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The Worlds Most Astonished Atheist

The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki destroyed Joy Davidmans worldview, too.

When the United States bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki 70 years ago this month, Joy Davidman—best known today as the wife of C. S. Lewis—was in a vulnerable way. Nearly six months pregnant with her second son, she lived in Ossining, New York, with her toddler and her husband, the troubled novelist William (Bill) Lindsay Gresham. Jewish-born and Bronx-raised, Joy had been an atheist since childhood and became a card-carrying member of the Communist Party in her early 20s. But motherhood and a move to the suburbs had isolated her from comrades, setting her adrift from the Party and abruptly ending what had been a successful career in New York City as an award winning poet, editor, and film critic for the Communist magazine New Masses.

When the atomic bombs fell in August of 1945, forcing the fact of mortality, Joy suddenly realized that civilization could be instantly obliterated. She was bringing a second child into a world where, she wrote in one poem, “ashes that were babies / blew among the bamboo trees.” Science might not be society’s salvation, as she had long believed; instead, it might be the world’s damnation.

With the destruction in Japan, wrote Time magazine days later, echoing her shaken worldview, “[Humankind] had won the most Promethean of its conquests over nature, and had put into the hands of common man the fire and force of the sun itself. In an instant, without warning, the present had become the unthinkable future. Was there hope in that future, and if so, where did hope lie?” Horror, anxiety, and existential despair clamped onto Joy’s psyche.

During the months that followed, atomic dread, postpartum depression, and an unstable husband left Joy ...

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The Difficulty (and Beauty) of Vulnerability

Openness in personal relationships can bring pain, but it also offers unrivaled love and support.

If I had known more about Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, I probably would not have watched it.

Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s Sundance darling finds its protagonist in Greg (played by Thomas Mann), a teenage loner who spends his free time producing parodies of classic films. Greg is an enigma. Like the layout of his Pennsylvania high school divides into multiple sections, Greg’s life is purposely compartmentalized. He is on a first-name basis with nearly every group in school—he is just as comfortable bumming it with the drama club as he is high-fiving the senior class drug dealer—but his relationships are shallow and superficial. He makes small talk, and there’s little more.

Greg knows everyone, but he doesn’t really know anyone. More importantly, they don’t know him. Greg’s constructed the people around him into cartoon-like caricatures. They have become the sum of their outward ticks. He can’t even bring himself to call his oldest acquaintance, Earl (R. J. Cyler), a friend. Greg prefers the term “coworker” instead. The word “friend” is “way too personal.”

...

No better is his psyche visualized than in a scene where Greg calls Rachel for the first time. During the conversation, the Martin Scorsese film Taxi Driver plays on the TV beside Greg. In between Greg’s conversation, the audience catches a peek at one of Scorsese’s most famous shots. Robert De Niro sits in a dirty hallway, he too is talking on the phone to a woman. Insecure, odd, and growing more unstable by the minute, De Niro’s Travis Bickle took a risk by asking the beautiful Betsy out on a date. The evening ended badly, and now the woman in question ...

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My Husband Is on the Ashley Madison List. What Now?

Weve addressed personal and pastoral responses to the Ashley Madison leak. Today, Trisha Davis shares about how she dealt with the adultery of her husband.

I remember hearing those words. Words I’ve heard spoken about other couples’ relationships, but never in a million years would they be uttered to describe mine. You see, I’m a pastor’s wife and somehow I had convinced myself that being married to a pastor would affair-proof my marriage. But I’ll never forget hearing those words spill from husband’s mouth, “I’m having an affair” and the gut-wrenching reality that my marriage was most likely over.

In the wake of the cyberhack on the website Ashley Madison (created to help you have an affair) millions of Americans can now search the data base to see if their spouse used the online service, and find out exactly how they used it. Millions of husbands and wives are painfully exposing the truth about the state of their marriage through this simple search. Maybe you're one of those millions.

You thought you had a great marriage (okay, maybe not great), or a good-enough relationship to protect you from an affair. So what now? How do you move forward? How do you ever trust again? Can you ever trust again with websites all over the Internet that, like Ashley Madison, tempt our husbands to sin?

