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Reclaiming St. Patrick's Day

But if we are to choose a social issue for March 17, what would it be?

If you've ever read an article about St. Patrick's Day, it probably talked about how little the celebration has to do with the actual Patrick.

I, for one, have grown tired of the annual rehashing of how he didn't really drive the snakes from Ireland and didn't really use the shamrock to explain the Trinity.

Still, it's worth pondering for a moment why we celebrate St. Patrick's Day far more than, say, St. Augustine's Day or St. Athanasius's Day, even though those two men probably had more influence in shaping Christianity across the world. Put simply, it's because Patrick didn't shape Christianity across the world—at least directly. (Though one can argue that his work in shaping Irish Christianity later bore fruit that would affect the faith through the ages.) He's a large but local figure. And, to over-simplify a bit, it was mostly Irish Americans rather than Irish Irish who made the day a festival of national pride.

Ironically, the socio-political meanings of St. Patrick's Day—a pushback against anti-immigrant sentiment and a protest of British rule—have now been as lost in the bacchanal as the historical Patrick, if not more so.

Imagine for a moment that we "took back" St. Patrick's Day. The groups that launch "Defend Christmas" campaigns every year could have a second market here. The question is, What would St. Patrick's Day be about, if not nationalism and booze? Some ideas:

1. Fighting human trafficking

It's hard to think of a social justice issue that's hotter for evangelical Christians right now than human trafficking. The historical figure most commonly hailed for his work in this area is William Wilberforce, ...

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Acts 29 Removes Mars Hill, Asks Mark Driscoll To Step Down and Seek Help

(UPDATED) Mars Hill cancels Resurgence conference. Paul Tripp says Driscoll's accountability model will never work. Board insists 'making real progress' on problems.

Update (Aug. 15): Mars Hill has canceled its 2014 Resurgence Conference, which was to be held October 28-29 and included recently resigned board members Paul Tripp and James MacDonald as speakers.

"The Resurgence Conference has always been born out of our love of Jesus and the church, and the desire to support efforts to grow leaders to grow churches," states the church's announcement. "Unfortunately, we have decided to cancel this year’s conference due to unforeseen changes to our speaker line-up and other challenges we believe would make it difficult to provide the quality of conference people have come to expect from Resurgence."

Promotional material stated that the 2013 conference had 175 countries represented. Other speakers for the 2014 conference were J. I. Packer (by video), Greg Laurie, Crawford Loritts, Terry Virgo, and of course, Mark Driscoll.

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Update (Aug. 12): Paul Tripp, a popular pastor and speaker who recently resigned as one of Mark Driscoll's advisers, stated today that Mars Hill's accountability model "will never be able to do what it was designed to do."

"It became clear to me that a distant, external accountability board can never work well because it isn't a firsthand witness to the ongoing life and ministry of the church," wrote Tripp of Mars Hill's Board of Advisors and Accountability (BOAA) in a statement on his website. Tripp is executive director of the Association of Biblical Counselors's Center for Pastoral Life and Care, and author of 15 books on Christian living, including Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry.

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Such a board at best can provide financial accountability, ...

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Knit Your Way to a More Prayerful Life

Why we find comfort in blessed repetition.

When I first learned to knit, at age 10 or so, knitting was for old ladies; my Girl Scout troop tittered when I mentioned knitting as one of my hobbies. Today, people cast approving looks my way when I pull out my knitting, exclaim that they’ve always wanted to learn, or share their own love of handcrafts.

Knitting, like embroidery, beading, and quilting, are, in their very nature, repetitive tasks. You take up your materials and fall into a routine, a rhythm. Many people, me included, find these activities deeply soothing, even meditative.

While we as humans enjoy the ping of each new text and email, novelty can leave us feeling strung out and distracted, and the steady, simple rhythms of crafting offer us a different mindset. They stir our longing for cycles and routine.

Survey a group of women, and you’re bound to find crafting devotees ready to profess the benefits of their hobbies. Among the Her.meneutics writers, several of us retreat from the work of words craft and create with our hands.

Ruth Moon, a graduate student, said her quilting is “soothing and centering because it allows my mind to manage different sorts of tasks” than the world of academia. Gina Dalfonzo, who beads and cross-stitches, said crafting relaxes her mind. And Michelle Van Loon, a serious quilter who has recently taken up knitting, considers her stitching a form of non-verbal expression, a welcome oasis of silence in her life.

Each of these women articulated something about crafting that various scientific studies have suggested: knitting, crocheting, embroidering, and even coloring eases stress, reduces pain, and makes people happier. Barry Jones, a researcher at Princeton University, has noted that these ...

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Liberating Cuba: Why It Is Still a Great Idea

President Obamas call for normalizing relations offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Cuban and American churches to strengthen their ties.

The gospel officially arrived in Cuba in 1511, when Spanish conquistador Velázquez established the Catholic Church on the Caribbean island. But since then, the gospel message has been trampled as genocide, plantation slavery, war, and hardship have afflicted Cuba’s people.

Since 1960, dictator Fidel Castro, 88, and now his brother-successor Raul, 83, have held Cuba in their brutal grasp. Under Castro, 99 percent of Cubans read and write by age 15, and starvation is rare. These are great social advances. But freedom to worship God as one wishes has been subject to extreme state control. Cuba is a police state.

In 2012, the United States granted political asylum to Carlos Lamelas, a Pentecostal pastor who ran afoul of the Castro regime. Speaking with CT recently, Lamelas provided a glimpse of what life is like for many pastors: constant surveillance. State-sponsored temptations from black marketeers and offers of illicit sex. Porn slipped inside the pulpit Bible. Control over Bible publication. Severe beatings and assaults. Unable to lure Lamelas, police falsely charged him with human trafficking: “They pulled me out of the house, practically kidnapping me one morning.”

Christian Solidarity Worldwide says violations of religious freedom have risen each year since 2011. But renewed prospects for positive change hang in the balance, even while the US embargo remains in effect. President Obama’s call for normalizing relations, too long frozen in cold war groupthink policies, offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Cuban and American churches to strengthen their ties. The gospel, not politics, is our shared Christian agenda. Under the new US policy, “religious activity” ...

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Contraception and Faith

A compilation of the past three weeks of posts about contraception.

I've been interested in the topic of contraception and faith for quite some time, both in light of my own unwillingness to think about contraception in theological terms in the early years of my marriage (an unwillingness I have observed in others as well), and also in the way decisions about contraception spill into the public square. As the series comes to a close, I wanted to recap the series of posts that provide personal stories and comprehensive views on contraception

Are Christians Afraid to Talk about Contraception?

As I wrote in this introdution to this series, "I hope that this range of voices and perspectives will aid us in thinking through these decisions in a way that brings God into the conversation. I hope they will provoke civil disagreement and growth. I hope they will expose our fears and open us up to life-giving possibilities."

Contraception Saves Lives, Rachel Marie Stone

Here, Rachel's experiences as a doula in Malawi prompted her to take a second look at Margaret Sanger, and, more importantly, to consider the social good of providing contraception for women who want to be able to limit the number of children they conceive.

Questioning Margaret Sanger, Amy Julia Becker

Rachel's post set off a storm of internet disagreement. I responded to the storm with both an apology for the confusion the post provoked as well as a plea to consider the central claim that contraception can save lives.

A Doctor's View on Hormonal Contraception, Dr. Emily Gibson

Many Christians worry that hormonal contraceptive methods work as abortifacients. Dr. Emily Gibson considers the ethical and personal questions that arise with the advent of hormonal contraceptive methods.

Why I Have Seven Children, ...

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