Gen Xer’s and Millennials on Church & Social Justice Post 2 – The Word “Trendy”

I have been thinking about some of the trends I’ve seen between the respective generations, especially in the Church and Social Justice scene. But it seems helpful to actually talk about the word “trends.” We tend to dismiss this word as something that is shallow and lacks quality thought – thus it is temporary and not worthwhile. To me it seems that’s how some are dismissing the need for Christina engagement in the world of justice – some are calling it a trend. So here’s another way to see trends.

You could make the case that 100 years ago after the Wright brothers (and other flight pioneers) were successful that the resulting boom with further experimentation was trendy. What you generally get in these moments is some talented daredevils who jump on this bandwagon. They are normally unemployed, jumping from career to cause, they may even be college drop-outs who have stressed out their parents and left a trail of disappointment along the way. They are not lazy, many have simply not found their purpose, their niche, maybe even their calling. And while some research would be helpful right now, I bet you this is part of the story of those who would pave the way for commerce, military, aeronautical aviation and whose faces and fill the walls at the Smithsonian Air and Space museum. Sometimes it seems we need to thank God for trends.

The previous post discussed the rise of NGO’s versus the traditional missions organizations founded in the last century. Now, I’m not interested in defending every t-shirt company but I do think organizations like To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) are so precious to the Kingdom of God. We were just discussing this at our most recent Reading Circle and here’s why. To have a shirt sold at Hot Topic and now so many stores in so many malls in the country that tells their story when you turn it inside out, and an organization with a great online presence that tours across the country with bands and whatever else that allow for a message of hope to be carried to those who desperately need it – well, that’s amazing (And not to mention so much of the financial profits have gone to rehabilitation and counseling programs.  Makes me wonder about all the other shirts I got).

I’ve heard stories of people diving deeper in wanting to stop cutting themselves, in removing whatever that is hurting their minds and bodies, and committed to finding identity. Some find hope in Jesus, and become part of the Church – a “place” they never [Read more…]

A Protestant’s Reflection on the Pope Benedict’s Resignation

So raise your hand if you saw the Pope’s resignation coming … don’t lie … nope, me either.

I’ll admit my ignorance here, I don’t think I ever thought about the Pope resigning. And as we have been hearing, it hasn’t happened for 600 years.

Being Protestant, I obviously have a limited understanding of the papacy but I did have a great deal of respect for Pope Benedict XVI as I did Pope John Paul II. I respect them as men seeking God’s will and for the hope they represent to those that see the Pope in this light. My respect is not an endorsement of the Catholic Church however. There is so much that I don’t understand about Roman Catholicism. I do not understand the merits of the “single male priest.” I understand it’s stated origins, I understand celibacy, I do not understand forbidding marriage. And really how can I? As part of the Protestant clergy, we are not only allowed but encouraged to be married.

And like many, I do not understand all the scandals and coverups. I know as soon as I write this, I may [Read more…]

Reflecting on the Lutheran Pastor in Newtown Who Was Forced To Apologize for Particpating at the Interfaith Vigil

A few days ago, news broke about a Lutheran pastor who participated in an interfaith Newtown prayer service and forced to apologize.

Here’s an exert:
“Lutheran pastor in Newtown, Conn., has apologized after being reprimanded for participating in an interfaith vigil following the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.The Rev. Rob Morris, pastor of Christ the King Lutheran Church, prayed at the vigil the Sunday following the Dec. 14, 2012, shootings alongside other Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Baha’i clergy. Morris’ church is a member of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS), and the denomination’s constitution prohibits ministers from participating in services with members of different faiths…”
You can read the rest here.

I saw the headline flash through my twitter feed  earlier in the week and didn’t click because I knew I’d find it frustrating. Upon seeing the word “interfaith,” I was afraid he was forced to apologize because of some old- [Read more…]

To My Brothers/Sisters Saying “I Told You So” After the Giglio Debacle Part 2

It’s impossible to divorce yourself from your context. So this means no one is actually completely objective – this means you, this means me.

So here’s a little of my context: I am a pastor in a larger evangelical church in the Northeast who is trying to encourage his fellow brothers and sisters and inspire those outside our walls to the life-giving message of Jesus with word and deed. I’m tired of the haters within our walls that are preaching doomsday scenarios. And I’m tired of those outside our walls merely identifying us by our failures and blind spots. I’m excited by [Read more…]

Reflecting on Driscoll, The Inauguration & State of Evangelicalism Today

I really wanted to avoid posting about Driscoll and his condescending tweet about President Obama during the Inauguration but when your fingers touch the keys and these words keep coming out – well you got to let them out. Here’s the tweet.

What??  I don’t follow Mark but when I saw this RT pass through my feed, again and again, I was so embarrassed and decided to give up on social media for the day.

First, let me admit my bias – I am not a “Driscoll guy” in any way. Aside from having a post entitled, “Why We Shouldn’t Make Fun of Mark Driscoll By a Guy Who Likes To”  I rarely talk, gossip or hate on him. I may roll my eyes at times but I really try to avoid his name (among a few others) in conversation. My experience is that it brings disunity to some of my brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Second, I could never understand why some of my good friends who are intelligent, relational and have access to better minds would [Read more…]

What Do We Do With Fred Phelps & The Westboro Clan?

