Church And Culture

Gay Rights and Christian “Wrongs”
An English Christian couple who turned away two gay men from their Bed and Breakfast have lost their last appeal against the order to pay the two men compensation.

The “landmark” nature of this judgment is reflected in the BBC commentator’s column who says: “Defeat in court has been compounded in some cases by the remarks of senior judges, making clear that their job is no longer to enforce morality, and that religious beliefs will not be given more weight than secular values…It makes their case another milestone in the waning influence of Christian teaching in British society and its laws, although the exact nature of that teaching is increasingly contested as many Christians reinterpret traditional beliefs in the light of contemporary experience.”

Teaching the Poor
In Talking Around the Education Problem, Rod Dreher agrees with an inner-city teacher that the main problem is broken families, but disagrees that the problem is more money. Dreher says: “There will never be enough money for the state to be the mother and father to children whose parents won’t fulfill their fundamental moral responsibilities to their kids. The bottom line is that this is not a problem that can be solved. A stable family is so critical to the socialization of children that the effects of its absence is obvious to schoolteachers.” One of the commenters, also an inner-city teacher offers some optimism amid the gloom.

And just to encourage all the teachers out there, here are The Three P’s of Amazing Teachers: Professional, Passionate, and Persevering.

A HealthCare Solution
Matt Perman has some good ideas here about how Health Savings Accounts Can Reform Health Care Better Than A Government Bill. I especially liked what he said about starting with the easy and common cases and then working towards the harder cases, rather than as with Obamacare starting with the hard cases and making that the template for everyone else.

Kindle v Paper
Looks like paper is still leading at half-time. A survey found that 62% of 16 to 24-year-olds prefer traditional books over their digital equivalents. “The two big reasons for preferring print are value for money and an emotional connection to physical books.” Other comments include: “”I collect,” “I like the smell,” and “I want full bookshelves.” “Books are status symbols, you can’t really see what someone has read on their Kindle.”

Personally, I’m increasingly returning to real books and enjoying my reading a lot more, as well as getting more reading done.

Faithful Catholics Endangered Species
Once you read this, you won’t think the evangelical scene is quite so bad. A poll among British Catholics reveals a massive chasm between Catholics and their church.

  • Only 9% of self-identified Catholics would even feel guilty about using contraception.
  • Only 25% disapprove of unmarried couples raising children,
  • Almost 90% agree that an unmarried couple with children is a family
  • 65% say that a same-sex couple with children is also a family.
  • Majority in favor of gay marriage.
  • Only 19% of British Catholics support a ban on abortion.
  • 0% (yes, zero) of British Catholics now look to religious leaders for guidance as they make decisions and live their lives with the majority saying that they rely on their own reason, judgement, intuition or feelings.
  • Just 8% of Catholics say they look to “tradition and teachings of the Church” 7% to God, 2% to the Bible, 2% to the religious group to which a person belongs, and 0% to local or national religious leaders.”
  • Only 36% of Catholics say that the Church is a positive force in society, and when those who take the opposite view are asked their reasons, the most popular are: that it discriminates against women and gay people; the child abuse scandals; that it’s hypocritical; and that it’s too morally conservative

The report concludes: “If we measure them by the criteria of weekly churchgoing, certain belief in God, taking authority from religious sources, and opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage and euthanasia, only 5% of Catholics fit the mould, and only 2% of those under 30.

Hobby Lobby
Denny Burk has a great article here to help us refute the charge that Hobby Lobby is “forcing it’s religion on others.” As Denny sums it up, “This case is not about a woman’s “right” to purchase contraceptives and abortifacient drugs. This case is about who will be forced to pay for them.”

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Five Truths About Thanksgiving
And here’s another couple to get you in the mood for the day. Thanksgiving: A Lifestyle, not a Choice, and Thanksgiving, Thanksfeeling, And The Glory of God.

Sabbath Rest and the Moral Limits of Consumption
Jordan Ballor applies the principle of Sabbath rest to our consumer culture.

