Category Archives: Christian living

The Ferguson Grand Jury Has Given Us Our Marching Orders

America has not failed us. We have failed America. “America” represents a set of ideals, a set of values organized into a polity and a promise. The thing about ideals and values is that we either live beneath them or we live up to them. What’s broken in the country is not the values and ideals, but the people who espouse but fail them. Last night Americans failed America.

We saw an American prosecutor fail the principle of “blind justice” by handling court procedure in a way most legal experts found a dereliction of duty. Over and over again we heard that the grand jury bar for an indictment is so low all it takes is a ham sandwich. Prosecutors who want to prosecute don’t “present all the evidence;” apparently, they present only that evidence that gets them the indictment and commences the trial. If that’s true, and I have to trust the majority opinion of legal experts since I’m not one, then Ferguson’s prosecutor failed to even live up to the low-bar ideals of his profession, much less America.

Shortly after President Obama took the podium, speaking from the bastion of American ideals and principles to all American people. Television broadcasts flashed the jarring juxtaposition of a President calling for peaceful demonstrations while tear gas canisters flew and angry protestors began the night’s destruction. President Obama began exactly where he should have: by reminding us that America is a country under the rule of law. It’s good for us to remember …

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Will Ferguson Be Our Transformative Moment?

We’ve felt this feeling before, that sitting on the edge of your seat, stomach in knots, hoping to win but not hoping to offend feeling. We waited this way in 1992 to see what the jury would do when four officers were caught on tape beating Rodney King. The country watched this way as jurors returned a verdict in the O.J. Simpson trial. Again, we found ourselves leaning into our screens, clinching our jaws, straining to hear a favorable word in the George Zimmerman trial.

Now we wait for something to be said by the grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri. Most have taken their side, either in favor of Wilson or Brown or indifference. None of us are impartial, even if we’re simply partial for a world where such things didn’t exist or didn’t have to be reported and so divisive. Many want the moment to pass. To, as Rodney King put it, “all get along.”

But what if this moment could be different? What if this time something transformative could result?

To be sure, there will be “winners” and “losers” in whatever decision gets handed down. And no matter who “wins,” there will still be dissatisfaction on both sides. An indictment won’t bring Brown back and it won’t repair the breach of trust between those sworn to protect and those sworn to get justice. An acquittal won’t clear Wilson’s name and it won’t restore the integrity of a police department mired in ineptitude and scandal.

The transformative moment won’t be achieved with the …

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Accepting My Alternative Lifestyle

I had a very profound moment this week. I sat with a dear sister from the church, catching up on life and ministry. We spent the first half hour loudly praising God and exalting Him for His grace and mercy. Somehow we began to discuss some current issues in Cayman, together lamenting the pain and sorrow we see in so many lives. Then she said something that arrested me. She said, “I’ve had to admit that I am the one living the alternative lifestyle.”

That comment blew back the clouds and I could see in the clarifying light of biblical truth. A cog turned and clicked into place. I’ve been guilty of referring to a range of sinful behaviors as “alternative lifestyles.” In doing so, I’ve been assuming something about my own Christian identity and the state of the world that I ought not. It’s here that her comment helped me so much.

You see, all this time, like most Christians I know, I’ve been assuming that my lifestyle, a Christian lifestyle, was or ought to be the mainstream lifestyle. I’ve been relying on a certain kind of Christian privilege that comes from most people in the country thinking of America as a “Christian country.” That’s meant seeing sin as deviant–not only from biblical Christian norms but also–problematically–from so-called “American norms.” Despite my Bible belt upbringing, I’ve long known that “American” is not a synonym for “Christian.” I’ve had to stridently distinguish the two for Middle Eastern Muslim audiences who often conflate …

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“Art: In the World but Not of It”: A Conversation on Christian Hip Hop and Culture

I’ve been waiting for audio or video of the recent Unashamed conference to be released. Like a lot of people, I wanted to be there, and wanted to hear shai linne and Sho Baraka discuss the current thinking about faithful witness and cultural engagement in Christian hip hop circles. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the panel they shared, moderated by J’son.

As I’ve watched this debate, I’ve been moved to pray often for the brothers in this endeavor. I’ve been challenged to think and re-think some positions of my own. And I’ve been encouraged to see the manful efforts at preserving the unity of God’s people where differences of strategy exists. I think these videos go a long way in continuing that godly path set out by brothers engaged in the discussion.

If you’ve not listened in before, feel free to check it out below.

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Some Different Advice to Those Raising African-American Boys in the Wake of the Martin Shooting and Zimmerman Trial

If you use social media–or any media really–it’s impossible to escape the reactions to the recent Zimmerman acquittal in the killing of Trayvon Martin. Understandably there are a lot of questions and a lot of emotions prompted by a “not guilty” verdict in an undisputed shooting of an unarmed youth.