When my husband confessed to having an affair with my best friend in 2005, I remember asking those same exact questions. I had lost my husband, my best friend, and my church family. But the greatest loss was my identity. My life felt like one big joke and I was the punchline. I was left looking at a future of being a single mom to my three young boys with more unknowns I could handle. I had hit rock bottom. Rock bottom from choices I didn’t make. My life felt like a hopeless mess.

But, the gift of hitting rock bottom is ...

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Persecuted, Abused, Displaced: The Christian Women Who Somehow Still Stand Strong

A religious freedom advocate looks at the factors that keep faith communities resilient in conflict.

If you want to understand international affairs, you have to understand religion. One significant and threatening example: the ongoing campaigns by extremist groups like ISIS to gain power and terrorize their opposition based on religious ideology. In these instances, young Christian girls are raped and abused by ISIS members, who justify it as a “religious” act.

Still, despite the clear role of religion in current and previous international conflicts, our political and diplomatic approaches can downplay and even ignore faith as a factor. In my work for the Institute for Global Engagement, I come across many official documents—such as a State Department action plan on women and security or a United Nations treaty on ending racial discrimination—that barely mention religion, despite the fact that a vast majority of the world’s population (84 percent, according to Pew Research) believes in a higher power.

For us to find pathways to peace and resiliency, we have to acknowledge how individual beliefs and faith communities shape identity. This is especially true for people living in the aftermath of trauma. It’s not a small population; across the globe, women in particular find themselves subjected to systemic violence and abuse: “honor” killings, rape as a weapon of war, domestic violence, kidnappings, female genital mutilation, and trafficking. According to the World Health Organization, nearly a third of all women experience such violence. Faith plays a crucial role for victims: It either sustains them through the suffering or, sadly, leaves them cut off from their community because of stigma.

For people of faith, the stories, practices, rituals, and communities give ...

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The Biblical Meaning of Clothing

It takes on special significance throughout the arc of Scripture.

Before becoming a PhD candidate at Fuller Theological Seminary, I served for 12 years at a church in Long Beach, California. A number of my congregants worked in the fashion industry. From them I learned that programs on fashion—fashion design, merchandising, and a body of literature called fashion theory—were popping up all over.

When I looked for a Christian response to the fashion industry, I didn’t find anything. There are books on Christianity and film, Christianity and literature, Christianity and psychology, but I couldn’t find anything on Christianity and fashion.

Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper famously said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’ ” Like Kuyper, I want to understand every aspect of human life in relationship to Christ. This set me on a quest to understand the fashion industry and emerging fashion studies.

The Bible doesn’t directly address fashion, which today refers to the rapid interplay of clothing in consumer societies. But the Bible has a surprising amount to say about clothing. Right from the beginning, after the Fall, Adam and Eve became aware of being “undressed.” Then God provides for them in their nakedness. Theologians call this a protoevangelium—literally a “first gospel.” The gift of clothing reveals a God who meets us in our shameful, sinful condition and covers us through a sacrificial death.

Clothing takes on special significance in the story of Joseph; in the way the prophets Samuel, Isaiah, and Jeremiah delivered their message; and at the Transfiguration, where Jesus appeared in clothing that ...

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Commentary: Lazy Writing, Cheap Restoration

Christian films like 'War Room' are getting better, but they still lag in quality in one important area.

Alex and Stephen Kendrick, darlings of the Christian film industry, are back in theaters today with War Room, their fifth film overall and their first since 2011’s Courageous. War Room is produced by Provident, but it’s being distributed by TriStar, which shows that they’ve come far—and that commercial studios are certainly willing to court Christian viewers.

A few years ago, a studio executive told me that the primary place in which the typical Christian film suffers, compared to its mainstream peers, is in the writing. Many Christian productions are willing to hire experienced, professional directors; even when they’re shot by self-taught cinematographers, the result is usually at least adequate. Christian productions now attract familiar stars: Robert Duvall in Seven Days in Utopia; Sean Astin in Mom’s Night Out; Cybill Shepard in Do You Believe?

But when it comes to screenplay writing, the genre seems stuck in a rut. It’s more committed to heavy-handed providential plotting than imaginative explorations of character or setting.

