Tuesday, July 25, 2017

God, Humankind, and Cell Phones

Sometimes I feel like God’s relationship with me is like my relationship with my cell phone.

There are times I’ll be riding in the car through an area packed with businesses, and I want to check my email. My cell phone tires, to no avail, to connect to the internet using an “unlocked” and weak WiFi network that it might have found 30 feet away. My cell phone does this without my approval, supposedly to save me data, or maybe it’s just being too lazy to connect to the cellular network.

I wish my cell phone would trust me. For I have paid, sometimes dearly, for its reliable cellular network and safe WiFi networks where it can find rest for its weary connection-finder. But my cell phone feels it can do this and other things on its own, such as dictating and interpreting my words, understanding where I want to put the cursor, and when I want the screen horizontal.

If only my cell phone would learn to trust me and the internet connections I have paid to provide it, as well as the gentle commands I give it, it would serve me well and it would live a long and prosperous life. For I will not forsake a cell phone before it is well-utilized.

I am actually a caring cell phone user. I don’t exhaust the gigabytes with photos, videos and applications. I make efforts to keep dust from getting in ports and I buy cases when necessary. I have access to a plethora of cell phone doctors. I haven’t and never will use it for more than what it’s built for.

So, if I could say something to my cell phone, it would be: “Please don’t exhaust yourself. You’re a wonderful creation and I yearn for your service to me. But you must learn to trust how I’ve made you, my provisions for you, and my commands to you.”

Anything you want to add?

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Rise of Church-less Evangelicals

I grew up, as many have, with the cliche that you aren’t a Christian just because you go to church. One saying went like, “Being in church doesn’t make you a Christian just like being in a garage doesn’t make you a car.” It can be a clever exhortation for regular churchgoers to follow James 1:22. I get it.

But it seems the times have really a-changed. There is a large population of people that call themselves “evangelical” or “Christian” in surveys and exit polls, but they don’t go to church

Perhaps the divorce rate among self-dubbed Christians is disturbingly high. But among those who regularly attend church, it’s “markedly lower” than the general population’s average.

According to exit polls, the vast majority of white self-dubbed evangelicals voted for President Trump. “But as Notre Dame’s Geoffrey Layman noted, ‘Trump does best among evangelicals with one key trait: They don’t really go to church.’”

Because of this factor, there are potentially a lot of generalizations and assumptions being made about evangelicals and Christians. 

Could there be other things that we’re getting wrong?

For all purposes (statistical, theological, etc.), how should we define “Christian” or “evangelical”? Should church attendance really (still) be a non-factor?

P.S. I think you should go to church regularly. Research has shown that it does more than just lower your divorce probability.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

My Prayer For #NationalDayOfPrayer (2017)

(Originally posted for last year's National Day of Prayer, updated).

Dear Heavenly Father, Creator of All Things,

Thank you for our country. As I strive to worship You and serve the poor, I regularly am blessed by the fruit of our country’s founding vision of freedom, responsibility and humility. My children attend a very resourceful and culturally-diverse school and church, and there are many other ways my wife and I feel uniquely blessed by our community.

However, we have erred from what is right by Your commandments and what would continue to be deemed good stewardship and cultural flourishing in the land You have given us. 

We have sought self-fulfillment in the wrong places, storing up treasures on earth. Have mercy.

We have treasured our sub-culture and/or country more than Your love and grace. Have mercy.

We have had the over-confidence to disregard the notion of intelligence other than our own, pridefully refusing to be teachable. Have mercy.

Under a guise of justice, we have sought vengeance and victory instead of reconciliation and the common good. Have mercy.

Wanting to create a culture that we thought was better, we have ignored facts and believed heinous lies about people. Have mercy.

We have selfishly sought our own trivial good and ignored the significant plight of others. Have mercy.

We have continually mocked leaders and those in authority that You have ordained, and not prayed for them as You commanded. Have mercy.

Unlike many of Your children outside of our country, many of us continue to lack an adequate theology of suffering. Have mercy.

We ask, Lord, that You would give wisdom and strength to President Trump and all those who are given the difficult task of leading and shepherding a diverse and polarized country. 

May we have the strength to continue to serve You, help others and work for the common good. 