This is the third post in this mini series of “Reflecting on the Newtown Tragedy at Christmastime.”

As if we couldn’t loathe the behavior of Fred Phelps and the Westboro Clan enough, the news of them planning to protest the Newtown funerals had most of us saying, “Enough already, something must be done.” In fact, it accounted for a new set of headlines and another wave of anger and frustration in already emotionally charged scene. Fortunately, they didn’t show up. Still, we wrestle with the question, what can we do about them?

First a few thoughts on Fred Phelps and the Westboro Clan. Personally, I never apply the terms Baptist or Church to them. While Baptists come in all shapes and sizes, I won’t recognize them as such because I simply do not recognize the as a church in the Christian sense and I never use the term in a non-Christian sense so they won’t get that honor from me. And they are actually located in Topeka. Really, they are a “clan” from  Kansas. Most of them are related to each other and those that are not blood-related seem to share some type of bizarre connection.

Here’s the 101 if you don’t know too much about them. Fred Phelps calls himself a lawyer (though he’s been disbarred) from [Read more…]

Where Have All the Great Presidents Gone?

In America, most of us grew up receiving great stories about our American Presidents – Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln (and depending on what type of home you were raised in) … Reagan.

Shortly after the Presidential debate last week, I saw a tweet inquiring “Why aren’t there any great Presidents anymore?” I assume its an offshoot of the often-heard statement, “I don’t like either candidate” mixed with the classic lament, “A good man/woman is hard to find these days.” Whatever is meant by those saying it, I’ve been thinking about it.

Understandably, it is easy to feel a measure of disillusionment towards our nation’s political leadership. There is a lot of posturing, a lot of game playing, some scandals and a good bit of deflection and deception. The only thing the public really wants is someone they can trust, someone who keeps their promises, someone who really is trying to serve the country but as we all know, this is a rather complicated thing.

And when it’s complicated, it’s easy to mistrust people. This is even further complicated by all the access we have to all people – not only in terms of our video cameras, teams of reporters, but so many aspects of our technology allow for the discovery and the delivery of so much news, data and gossip to circulate almost instantly. We simply have unprecedented access to the public figure (we also have unprecedented access to each other but that’s another story).

Not only do we have access, but we have an incredible market for the gossip – there’s a huge reward system around it. Certainly people have always been interested in gossip but I think it’s fair to say that as time has gone on, we’ve figured out how to make even more money from it, which has increased not only the efficiency of delivery but the volume as well. To put bluntly, people can get rich by discovering and revealing your worst secrets.

People also get rich and more powerful by not only protecting your secrets but also by growing one’s legend. This is best done to figures in the past (among the reasons I suppose is that they can do little to screw it up). Again, we see this with Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Teddy, etc. On Sunday, I attended a class in our Adult Discipleship building on the faith of US Presidents. Normally, I am not into these discussions in a church setting but I had heard such great things of the teacher, Jim Wallace, that I decided to check it out.

This week was on the faith of  Abraham Lincoln which was interesting because I am excited about the new Spielberg movie on him coming out next month. Anyway, the class was great but it wasn’t great because of the presidents – it was great because Jim was giving all sides of the story. Whether it is difficult to figure out where Lincoln stood in regards to his Christian faith (we learned that he was a Unitarian, was very superstitious, participated in cyanoses and though he called the nation to prayer, he rarely ever spoke about Jesus. Then things seem to change spiritually after the death of his son in 1850. Fascinating content but clearly not the modern American evangelical that have some have created him to be. Love that our church is talking about such subjects like this. It’s honest, it’s fresh, it’s needed).

It’s also interesting to see what happens with the legacies of the more recent Presidents has time goes on. This election season shows us a Bill Clinton with a halo on his head. But I tell you, I remember in the late 90’s amidst his scandals and I remember how he was loathed by Republicans … and many Democrats. Loathed. It’s not that we forgot the events that happened 15 years ago. It’s not that the internet has forgotten, it’s that his story is being told differently. It will be interesting to see how this new narrative is received.

We have access to so much gossip, we have a market for it, we have revisionist history for the good/bad/truth/etc. and we have also have so many other figures who are “leaders” in some way as well. Consider today that depending on who you are, you can regard Billy Graham, Tom Brady or Lady Gaga as your inspiration.

What’s the point to all of this? It seems unwise to compare the moral character of Presidents from one era to another or to compare the influence of public figures either.  Though it will be an interesting discussion and insights can be gained, there is no winner to the question because all people have shortcomings, even the most just can be be unjust, all are corrupt.  Thankfully, many have risen and demonstrated profound moments of greatness and God has used countless other moments as well.

But it puts things in perspective. This election season, let’s accept the realities of these figures. Let’s accept the realities of our personal and collective shortcomings and seek to find the solutions as opposed to the blame. For Christians, the shalom of Jesus does not come by securing worldly power, it comes by seeking the Kingdom of Christ. Though I believe we need to be faithful with our civic duties, the question we need to concern ourselves with is, “Where have all the great churches gone?”