War Room follows the increasingly dreary pattern familiar to anyone who has seen more than a handful of Christian films. Karen Abercrombie and Priscilla Shirer are easy to like as a spiritually mature senior on the one hand and a beleaguered housewife on the other whom the older woman teaches to pray. T. C. Stallings plays a flatter character: Tony, the not-yet philandering but not exactly faithful husband to Shirer’s Elizabeth. The women deliver lines like “Devil, you just got your butt kicked!” and “Go back to hell where you belong, and leave my family alone!” with the requisite earnestness to make viewers believe ...

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Southern Baptists Will Cut 600 to 800 Missionaries and Staff

David Platt: International Mission Board overspent $210 million over last 6 years.

Two months after promoting plans to send out “limitless” numbers of missionaries, the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) faces a financial crisis.

IMB president David Platt announced Thursday that the agency needs to cut at least 600 missionaries and staff in order to balance its budget. Those cuts are needed to make up for a $21 million deficit for 2015.

The first of the cuts will come from voluntary retirements, followed by a restructuring. Overall, the IMB could release as many as 800 employees, according to an FAQ posted on the IMB’s website.

Currently, the IMB has about 450 staff and about 4,700 missionaries overseas, down from 5,600 in 2009. Platt said earlier this year the total number of missionaries would likely drop to about 4,200—a 25 percent decline from 2009.

Platt also announced plans Thursday to change how the IMB does business.

The agency currently has two major sources of ongoing funding: donations to the annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, and funds from the SBC’s Cooperative Program. That income has been supplemented in recent years with reserve funds, as well as proceeds from the sales of missionary housing and other property overseas.

Overall, the agency spent about $210 million more than it brought in over the past 6 years, IMB leaders said.

Platt, who became the IMB's president a year ago, told reporters that he didn’t want to question the decisions made by past IMB leaders. The property sales have helped IMB missionaries spread the gospel, he said.

But the agency was running out of properties to sell. And relying on sales, along with drawing down reserves, was not a sustainable strategy.

“We ...

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My Pastor Is on the Ashley Madison List.

Too many Christians have been caught using Ashley Madison, many of them pastors and church leaders. What now?

This week, I’ve already written a couple of posts on the Ashley Madison hack and information leak because pastors, Christian leaders, and families are facing devastating revelation and the after-effects of public sin.

Based on my conversations with leaders from several denominations in the U.S. and Canada, I estimate that at least 400 church leaders (pastors, elders, staff, deacons, etc.) will be resigning Sunday. This is a significant moment of embarrassment for the church—and it should be. To be honest, the number of pastors and church leaders on Ashley Madison is much lower than the number of those looking to have an affair. Yet, there is still much that we must consider in the midst of the embarrassment.

Also, to be clear, in situations like these, we must confirm all things. Not everyone on the list signed themselves up. Among those who did, the sin and circumstances will be different. Many likely signed themselves up and didn't actually go through with adultery. Regardless, though, trust has been shattered and hearts have been broken. But before we assume a name on a list means adultery has taken place, we must confirm all things and seek the full truth.

On Tuesday I wrote “Life Is Eternal. Don’t Have an Affair,” reflecting on the issue. Yesterday, I wrote, “I’m on the Ashley Madison List. Now What?” to help people caught on the list deal with the consequences.

Today, I want to focus specifically on pastors and staff members.

Pastors have been caught on the Ashley Madison list, and it’s devastating to hear the stories. Yet, rarely do people consider a larger group affected by a pastor’s failure, a group larger than even the pastor’s ...

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Review: Sinister 2

A bloody roller coaster with unappealing hills and underwhelming drops.

mpaa rating:R (For strong violence, bloody and disturbing images, and language.)Genre:HorrorDirected By: Ciarn Foy Run Time: 1 hour 37 minutes Cast: James Ransone, Shannyn Sossamon, Robert Daniel Sloan, Dartanian Sloan Theatre Release:August 21, 2015 by Focus Features

Sinister 2 is less of a horror movie, and more of a terror movie. Maybe even more of a gross-out movie—it’s kind of a delicate hair to split.