May we, following Your commands, in our relationships with one another, seek absolute grace and not relative justice. 

May we, following Your commands, be elitist about ideas but egalitarian about fellow children of God.

May we never forget, Lord, that You are not surprised or intimidated by actions of men. You are our perfect example of humble servanthood. Give us the strength and courage to serve our country.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

What Were The Other Passengers Doing?

So, everyone’s talking about United Flight 3411. Or at least they were. Now people are talking about the murder-suicide in an elementary school in San Bernadino, or about Russia and Syria. 

United Airlines had overbooked a flight from Chicago to Louisville. If what I’ve been reading is correct, they needed to remove four passengers to transport their staff. They asked for volunteers, offering $800 each as well as a night in a hotel (most likely the Hilton at O’Hare, which I’ve seen; it’s pretty nice). Knowing the plane was stationary until four passengers would vacate, still no one volunteered. So, it was announced that four passengers would be selected at random to get off the flight. The first three selected passengers complied. The fourth would not. After supposedly being diplomatic to no avail, security was called in to forcefully (and, unfortunately, bloodily) remove him from his seat.

So yeah, everybody’s talking. The following are themes of what I’ve read online, not my own personal view:

United is a horrible company, they’re systemically racist against Chinese, and they’ve always had bad customer service. They just kept a doctor from seeing his patients on time and beat him up. Boycott! No, no! They were diplomatic as can be for a long time, and he kept being a jerk. He’s not a practicing doctor anymore and has a criminal record. Maybe he deserved it. 

I’ve been scanning through various articles, and so many of these articles (e.g. CNN, Chicago Sun-Times) donate space to the most cleverly-written (and opinionated) tweets about the issue, some of them not even a witness or a relevant source, in order to show “the public’s reaction on social media.” Really? If I wanted to see the public’s reaction on social media, I’d go on social media. Where can I read about the facts of the incident? But I digress.

Amid all that people are talking about United 3411, I have a question: what were the other passengers doing?

It was a full cabin, and four people were offered $800 and a night at a hotel to wait one day to go to Louisville, and everyone refused the inconvenience. I guess I can understand that. What worries me is that, when the situation seemed to be escalating and getting violent, still it seemed nobody volunteered to give up their seat to spare the man the visit to the hospital, the humiliation, and maybe even his trip to Louisville that night. 

Yes, hindsight is 20/20, but was there really no way for any passenger to foresee the fiasco? When the violence started, other passengers just sat there. I wonder what would have happened if just one passenger said, “You can take my seat! Leave that man alone!” What happened instead is that all the other passengers stayed on the flight, landed in Louisville when they wanted to, and posted on social media about the injustice afterwards. It’s slacktivism at its finest.

Recently, in one of our country’s own cities, a group of black boys were being a bit noisy on a public train. Someone called security and the train stopped. An officer got on the cab and attempted to shoo out all the black boys on board. One brave fellow passenger took a risky stand to clarify to the officer that one boy was not, in fact, with the rowdy group and should not be shooed. This passenger sent a message that prejudice does not control this country.

A few years ago in Kenya, a group of Islamist gunmen stepped onto a public bus and asked the Christians and Muslims to separate, as the former were very likely to be executed. The passengers refused, and the Muslims among the passengers responded to the militants, “to kill them together or leave them alone.” Thankfully, the Islamist gunmen then left the bus. It was a statement from the passengers that religious terrorism does not control that country.

One columnist said that the incident of United 3411 shows that it’s really corporations that are in control of this country, because of the power they have and what they’re willing to do to keep and get money. Whether that idea is the heart of matter, I won’t address. But I’d say that it’s really easy to control a group of people who don’t stand up for each other.

Maybe I’m way off base, and many fellow passengers on United 3411 did indeed stand up for the unwillingly removed passenger when they saw the situation going sour. If so, nobody (not even the press) is talking about it.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Clarifying the Billy Graham Rule

A recent piece in the Washington Post had some questions and comments about the “Billy Graham Rule,” now that it’s been brought back to the public eye by its use by Vice President Mike Pence.