Presidential Debates, Facebook Rage, Expectations & Response

As we know Wednesday night featured this campaign’s first Presidential Election debate. A lot has been said on the candidates’ performances and positions but I want to highlight the words of one person when he proclaimed, “This the most important election in our nation’s history.” We’ve heard it all election season, also heard it four years ago, and we’ll hear again in another four years. But that person was of course, the host of the television program that came on after the debate.   [Read more…]

Obama’s Speech on Human Trafficking, IJM & Us

As mentioned in the previous  post, I was able to participate in a briefing by the Department of State with International Justice Mission staff earlier this year. (I know that sounds really cool – and honestly it was – grateful for the opportunities – thanks Q & Scott Calgaro)

One of the key things I heard was human trafficking is an issue that Democrats and Republicans support and therefore there is significant progress to be made on this issue.

They put together this huge book on the (we were all given one) where all the countries of the world are broken in three tiers and how they comply with Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The hours of presentation we received were very worthwhile and I left encouraged on a number of fronts. I was also very impressed with how close the IJM staff actually were with the DOS staff (I’m always suspicious of grandstanding but they actually did know each other very well on a professional and somewhat relational basis).

At the meeting they acknowledged that although the President has done some work on the issue, there would be making some major announcements on human trafficking in the fall. Initially, I was curious why it’s taking so long in his presidency to articulate something so obvious. After inquiring, I was told that the DOS is not only working on legislation but being that it’s such a global issue, it relies on a great deal of cooperation from other governments – one can see why progress in such matters take years to evolve.  That said, this announcement is years of incredible work being done by incredible people across the world.

You can read the entire speech in the links below but here are some of the highlights from this post on CNN’s Freedom Project:
“Last year we charged a record number of predators with human trafficking… We are going to do more to spot it and stop it.”

Obama said that would include working with train and bus employees and teachers to help identify potential trafficking victims.
He added: “Everyone has a responsibility. Every nation can take action.”

The Obama executive order says contractors and subcontractors working in the U.S. on federal projects cannot use misleading recruitment practices; charge employees recruitment fees; and destroy or confiscate an employee’s identity documents. All those techniques are often used by traffickers as a way of luring in victims vulnerable to trafficking.

Internationally, the order says contractors and subcontractors on jobs worth more than $500,000 must have a trafficking awareness program, and a safe way to report trafficking suspicions. The contractors must also guarantee both they and workers or companies they hire are not involved in trafficking-related activities.

President Obama also called out IJM an organization whose staff “like the great abolitionists before them, are truly doing the Lord’s work.” (All I know is that I have a few friends that work there and it was only after they were hired that the President acknowledges IJM in a speech – coincidence … doubtful ;)

In seriousness, I know we have to be careful with how throw around our terms but this would be another example of why I am ok with secularism. IJM is demonstrating that Christian non-profits can partner with government agencies to fight injustices around the world.

There is a lot of work that needs to be done like reducing the demand for prostitution, providing much-needed aftercare for victims, needed legislation, prosecuting violators, and protecting women, children and young boys just to identify some of the obvious ones.

When it comes to global issues, there’s a lot of discussion on how to get involved, what can actually be done, a lot of critique on what’s helpful, what’s not, etc. These problems exist in the long term because they are quite complicated but I do feel that it’s important to participate/contribute in some way. So here’s a bit of where I’ve landed.

Learn – Read up
Share – Create awareness
Give – organizations like IJM or find personal individuals who are serving already.
Connect – Build Relationships locally and globally
Be Faithful with the opportunities that come your way.

There is no easy prescription and no one can do it all, all the time but we can all do something so start with a little like learning a little more and perhaps a one-time donation that makes you think fi this is really worth it. Here are some links:
President Obama’s full speech from WhiteHouse.Gov.
The (Helpful but much Briefer) Fact Sheet from WhiteHouse.Gov and International Justice Mission’s post.

Found this interesting post from Harvard Students. You might find pages 236-237 (which is pg. 3-4 in the .pdf) helpful to understand more of the context of Obama’s inniatives.

Organizations like:
International Justice Mission
Polaris Project
All Girls Allowed
Invisible Children
Not For Sale

Have a though or an organization to recommend, feel free to share.

“You Are the Replacement Ref” – When Others Wrong You (& When We Get It Wrong)

If you watched the Monday Night Football’s Seahawks and Packers game this week, you still cannot believe the debaclewe witnessed. How in the world did these replacement refs miss this? How did the instant reply official uphold it and how does the NFL release a statement saying the ruling of simultaneous catch was correct? Aaron Rodgers is right, “That’s garbage, obviously…. They are still covering their butt there.” It feels like conspiracy – A conspiracy to ruin the game!

But it’s just a game. And there is no conspiracy. It’s a business and the refs, the players, the fans are all part of this game. Further, this game is played mostly by millionaires so billionaires can make more and on another level, so the rest of us can [Read more…]