“Horror” is the anxiety-producing power of imagination; “terror” is the adrenaline-producing power of depiction. Matt Zoller Seitz, in his essay regarding the TV show Stalker, puts it this way: "Where horror is driven by psychology and philosophy and sometimes theology, terror is driven by fear of violence, period."

The central scares of Sinister 2 come from having a Scary Man show up unexpectedly—or perhaps one of his youthful minions—accompanied by the sting of a Scare Chord (that loud, discordant sound that accompanies "jump-out" scares), and maybe an unexpected flash of light. This—and, crucially, only this—is what's "scary" about Sinister 2: that, only when you most expect it, something may happen on screen that'll make you twitch in your chair.

If you sense some disdain, you’re right: in my opinion, the achievement of movies like Sinister 2 isn't all that much greater than the playground bully who criticizes you for having flinched at his fist. At no point in its runtime does it really try to inspire horror in you—just the fear that behind that curtain lurks BAM!—Scary Man in a White Mask.

The movie picks up in the aftermath of the first Sinister, with Ethan Hawke's character and family uniformly obliterated by the malignant spirit of Baghuul, i.e. Mr. Boogeyman. Baghuul operates on the corruption of children; once a child is exposed to him through some medium, after long enough, that kid will kill her whole family, record the process somehow, and ...

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Why Fashion Matters

How Christian Fashion Week could spur the church to engage clothing beyond simply buying it.

A chorus of camera shutters clicks over a throbbing bass as models emerge onto the runway in single file. Clad in black leather and lace, they confidently maneuver the catwalk despite the veils over their faces and the towering stiletto heels on their feet. A woman in the front row pulls out her phone to Instagram a textured cape, and a reporter scribbles notes on a yellow legal pad.

As a fashion blogger, I’ve flown across the country to observe this fashion show for myself. But I’m not in New York or LA—I’m in downtown Tampa, Florida. And while I’m surrounded by media personalities and fashion aficionados, the audience is also peppered with pastors and Sunday school teachers. When the show closes, attendees stand up and fall into a queue as they wait to take pictures on the catwalk. The sign they want to pose in front of? A simple red and white logo reading "Christian Fashion Week."

About a year before I took my seat at this runway, I learned of Christian Fashion Week (CFW) online—and my instinct was to cringe. Visions of T-shirts bedazzled with crosses danced in my head; proof-texted verses about modesty rang in my ears. Would this be another example of well-meaning Christians baptizing one more creative medium in Christian “relevance”?

A rapid Google search proved my T-shirt premonition correct, as well as my guess about an emphasis on modesty. Its website explained that the focus on modest clothing was part of CFW’s desire to “create a series of international fashion shows and events around the idea of fashion from a Christian worldview.”

Now I was in Tampa at the invitation of CFW’s founders to see what “fashion from a Christian ...

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Im on the Ashley Madison List. Now What?

Youve messed up. Youre ashamed. Repent and cling to Jesus.

I've had many conversations with pastors this week about the Ashley Madison list. Some have members on the list, and some are on the list. Slowly their names are coming out, and it's heartbreaking to many.

And, now, talk of suicide has been in the media, yes, but also in some quiet talk among friends.

I don’t want to dwell on those tragedies, but in this brief article, my desire is to save marriages, maybe preserve relationships with God, and perhaps even save some lives.

Millions of people are now facing the heartbreaking reality of this moment (and the sin that preceded it). I’ve made more than one call this week to people I know—and millions of others are weeping around kitchen tables because of their sin.

So, the question that I want to answer is based on a conversation I had this week, with someone else on the list that is now going public:

"I'm on the Ashley Madison List. Now What?," He Asked

This is a question that many are asking, but, if you are a follower of Jesus reading this, your situation is both similar and different than the world around you—so, before you do anything rash, let’s reason together.

Maybe someone sent you this article—and if they did, it is because they care for you—but the next few days are crucial to the rest of your life.

You are in the same situation as millions of others, but ultimately have a different response if you are a follower of Christ.

I’m not saying it will be easy, but I do want to give some ideas if you’ve received the news that your name is out, or you are on the list and know it will be soon.

The Darkness of the Moment

Some offenses are so big they look like Everest in the ...

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