Recently, a Washington Post article about second lady Karen Pence has brought the Billy Graham Rule back into the public eye. The article cites a 2002 interview with Vice President Pence — who has called himself an “evangelical Catholic” — saying that he “never eats alone with a woman other than his wife,” and that he doesn’t attend events serving alcohol unless she is with him as well.

I’ll answer the question and comments as best I can.

In this case, the Billy Graham Rule risks reducing women to sexual temptations, objects, things to be avoided.

Women should not be objectified. However, if there was an official list of Top Things That Dehumanize Women That Should Be Challenged, the Billy Graham Rule wouldn’t even make it into the first one hundred. What about the rampant pornography on the internet and sex appeal in the media? If anything, the continued practice of the Billy Graham rule is a reaction to our increasingly pornified culture. It really can’t be blamed for perpetuating it. 

If a woman at work cannot meet one-on-one with her boss or colleague, her options for advancement (or even being taken seriously as a colleague) are extremely limited.

Do these career-necessary meetings have to be one-on-one, behind closed opaque doors and completely unaccountable, even to the rest of the business?

In this conversation, we also have to keep in mind the fact that Pence is the vice president of the United States. He is not a pastor and does not act in that capacity. How on earth can he be expected to represent half the country if he won’t eat at the same table as us? Not to mention that his ideological purity is called into question by his support of our current president, who has bragged about committing sexual assault.

Again, the Billy Graham Rule is about private, individual and completely unaccountable meetings, which are not necessary for any affirmation of human dignity or career advancement. The Billy Graham Rule is not just for pastors avoiding scandals for the good of their jobs. It’s for maintaining integrity within marriages and institutions. I think it’s a good thing that one of our elected leaders is practicing it.

However, if we look not to Graham for an example of how to treat women but to Jesus, we will find a different path to follow. Jesus consistently elevated the dignity of women and met with them regularly, including his meeting with a Samaritan woman in the middle of the day.

While Jesus elevated the dignity of women in many more examples in Scripture, one could make the argument that Jesus followed the Billy Graham Rule, as he never had a one-on-one and completely unaccountable meeting with someone of either gender. 

As for Billy Graham, he has always been a non-partisan, non-denominational, scandal-free, charitable man of prayer and integrity. He’s been a friend to all sorts of presidents for decades. Billy Graham always released his ministry tax returns to the newspapers so he could be held financially accountable, and the Billy Graham Rule is another simple way he (and now our Vice President) keep themselves accountable to the public.

What’s really wrong with that?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Life As A Moderate

I’ll just announce it to the world without shame. I am moderate. Extremely moderate. Viciously moderate. When it comes to political and cultural issues, I strive to be a mediator and peacemaker. And it isn’t easy. It’s always complicated.

Will McAvoy, for example, claimed to be moderate in Aaron Sorkin’s HBO series The Newsroom. (Sorkin has at least twice written about LGBTQ-friendly Catholic geniuses who were abused by their jealous Protestant fathers). But while McAvoy was a good team leader who empowered and sacrificially loved his staff, his supposed and self-dubbed centrist journalism seemed to be mostly left-leaning snark that did not strive for unity and helpful reform.