How I Review A Book
The Master takes us behind the scenes and shares a few of his secrets.

How to Keep Church Website Content Fresh
Ask. Batch. Catch.

Nobody Will Remember Me And That’s a Good Thing
Stephen Altrogge: “Most people will forget me, and that’s okay. But a few people will remember me, and I want to make sure I leave behind the right kind of memories.”

How Do We Fix The Problem of Celebrity-ism
Aaron Armstrong says that the solution is “Regaining a right view of oneself.”

Happy Wife, Happy Life?

“The happiest marriages are ones in which wives are able to calm quickly during conflict.”

That’s the conclusion of a recent study which examined how couples handle negative emotions that arise during conflict.

I’m not quite sure how they arranged this, but apparently researchers invited couples into their labs and observed them engaging in marital conflict while measuring their emotional responses (body language, facial expressions, and feelings).

Lots of men might look at the study’s conclusion and say, “See, if only my wife could avoid the hysteria we’d all be much happier.”

Not so fast, guys.

Researchers say that the reason the wife’s emotional regulation matters most in a marriage is due to gender stereotypes that make wives bear the burden of managing emotion in relationships, while men are given a pass because they are so emotionally illiterate!

However, researchers express hope that if their sample had included younger couples, there would have been a more enlightened and less stereotypical outcome because younger men have been “enculturated” to be more emotionally intelligent. (Assuming that the youngsters don’t just give up and bail on one another at the first argument.)

The report concluded with a few takeaways:

  • The more efficiently that couples can move away from fiery moments in conflict, and toward more cool, calm, collaborative, and constructive moments, they will be better able to engage in productive conflict resolution.
  • Conflict is not, in fact, an inherently bad thing; in fact, we believe that conflict—and the negative emotion it naturally generates—can be invaluable in highlighting trouble spots in relationships and paving the way for conflict resolution, ultimately supporting happier relationships.
  • How couples respond to negative emotions during conflict is what is critical. To the extent that couples can use negativity to navigate toward relationship repair, negative emotion during conflict can be highly useful.

I’d recommend that every engaged and married couple study The Peacemaker by Ken Sande. It would save and solve a lot of problems.

Happy Wife, Happy Life? by Lian Bloch

Church and Culture

Scary Families
It’s a bit scary but take a look into the future with 5 Visions for What Families Will Look like in 2030. Instead of responding with just critique and judgment to all the new “family” arrangements that people are actively choosing (and in many cases suffering passively), Christians have to demonstrate in everyday living why the Christian family is the best way to live.

Atheism is Boring
Turns out even atheists think that Atheism is Boring and need to spice it up their new “megachurch” a bit. Atheist pastors “choose to deliver an inspirational message rather than proclaim an anti-God talk. One of their ministers denies “that the congregation is just full of religion haters.” Instead, he says, they “want to be in a community that will inspire them to love, not hate. They want to be good, to live compassionately in a challenging and often hostile world. They want their children to grow up within a community that cares for them and will help them develop a positive value system by which to live. They want to change the world and make it better.” I join Danny in utter bafflement and bewilderment at why any atheist thinks starting an atheist church is a good idea.

War on Women
There’s a “War on Women” alright. It’s just that the war is not being waged by Republicans or Calvinists, but by Liberal Evangelicals. That’s a bit overstated and the article is also on the sensational side, but still worth a read. Most Tweetable line in this report on the recent Q Focus “Women and Calling” Conference  is “Gender roles do not equate to gender discrimination.” As Dr Janice Shaw Crouse said, “There is a huge difference, however, between the Biblical principle of equality — by which God created all of us as equal — and the radical distortions of the radical feminist principles that push hatred of masculine traits and try to get rid of the differences between women and men.” Some good quotes from Kathy Keller too, although the post in general is

Undiscovered Treasure
I’d always thought the Book of Psalms was an undiscovered treasure in much of the Church. But I never thought that it would break the record for a printed book ($14.2 million) at an auction yesterday. Like the Psalmist, I still think it’s underpriced (Ps. 19:10! You can read more about the history of this particular Psalter here.

