Christians are heirs of a 2,000-year tradition of proclaiming God’s word, seeking justice in our societies, resisting tyranny, and reaching out with compassion to the poor, oppressed and suffering.
While fully acknowledging the imperfections and shortcomings of Christian institutions and communities in all ages, we claim the heritage of those Christians who defended innocent life by rescuing discarded babies from trash heaps in Roman cities and publicly denouncing the Empire’s sanctioning of infanticide. We remember with reverence those believers who sacrificed their lives by remaining in Roman cities to tend the sick and dying during the plagues, and who died bravely in the coliseums rather than deny their Lord.
After the barbarian tribes overran Europe, Christian monasteries preserved not only the Bible but also the literature and art of Western culture. It was Christians who combated the evil of slavery: Papal edicts in the 16th and 17th centuries decried the practice of slavery and first excommunicated anyone involved in the slave trade; evangelical Christians in England, led by John Wesley and William Wilberforce, put an end to the slave trade in that country. Christians under Wilberforce’s leadership also formed hundreds of societies for helping the poor, the imprisoned, and child laborers chained to machines.
In Europe, Christians challenged the divine claims of kings and successfully fought to establish the rule of law and balance of governmental powers, which made modern democracy possible. And in America, Christian women stood at the vanguard of the suffrage movement. The great civil rights crusades of the 1950s and 60s were led by Christians claiming the Scriptures and asserting the glory of the image of God in every human being regardless of race, religion, age or class.
This same devotion to human dignity has led Christians in the last decade to work to end the dehumanizing scourge of human trafficking and sexual slavery, bring compassionate care to AIDS sufferers in Africa, and assist in a myriad of other human rights causes – from providing clean water in developing nations to providing homes for tens of thousands of children orphaned by war, disease and gender discrimination.
Like those who have gone before us in the faith, Christians today are called to proclaim the Gospel of costly grace, to protect the intrinsic dignity of the human person and to stand for the common good. In being true to its own calling, the call to discipleship, the church through service to others can make a profound contribution to the public good.
One of the things that Tim Keller points out in his new book Counterfeit Gods is how polarized American political discourse has become in the past few years. Rarely in the TV news world do you find anyone interested in having an actual discussion with someone from “the other side.” Everything quickly devolves into a shouting match or a name-calling contest. Political ideologies are either deified or demonized. There’s no room for anyone to say anything slightly charitable about the other team, like “Good point.”
But in the midst of this morass of stridency, I have been consistently impressed with the investigative reporting and thoughtful analysis of important current events that I’ve heard on a radio show that normally tells stories about everyday people: This American Life.
They did an excellent story a few months ago about why the housing crisis was linked to Wall Street traders (Episode 355). More recently they did two shows on the American health care system, what’s actually going on, why prices keep rising, and how we got here (co-produced with NPR News). The two hours of listening to those shows did more to educate me on the complexities of our health care system than anything I’d heard before. So I’m commending them to you. They are well worth your time. Links below.
This has to be the best Christian t-shirt ever:
In case you can’t read it, it says:
God said it.
I interpreted it as best I could in light of all the filters imposed by my upbringing and culture, which I try to control for but you can never do a perfect job.
That doesn’t exactly settle it but it does give me enough of a platform to base my values and decisions on.
It’s a t-shirt that actually expresses some hermeneutical humility (a simple acknowledgment that I might not know everything, and that I might be reading more into the text than I realize).
As we approach Halloween later this week, I want to point you towards an article regarding the origins of Halloween I found very illuminating. It’s probably not what you’re thinking. In essence, my view (and the view of this article) is that Halloween has deep Christian roots and can be celebrated in a very historic, Christian way.
Halloween is short for “All Hallow’s Eve,” which refers to the beginning of the celebration of All Saints’ Day (Nov 1), when, since the late 300s, Christians have celebrated the victory of the saints in union with Christ. Here are some quotes from the article:
Why do so many young people leave the church immediately after they graduate from high school? Because they went to youth group.
At least, that’s what one researcher is starting to believe. In an article that announces the era of age segmentation is (or should be) over, Kara Powell argues that it was a big mistake to segregate youth from adults in the life of the church (something that started in the 1940s). The reasons have to do with the fact that we end up catering “ministry” to young people and then they don’t know how to find a church to belong to when they graduate from high school. What are the long-term impacts of having segregated youth ministry?
A lot of kids aren’t going to both youth group and church on Sundays; they’re just going to youth group. As a result, graduates are telling us that they don’t know how to find a church. After years at the kids’ table, they know what youth group is, but they don’t know what church is.
There are a lot of statistics regarding what happens to high school seniors when they graduate from a youth group. As I’ve looked at the research, my best estimate is that between 40 and 50 percent of seniors from youth groups really struggle to continue in their faith and connect with a faith community after graduation.
Powell believes the future belongs to intergenerational youth ministry, and I believe her. Having teenagers involved in ministry alongside elderly adults, their parents, and their younger siblings isn’t quite as immediately gratifying as having pizza parties and laser light shows, but according to Powell’s research, kids who do it are more spiritually mature and tend to stay connected to a community of faith after they graduate from high school.
In addition to these practical benefits, I think it also paints a more theologically robust picture of the church as an un-segregated community. A large portion of the commands from the New Testament epistles involve exhortations for Jews and Gentiles to remain in unity, eating at the same table together. Because of the long-standing animosity between the races, there seemed to be a tendency for people to suggest that Jews can have their church and Gentiles have theirs: segregated along racial lines.
American evangelicalism has done the same thing, except we segregate along generational lines. It’s time to learn what it means to be the intergenerational Body of Christ. And this has to mean more than just having a “Youth Sunday” once a year. How can we truly integrate young and old together in real gospel ministry? As we head into our church plant, it’s a question that is front-and-center for me.
What are your thoughts? How about your experiences? Maybe some ideas?