So what is a true moderate? Not a revolutionary, but a reformist. As I look through the narrative of the Bible, the life of Jesus, the socio-cultural strives of the early Church of the Roman Empire, and God’s work in my life and the lives of people in my church, I can’t help but endeavor to be a true moderate. Would you be interested in joining me on my journey? Here’s what true moderates all should strive to do:
  1. Listen first, talk later (if at all). Be a soundboard for people as they tell their stories of felt abuse, abandonment, pain and/or fear. (How “slow to anger” can we be?). A moderate has the ability to feel another’s pain. May our hearts bleed for victims of all forms of suffering, no matter how much your worldview may think such suffering is deserved. Life can be tough for a moderate because it is one that helps carry a lot of others’ burdens.
  2. Be teachable and wise. Things are always more complicated. Know and understand the depth of the issues at hand, as well as the credible arguments of the other side of the ideological spectrum. Reform is very difficult (nigh impossible) when conversations are cycling through the same kitschy cliches that have little research (e.g. in history, science, statistics, religious study) or compassion.
  3. Strive for unity, despite differences. What’s a moderate’s goal in reform? Holistic peace by the sanctity of human life, from conception to the deathbed. (That may be my “religious views” coming into play here). I believe that us country-mates can strive for that within our communities and nation despite the divisions that are more eye-grabbing, emotionally-satisfying and maybe even individually-profitable for some. Do you believe that, too? Or are you checking my profile now to guess where I “really stand” on some issues so you can maybe write me off?
  4. Just serve. We live in a pathetic world of virtue-signaling and slacktivism. A status (or even an argument!) on your social media account does nothing for the true victims of socio-cultural and political change. So you’re against police brutality and urban poverty? What have you done to serve the charities and organizations working to build bridges in broken city communities? So you’re for or against President Trump’s proposed travel bans. What have you done to help the persecuted refugees and American-born Muslims within your community? For every single issue, there’s a type of healthful activity to engage the problem (regardless of where you even stand on it, in some cases) rather than just angrily talk about it. I, personally, abstain from partisanship and look at each issue individually with the attitude of a Chick-fil-A employee: “How can I serve you?”
It’d be easier if I just picked a side. That way I could read a lot more subjective news and editorials that make me feel more justified in my views, and I’d get a lot more post likes on Facebook. But, in becoming a moderate, I’ve “listened” and heard too many heartbreaking stories from people on both sides of the ideological spectrum add to the growing and unnecessary division.

Life as a moderate isn’t easy, but it’s what I feel called to be: not a revolutionary, but a reformer. Anyone interested in joining me?

Friday, March 3, 2017

Church Sign of the Week (3/3/17)

The Golden Rule of Twitter, as stated by Elmer Fudd.

A real Fwiday tweet.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Shack and the Problem of Pain

The Shack movie releases in theaters this weekend, as this year marks the tenth anniversary of Paul Young’s self-published novel of the same title. The book appeared in 2007, and traveled through the wider Christian market to become a global phenomenon. By early summer, 2008, more than one million sales were reported, and by the end of 2009, more than ten million.

Young grew up as a missionary kid and was sexually abused (not by family) on the mission field. The Shack, he says, was birthed in his own wrestling with his trauma and his existential “problem of pain” — how God can be sovereign and good, and not just allow such evil in the world at large, but such evil toward me personally.

The Shack is fiction, but don’t think for a minute that Young isn’t clearly and intentionally writing theology. He’s the first to say so. Theology isn’t merely conveyed in abstract propositions. Dozens of literary genres make up the Christian Scriptures. It’s not only the apostle Paul who speaks for God, but also the Psalms and Proverbs and the apocalyptic writings. Jesus himself spoke in stories, called parables. Story is a powerful tool for teaching someone about God and his world. The fact that Young writes a novel doesn’t mean that he’s indifferent to how his readers think about God and their pain. In fact, the key to understanding why so many love his novel is it speaks so vividly about God and pain.

You can read the rest.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Spoken Word: The Poetic Beauty of the Gospel Message

HT: Melissa Kruger

Whether it’s through story, song, or artwork, I’m thankful for the variety of creative ways God’s people reflect the beauty of our Creator. Today I’m sharing an interview with Quina Aragon. She’s a spoken-word artist and poet with a deep love for God and a desire to reach others with the gospel message. And, when you hear her, you’ll understand the beauty of the gift the Lord’s given her—I could listen to her all day!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Social Media Lenten Observance

This is really clever.

Tomorrow is the beginning of Lent, a time for reflection and devotion. Christ Lutheran Church (LCMS) of Topeka, KS, has devised an ingenious online, social media observance, built around specific words for each day of Lent. The idea is to post a picture that captures each word, posting it on FaceBook, tagged with @christlcms, or Instagram, tagged with @christ_lutheran_topeka, and the hashtag #hearingthegospel.  Then people can contemplate all of the pictures that have contributed.

You can read the rest.