Saved Without Faith
Many of us have admired Pulitzer prize-winning columnist Dr Charles Krauthammer for his media-savvy political analysis. In What’s the Matter with Krauthammer? Nicholas Hahn gives some fascinating insight into Krauthammer’s Jewish background and his present spiritual state. His most revealing comment: “Judaism does not insist on theology. Judaism is a religion of good works, not of belief. You don’t have to have a belief to be saved,”

Funeral for TV
Boy, am I glad I never made it in TV because  TV is Dying and Here are the Stats to Prove It. The graphs and figures are really quite incredible. I wonder how long until they’ll be saying the same about the Internet?

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Seek Peace and Pursue It
Jemar Tisby writes on the quest for racial harmony. “since many of our Christian congregations remain racially homogenous, it begs the question, “Is there peace in the church between people of different races and ethnicities?” The phrase “seek peace and pursue it” may help answer those questions.”

Thanksgiving is Loud
Joe Thorn: “We had worked hard to prepare the house and the event, but I had not prepared my heart. Though I was surrounded by tremendous blessings I was, in that moment, blind to it all. The house was loud on Thanksgiving, but my heart was quiet.”

In Case It’s The Right Question
Addie Zimmerman on asking the questions that open the door to admitting we’re weak and need help.

Why I Think Non-Pastors Should Care About Pastoral Theology
Lisa Robinson gives three reasons why non-pastors should be interested in pastoral theology.

Book Review: The Masculine Mandate by Rick Phillips
I couldn’t agree more with Dan. This is THE standout book on biblical masculinity and leadership. It would make a great gift to any man (or son) in your life. As to why it hasn’t got as much traction, I blame the cover!

The Punishing Sound of Silence
Kevin DeYoung has a solution to the horrific “Knockout” game that is being fueled by social media fame. And in case that really depressed you, watch this…

Band of Brothers Rally Round Boy Age 6 To Stop Bullying

That’s Monstrous, Hideous, Mischievous, Odious, Pernicious, Venomous….

Monstrous. Hideous. Mischievous. Odious. Pernicious. Poisonous. Vicious. Villainous. Heinous. Obnoxious. Venomous. Tedious. Treacherous. Impetuous. Ruinous. Murderous. Dangerous. Lascivious. Injurious. Infectious. Vexatious. Serious.

Bet you didn’t know so many words ended with “-ous” did you?

“So, what’s the point? Is this a blog or a thesaurus?”

OK, the point is that this is a sample, yes just a sample, of words that the Puritan Ralph Venning used to describe “sin” in his book Sin, The Plague of Plagues. Although the Puritans didn’t win too many prizes for Book Title of the Year, they did speak to contemporary events, with this book being published shortly after The Great Plague of London that killed over 100,000 people.

“A book on sin? Why would anyone want to write that? And why would anyone want to read it?”

Anticipating such objections, Venning wrote in his introduction that “it cannot but be extremely useful to let men see what sin is: how prodigiously vile, how deadly mischievous, and therefore how monstrously ugly and odious a thing sin is. Thus a way may be made:

  • For admiring the free and rich grace of God.
  • For believing in our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • For vindicating the holy, just and good law of God, and his condemnation of sinners for breaking it.
  • For hating sin, and repenting for and from it, thereby taking a holy, just and good revenge on it and ourselves.
  • That we may love and serve God at a better rate than we ever did in the little and short time of innocence itself.
  • And, lastly, that this black spot may serve to set off the admirable, incomparable and transcendent beauty of holiness.

So, why not take some time to mediate on each of these ugly -ous words. And let them lead you to the beauty of three other -ous word: that God is gracious, that Christ’s blood is precious, and that we are righteous in Him.

Now that’s miraculous!