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The View from the Religious Middle
How can we oppose injustice without acting like the sky is falling?
Outside the University Union Building at the University of North Texas, a small stone marked one of six "free speech areas" on campus. In the early 2000s, when I was a student there, these designated areas were used mostly by Christians to proclaim hellfire and damnation upon "whoremongers, atheists, homosexuals, and church gossips," among many others. As an agnostic at the time, I marveled at how ineffectively they used the precious little real estate they had to talk about their faith.
Though policies have since changed at UNT, more Christians today tend feel like those students did: that our place in the cultural conversation is shrinking, and we need to shout louder to have our voices heard. A report by Lifeway Research found full 70 percent of pastors (and just over half of the general public) believe that religious liberty is declining in America, and 59 percent believe that Christians are losing the culture wars.
Lifeway Research president Ed Stetzer attributes this unease to "shifts in American culture and church practice" as well as a decline in the number of American Protestants. In the 1960s, Christians made up two-thirds of the population, but today, they make up less than half.
Since Lifeway's research only measured perceptions, it doesn't tell us if Christians really are losing their religious liberty and if so, to what extent. But it isn't hard to get a good read of the situation from the headlines: the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act (being argued in the Supreme Court this week); the veto of controversial SB1062, which would allow Arizona businesses to refuse services to gay weddings; the rights of businesses to terminate individuals based ...
The Epic Jesus Follower Fail
The cringe-worthy subplot of Holy Week underscores the truth of the gospel.
On the Internet and in our culture, there's a lot of bluster, often warranted, about the failures of the church. We wince as another pastor is involved in scandal; another popular Christian leader says something unhelpful, insensitive, or heretical; another Christian blogger gang war erupts over the controversy du jour.
Every so often, someone pens a post breathlessly announcing the imminent doom of the church because of what a mess we Christians are. And then people like me talk about it. And tweet about it. And blog about it. And bicker about it. Again and again and again.
It's true. We are a mess and need to be quick to repent--doctrinal and moral failure among believers is serious and grievous. But from its earliest days, God has pursued and propelled the church in spite of our bumbling and failure.
And this week, Holy Week, we notice that in the midst of Christ's passion, death, and resurrection, we also find an embarrassingly painful display of the weakness, confusion, even imbecility of his earliest followers.
In each unfolding event of the week, the apostles disappoint. During the Last Supper, Jesus tells his friends that one of them will betray him and that they'll all abandon him. They respond by telling Jesus that he's underestimated them and arguing about who is the greatest, the most loyal disciple.
A damning ...
Morning Roundup 3/18/14
Mormons in the American Mind; Church Absence; Diocese Guilty of Antigay Bias
Fascinating article on how Mormons are perceived. I've written on Mormonism before, pointing out that it is seeking to be seen more like a denomination, but is seen by pastors as a different religion (distinct from biblical Christianity) (here, here, here, and here).
Selma Wilson has a great article about church. I opined a bit on this after Donald Miller indicated he was not going to church.
Once again, the legal issues on gay marriage surface. LifeWay Research did some research on this recently.
Jenni Catron joined me in studio to discuss leadership principles from her book Clout.
Most recently she served for nine years as the Executive Director of Cross Point Church in Nashville, Tenn., where she led the staff and oversaw the ministry of its five campuses. Prior to joining the staff of Cross Point, she worked in Artist Development in the Christian music industry. Don't forget to join me every Tuesday at 3:00 PM Eastern for The Exchange.
They Will Know Us By Our Angry Blogs
Its time for Christians to tone down the controversy and show some love.
It's hard to believe that not so long ago, I didn't know my Mark Driscoll from my Donald Miller, had never heard of Rachel Held Evans, and didn't know what a Patheos was. Tucked snugly within the ivory tower, I had never set virtual foot inside the Christian blogosphere. But all that has changed and because of the online realm of Christian blogging, my world has been made bigger, and for the most part, richer.
Despite the connections made and lessons learned online, controversy remains the lifeblood of the blogosphere. Indeed, polemics have a long, grand tradition within church history. But when Martin Luther called heretics "asses," his motive of upholding doctrine wasn't mingled with the side benefit of driving traffic to his site through sensationalist headlines and reader outrage.
Now, centuries after Luther, the disembodied, instantaneous nature of today's Internet communication cultivates and rewards acrimony where there should be love. To this point, Alastair Roberts observed in response to a recent blogosphere brush-up an "almost pathological need to take offence" that prevails. Compound such a pathology with the celebrity culture (yes, even among Christians) and the tribalism that dominate our media-saturated world, and there's no wonder that something as quiet as love gets left in the virtual dust.
Not that love means lack of disagreement. To the contrary, the biblical admonition to speak the truth in love assumes error and therefore disagreement. Yet, despite these disagreements, I remember it being said somewhere that the world will know we are Christians, not by being right, but by our love for one another.
I love that I learn so much from my brothers and ...Fri, 31 May 2013 07:30:00 PDT