Monday, February 27, 2017

How Not To Spread Lies On Social Media

With the advent of social media and its collision with an incredibly acrimonious election season, it’s a fight to distinguish truth from slander on Facebook, Twitter, and online news sources. Perhaps you have a family member or friend who sends you online articles disparaging a particular politician or public figure. Maybe you follow folks on Twitter who retweet inflammatory messages. A man was arrested at a pizzeria in Washington, D.C., that one of my family members regularly visits, all because he believed incendiary messages that alleged the pizzeria was a front for a political child sex ring.
Closer to home, I too have friends and loved ones who share with me unsettling rumors from both sides of the political aisle. I’m regularly tempted on social media to believe things that sound true, especially if they fit my political preferences. Thankfully, despite the contrast between our modern age of social media and the flow of information during biblical times, we’re not left as orphans without instructions for separating facts from gossip. 
You can read the rest.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Thursday, February 23, 2017

How One Ex-Gang Leader Is Reaching Chicago’s Most Dangerous Neighborhoods

Kingdom Covenant Church

Last year in Chicago, hundreds of young black men took out their guns and shot each other.

The city saw 762 murders, more than New York City (334) and Los Angeles (294) combined, and far higher than its 2015 tally of 485. Much of the violence was driven by gang activity on the South and West sides of the city; three-quarters of the perpetrators—and victims—were young black men.

Some speculate the rising violence was caused in part by a police force weakened after a video of a white police officer shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times. In August, arrests were down by a third and stops were down by 80 percent from 2015, 60 Minutes reported.

Others point to longer-range reasons, including the unintended consequences of tearing down high-rise projects around 2011, which dispersed the gangs that gathered there. Even moving imprisoned gang leaders to out-of-state correctional institutions—a decision meant to cut off their communication with the street—backfired when street leadership became “chaotic and out of control.”

But in the middle of the chaos, black pastors are making a difference. Reaching out to neighborhoods, feeding the hungry, and running programs for kids, the black church is salting the city.

One of those pastors is David Washington, who prays with people and hands out school supplies on streets he knows well. He grew up in the violent South Side neighborhood of Roseland; in fact, he used to run a gang and sell drugs there.

You can read the rest.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Syrian Family That Found A Way Out

You might remember the story.  I told it just a few months ago, when I thought the world had peaked in it’s insanity. I was wrong.
The story was about a Syrian family that I met. They were pushed out of their ancestral home by war and violence. If you don’t remember Albert Sayegh specifically, you might remember the smiling son – Jack.
Finally, this is one Middle East refugee story with a happy ending.
When I met Albert in Jordan 18 months ago, he was pensive and struggling to make sense of it all.  He was just few months removed from leaving his career as a mechanical engineer, his shop and his home.  Aleppo, Syria was his home – his family’s heritage. But it had fallen to terrorism, war and strife.
There were no real prospects as a Christian refugee family. In Jordan he wasn’t allowed to work and he was living off their meager savings and the charity of loving family and friends. Europe and the United States had shut the door to Syrian refugees out of fear of ISIS cells. He was stuck.
“I had a good job as a mechanical engineer. I had my own shop with $50,000 in inventory,” he told me with wistful, look-away eyes. “Then they just took it.”
“More than 75 percent of my neighbors were Christians, but the terrorists came through and identified each of us by our faith. After that, we were targets,” he said.
The snipers would train their rifles on their street facing windows, so they couldn’t go near the front of the house.
“Two or three times a week, bombs would drop in our neighborhood,” he said, almost matter of factly.
You can read the rest.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Do We Really Have To Politicize Everything?

A couple weeks ago, I nearly tore my hair out when the news broke that Chili’s had an affiliate who wanted to help diners donate a portion of their meal’s proceeds to Planned Parenthood. Chili’s is where my family eats most often. (Yes, Chili’s — to the jeering of my foodie friends who like to mock!) Thankfully, within just a day or two, Chili’s issued a statement to assure their patrons that the restaurant was not supporting Planned Parenthood and that donations to the abortion giant would not be taking place.
But the news made me tired. For a moment, I thought, Will I no longer be able to enjoy a meal on Sunday afternoon with my family at Chili’s without thinking of the politics of abortion?
These days, the political realm has begun to infringe upon every other aspect of our common life together: sports, religion, retail, and art. We should resist this development, because this infringement flattens our ability to love our neighbors.
You can read the rest.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The True Meaning of Presidents Day

