, rather than the impression that I am "holier-than-thou" to anyone who approaches naming their children differently.
          The name "Kaylee" is actually a distant form of the name "Michael." (Michael to Michaela, to Mikayla, to Kayla, to Kaylee). Michael is an archangel who continually has prominent roles in God's work (including military work), but acknowledges God's sovereignty. The name translates from Hebrew: "Who is like God?"
          Kaylee was given the middle name Joy because of our energetic joviality with which we received her, and she's very much reciprocated that aura.
          Like I said last year: Kaylee, I love that you’re passionate and zealous (even though I need to redirect that every so often). I love your eagerness to learn and be yourself, and I hope you never lose your love for singing. I love your grace with your older sister. It’s my privilege to raise you, and you’ll never lose my love and support as a father.  

Friday, January 4, 2013

Friday Fun: How Not to Greet Worshippers

An ethnodoxologist colleague of mine posted this recently. Good for a quick chuckle.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Ray Lewis, the "Original Tim Tebow," Announces Retirement

          I admire any Christ-follower in the NFL (player, coach, etc.) who isn't just vocal and explicit about their faith to the media and football fans, but also charitable and showing themselves to be a diligent, honorable, team player and shepherd-like leader to the team itself. There's a long list of people like that, and one of them just announced his retiremen: Ray Lewis.
          A Baltimore sports columnist takes time to dissect the title of "original Tim Tebow" here, and I'd encourage all NFL fans to do some research on the soon-to-retire Ray Lewis, both a sinner saved by God's grace and amazing linebacker.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Global Slavery Higher Than Ever?, Says Atlantic

          Today, a blogger from The Gospel Coalition toted a saddening and alarming article from The Atlantic about slavery in our world.

          Yesterday marked the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln, a major step that ended slavery in the United States. Most people assume that the end of the transatlantic slave trade, a 350 year period in which 13.5 million people were taken out of Africa, was the end of slavery. But slavery has continued into the twenty-first century. Indeed, it is estimated that there are twice as many enslaved right now as there had been in the whole 350-year span of the transatlantic trade. Since it's so ubiquitous, why don't we hear more about it?

          You can read the rest here.