One observer tweeted a link to a column called “How to Talk to Young Black Boys about Trayvon Martin,” authored by journalist Toure nearly a year ago. I missed this piece when first published. The person leaving the tweet thought the piece prescient and pertinent in light of the verdict. I found it deeply problematic. I find it so troubling that I’d like to post the opening lines of the eight talking points Toure proposed (for the full text follow the link above), interact with them, and then suggest an alternative message.

Toure’s Talking Points for Young Black Boys

1. It’s unlikely but possible that you could get killed today. Or any day. I’m sorry, but that’s the truth. Black maleness is a potentially fatal condition. …

2. If you encounter such a situation, you need to play it cool. Keep your wits about you. Don’t worry about winning the situation. Your mission is to survive.

3. There is nothing wrong with you. You’re amazing. I love you. When I look at you, I see a complex human being with awesome potential, but some others will look at you and see a thug — even if their only evidence is your skin. Their racism …

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Yet One More Personal Take in the Aftermath of Trayvon Martin and the Zimmerman Verdict

It’s almost too risky to join the chorus of reactions in the wake of the Zimmerman trial. It seems everyone has an opinion–most strongly held and some volatile.

Some voices loudly declare justice has been thwarted. Some other voices quietly doubt the injustice is as great as claimed. These latter voices tend not to speak up for fear of being labeled and harangued. Christian voices make excellent appeals to Scripture, to forgiveness, prayer and a host of other spiritual virtues–all of which can sound hollow to unsatisfied viewers hungering for justice, for a verdict that seems to affirm Black life and exonerates the country of its racist past.

Words fail us. World-renown columnist Nicholas Kristoff tweeted pictures in place of prose:

 

I suppose it’s twitter’s version of that powerfully moving closing argument in “A Time to Kill.”

President Obama offered prose instead of policy:

The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy. Not just for his family, or for any one community, but for America. I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher. But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son. And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen …

Also posted in Christianity and politics, Civil Rights, race | | 201 Comments

Learning to Be the Moral Minority from a Moral Minority

In recent weeks the evangelical world has found itself reeling from cultural setbacks it once took for granted. The re-election of President Obama, state passage of “gay marriage” initiatives, the uninviting of Louie Gigglio to the Inauguration, and even last night’s Super Bowl have signaled to some that Christians and Christianity have lost their welcome place in the public square. For the first time, some evangelical conservatives feel like an oppressed minority in the country.

As I’ve watched the chatter mixed with laments and jeremiads, I couldn’t help but think of Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority,” founded in the late 70’s and defunct by the late 80’s. For nearly a decade, the Moral Majority exercised its political voice largely in southern states.

It seems to me that the very notion of a “moral majority” rested on two assumptions that some evangelicals no longer find tenable. First, it assumed the basic morality of most of the country. It assumed basic “Judeo-Christian principles” shaped and framed the moral reasoning of the average citizen, making your “average Joe” basically friendly to the aims and concerns of conservative Christians. Second, it assumed privilege. The very notion of “majority” suggests strength in numbers, a perch from which to rule for no other reason than outnumbering one’s opponents. The last couple months have upturned both of those long-standing assumptions and some evangelicals find themselves at a loss for how to handle it, claiming to be “persecuted,” “rejected,” and “shut out” from the public square. Many who …

Also posted in Christianity, Christianity and politics, culture, persecution, perseverance | | 37 Comments

Communicating Complex Theology in a Soundbite Age

Carl Trueman has some worthwhile thoughts about the new wineskins of social media like Twitter and its inability to hold the old wine of rich theology.  Along the way he has a caution about churches falling into the pressure to truncate and reduce its message to soundbites.  I especially appreciated these lines:

It behooves those in positions of ministerial leadership in the church to make sure that the way they write and express themselves on any given topic is not only clear enough for the audience to understand but also precise enough that the audience does not misunderstand.

That is one reason why there must be a difference between evangelism and discipleship.  We should expect those who come to church to grow in their ability to understand the deep things of the faith. Church teaching needs to stretch believers.  Evangelistic preaching and teaching cannot be the sole diet of a church, even though believers as much as anyone need to hear the simple gospel on a regular basis.

Our life together in the church should be a stretching experience.  Believers are to be stretched.  In fact, it’s belief itself that stretches the believer into a new Christ-figured shape.  We’ve all heard the quip, “sermonettes make Christianettes.”  The deep things of the faith (which can be surprisingly simple and simply stated) provide the anchor reaching the sea floor of the deep issues of life.  Take your time.  Say it as best you can.  Take your time.  Listen as attentively as you can.  Resist …

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Enough to Feel Guilty, But Not Enough to Be Happy

Ray Ortlund, Sr. to his son, Ray Ortlund, Jr.:

“Listen, son.  Half-hearted Christians are the most miserable people of all.  They know enough to feel guilty, but they haven’t gone far enough with Christ to be happy.  Be wholehearted for him!”

That’ll preach!

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Soak in the Bible for Confidence in Knowing the Bible

Great conversation here:

Biblical Authority in an Age of Uncertainty from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

Corrected and Constrained by the Text from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

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