Happy Presidents’ Day.  What are we really celebrating today?
Originally, it was George Washington’s Birthday, honoring the Father of Our Country.  Then Abraham Lincoln, another great American, was thrown in.
Once the holiday was moved to Monday, to give federal workers a three-day weekend, Presidents’ Day became completely unmoored from the date of Washington’s birthday.  Now we use the day to celebrate ALL presidents.
You can read the rest.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Embryo Adoption

A hallmark of the evangelical church in America is the backing of a pro-life worldview. As such, abortion clinics and the politics that govern them are primary areas of focus in this important cause. However, there’s another front that often gets overlooked in the fight for life: the state of the thousands of children who remain cryogenically frozen as human embryos following in-vitro fertilization cycles.
A growing Christian response to this issue is the life-affirming answer of embryo adoption.
You can read the rest.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Facebook's Workplace Secret: Trust

In a competitive world, keeping information close to the vest is viewed as a business imperative. Products, strategies and tactics fall under the tent of “Intellectual Property” and are closeted until just the right time.
For example, Apple is famous for secrecy. Prototypes, plans and ideas are carefully stove-piped so no one working on them has the whole picture until the product is ready for launch.
The recipes for Coca-Cola, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chip Cookies are carefully vaulted, ensuring a marketplace advantage.
There are good reasons – some of them are legal – to keep certain things under wraps. But too many workplaces are cloaked in secrecy over every detail, with all the knowledge and power held by a few.
You can read the rest.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The 5 Weightiest Words of Love

The cost of the average wedding in America now exceeds $30,000, with prices soaring 16 percent between 2011 and 2015. With all the glitz and glamour surrounding a couple’s special day, it’s easy to focus on the decorations and dresses, while overlooking the most valuable moment of the day—the costliest words spoken between a husband and wife.
“Till death do we part.”
We’re so familiar with the phrase that we forget how strange it sounds. What the man and woman are saying is: One of us will stand at the grave of the other. In other words: I’m with you until your last breath or you’re with me until mine, whichever comes first.
In the middle of this picturesque celebration of two becoming one, death suddenly crowds into the frame. Rightly understood, marriage is about both life and death. The wedding day is inextricably tied to the funeral service.
But those five weighty words—until death do we part—are losing their gravity these days.
You can read the rest.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Why Is Cedar Rapids, IA So Godless?

A curious study of where I lived for six of my formative years.

Iowa defines the American heartland, with its staunch Midwestern values and rural American virtues.  Though its prairie populism sometimes elects Democrats, today its elected officials are most Republican.  The candidate favored by Christian conservatives usually wins the Iowa caucuses.
A recent study ranked Iowa as the 19th most religious state in the union.  Except for one mysterious outlier:  Cedar Rapids.
The second largest city in the state, with a population of only 130,000, is an island of secularism in an ocean of religion.  By virtually ever standard–Bible reading, Bible believing, church attendance–Cedar Rapids scores closer to the big coastal cities than any of its midwestern neighbors.  Nearly half (47%) of its adults are “nones,” holding to no particular religion at all.  That’s the same percentage as Los Angeles county.
You can read the rest.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Thursday, February 9, 2017

When Mockers Marvel

Can you believe she laughed?
She was pushing 100 years old and God made a specific promise to her. He told Sarah that within a year she was going to be a mom—even though she was barren and well beyond the normal age for motherhood. Upon hearing this, she laughed. Then after being confronted by God about her response she denied it; but God persisted, “No, but you did laugh.”
God made a great promise but Sarah couldn’t believe it. She laughed in the face of such an unbelievable promise.
You can read the rest.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Star Wars IV And Mentorship

God help us, but if you aren’t ready for Obi-Wan when he comes, then you will never find a mentor. Star Wars is a movie and one not so tiny moment of unreality  is when Luke meets Obi-Wan Kenobi and immediately is ready to be mentored.
The speeder driving, womp rat killing Luke Skywalker had not done anything to be ready to learn. He was undisciplined and unfocussed. He wasn’t brave enough to defy his Uncle and go to the Academy or loving enough to be patient knowing he would get there eventually.
Why would he be ready for the chance of a lifetime from an old man stuck in the desert?
You can read the rest.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Church And Immigration In The 19th Century

Some things change, but a lot of things stay the same. Chicago gets a lot of mentions in this article.

The early weeks of the Trump presidency have been dominated by discussions of the ethics and propriety of his immigration policies. But Americans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries faced a flood of immigration that makes today’s issues look modest in comparison. Between 1877 and 1890 alone, a total of 6.3 million new arrivals entered the United States. Even more would arrive before the coming of World War I. The total American population in 1900 was a little more than 72 million, so the new immigrants were visibly and suddenly changing the American landscape.
The influx particularly shifted the demographics of American cities. By 1890, some 15 percent of the national population had not been born in the United States. Cities like Chicago and New York were utterly transformed. By 1900, four-fifths of those cities’ populations were foreign born, or at least had parents who were not born in the United States. Many of the newcomers were Catholic or Jewish, and were coming from previously uncommon places of origin in southern and eastern Europe. (America also stood on the cusp of the first great wave of immigration from Mexico, which saw hundreds of thousands flee north during the Mexican Revolution of the 1910s.)
You can read the rest.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Daniel Syndrome

Another in a series of posts about the many and various ways in which religions spread – often by people who originally had no intention whatever of becoming missionaries, or indeed of leaving their homes.
Sometimes, people really do set out to spread their religion to new parts of the world, and they enjoy great success in doing so. They might be acknowledged missionaries, consciously pursuing evangelization, or else they are refugees and utopians seeking better conditions in which to pursue their faith. Think of the Puritans and their “New England.” In many instances, though, religions spread by non-intentional means, and these can be quite as successful as deliberate mission. Religions or denominations are carried along with larger migration movements. In other less studied cases, the people carrying religious traditions actually do so quite reluctantly, because they have no wish whatever to be in the countries in which they find themselves.
You can read the rest.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Does God Care About The Super Bowl? Interesting Stats.

HT: Kimberly Winston

Does God have his eye on the gridiron? Will he cheer for either the Atlanta Falcons or the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl on Feb. 5?
One-quarter (25 percent) of all Americans believe he does and he will, according to a new survey released today (Jan. 30) by the Public Religion Research Institute.
That’s slightly less than the number — 28 percent — who believe the Almighty had “a major role” in placing Donald Trump in the White House, the same study shows. Another 13 percent say God played a “minor role” — a backup quarterback, if you will — in the results of the 2016 presidential election.
You can read the rest.
Brings in some deep theological questions about God's involvement, but we ought to understand the difference between His will of decree and His will of desire.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Five Ways To Engage With News Media

HT: Paul Conner

Of all things to read, why read the news?
C. S. Lewis asked this question in both An Experiment in Criticism and Surprised by Joy. He described the person who reads only the news as “the most unliterary reader of all,” one step below the reader of the “lowest kinds of fiction.” As for news writers, Lewis deemed them unreliable because they tend to focus on stories of “vulgarity and sensationalism,” and rarely put facts in their proper context.
Lewis is onto something here. As a journalist, I hope you don’t cut the news entirely out of your reading diet. But Lewis’s words point to the fact that it’s wise for us to consider how we read the news.
Here are five biblically based principles for Christians to keep in mind when engaging with the media.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

What To Do When Incivility Grips A Civilization

More than a million women marched across the nation and world this weekend. They marched for issues like gender gaps in pay, abortion and gay rights. But call it what you want, these rallies were really just an opposition toward the election and now inauguration of Donald Trump.

That’s fine, when you have a nation that routinely votes about half and half, you’ll always have a side that stands in opposition. In a civilized world that values free speech this is a sign of a healthy society that allows dissension.

But I was shocked at the vulgarity and incivility that seemed to rule many of the speeches, signs and banners. I can’t even type some of the things I saw on TV and locally. They were crude, angry and disgusting. I don’t think I’m prudish, but to see such lewdness occur on a widespread basis was jarring.

Both sides are too blame. I saw much of the same during the last election cycle, as the high ground crumbled into the ground.

And here’s the rub. Our current President has only continued the volley with his own language, actions and crude behavior. So the opposition feels justified acting in kind.

Impropriety begets more impropriety. I don’t agree with it, but I get it from a human perspective.

You can read the rest.