Archive for April, 2010

AOK Thursday: Sweet Caroline!

Thursday, April 29th, 2010 by JEL

I almost never watch the evening news anymore. A couple of days ago, however, I did and was rewarded with this nice act of kindness. It should make 7th-inning-stretch singing at Fenway Park a little bit sweeter.

WWJD…About Climate Change?

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010 by JEL

I always thought Christians would be devout environmentalists. I mean, if you believe that the Earth is God’s creation, wouldn’t you do everything you could to preserve His work? Turns out I’m a little naive on the issue.

This is a terrific article about Rich Cizik and his conversion to the climate change cause. Mr. Cizik used to be vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). His “awakening” started in 2002 when he attended a conference where Sir James Houghton, a leading British climate scientist and promininent evangelical, was speaking.

“…for three days in Oxford, England, Houghton walked us through the science and our biblical responsibility. He talked about droughts, shrinking ice caps, increasing hurricane intensity, temperatures tracked for millennia through ice-core data. He made clear that you could believe in the science and remain a faithful biblical Christian. All I can say is that my heart was changed. For years I’d thought, ‘Well, one side says this, the other side says that. There’s no reason to get involved.’ But the science has become too compelling. I could no longer sit on the sidelines. I didn’t want to be like the evangelicals who avoided getting involved during the civil rights movement and in the process discredited the gospel and themselves.”

Cizik went to work. In 2004, he got the NAE to issue a paper “For the Health of the Nation” calling for “creation care” and living sustainably. Two years later, he helped organize the Evangelical Climate Initiative. Not everyone was pleased.

“I had people on my board who said, ‘Don’t touch the issue. If you do, we’ll make your life very difficult.’” Twenty-two evangelical leaders signed a letter urging the NAE not to take a position on global climate change.

But he pressed on…

Cizik believed he could still preach the gospel while also talking about these kinds of issues. “You need both. To go to bed at night and say that over a billion people live on a dollar a day and can’t go to bed themselves with a full stomach, can you live as a Christian happily in your suburban home, driving your SUV? Of course you can’t. Not as a real Christian. And if you happen to be a liberal, conservative or centrist, I don’t care. The gospel has priority over politics.”

3,000 Years?

Monday, April 26th, 2010 by JEL

Most people think Christianity is about 2,000 years old and that it began with the birth of Jesus. Diarmaid MacCulloch begs to differ. In his new book Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, MacCulloch talks about the origins of the Church and how they set the stage for the appearance of Christ.

Christianity: The First Three Thousand YearsYesterday, NPR ran an interview with MacCulloch that I found fascinating. It’s a wide-ranging discussion covering why some countries embrace Christianity and some don’t, why the Virgin Mary is more important to Catholics than to Protestants, and more.

I encourage you to click the link and give a listen. Hearing MacCulloch speak, I immediately thought of Robert Langdon in Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code. See if you get the same impression.

AOK Thursday: Last Walk

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010 by JEL

Yiksa Miksa, maybe I need to re-think this “act of kindness” (AOK) weekly post idea. In searching for poignant stories of people selflessly helping others, as Jesus requests/commands, I found mostly stories of kind acts turning into disasters or rudely brushed off by the recipients. Like this one and this one and this one and this one. And then there’s this one, where the woman practically DEMANDED the kindness (which kind of evaporates the positive glow, at least for me).

Finally, I found this story. You could definitely argue that the act itself was miniscule, but as a dog lover who recently lost his dog of 14 years and remembers oh too well that last walk, I say it qualifies.

Is America a Christian Nation?

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010 by JEL

Two posts in a row featuring an ABC video—you’d think I was living on the ABC News site. Not so, but with my floors being refinished, my universe has been limited a bit as of late.

I digress. This video raises an interesting question: Is the US a Christian nation? Sarah Palin says it’s “mind-boggling” to suggest otherwise. The GOP in Florida certainly thinks so as they’re pushing for more religious influence in their sunny schools. And if you go by the pure number of people who call themselves Christian, they are clearly the majority.

But did our founding fathers set up a Christian country? Did they want the country governed by the rules of Christianity? Did they envision a place in America for those who believe in other religions or no religion at all? Faith and reason battle in the debate:

Dr. Waltke and Evolution

Monday, April 19th, 2010 by JEL

Two-thirds of Americans believe the Bible’s version of the creation of the world. That is, 10,000 years ago, God created the world and populated it with animals (including people) and plants. This belief always struck me as objectively and obviously and plain-as-the-nose-on-your-face absurd. Particularly when you can waltz into your nearest natural history museum and look at (and touch if you’re lucky) dinosaur bones that are millions of years old. But what do I know?

Which is why I found the video below so interesting. Dr. Bruce Waltke, a conservative, evangelical scholar, recently made this statement about evolution:

“To deny that reality will make us a cult–some odd group that’s not really interacting with the real world.”

The response was predictably fierce. Watch the video.

Kindness = Happiness

Thursday, April 15th, 2010 by JEL

Scan the top headlines on any given day and if you’re not already depressed, you might soon be. Church abuse scandals, war, terrorism, giant garbage patches floating in the ocean, political rage, the list goes on.

I thought I would try to combat some of the negative effects of the day with a weekly post featuring some act of kindness (random or otherwise). Maybe you’ll look forward to the Thursday post to get a fix of positive energy.

To set this all up, I thought you might enjoy reading this article on achieving happiness. Jesus would approve. In a nutshell, Dr. Tom Muha says (and research has proven) that being kind to others not only helps them, it makes you happier. It makes you feel better about yourself and “can create an upward spiral in which helping others continually feeds your sense of well-being.”

One small note: your act of kindness needs to be “autonomous,” meaning you have to find the initiative within. Taking the garbage out after your mom yelled at you three times to do it probably won’t raise a smile. And remember:

“…when you do merciful deeds, don’t sound a trumpet before yourself…” – Matthew 6:2

More of What Jesus Taught?

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010 by JEL

Steven Sadleir, author of Looking for God: A Seeker’s Guide to Religious and Spiritual Groups of the World, is coming out with a new book on Thursday. It’s called Christ Enlightened, The Lost Teachings of Jesus Unveiled and you can read more about it on this website.

According to the site and this press release, the book uncovers a wealth of material about additional lessons from Christ, including how to “realize God by going within–the Kingdom of Heaven was the enlightenment of the consciousness.” Sadleir claims these teachings were rejected by the early Greco-Roman churches.

I have no idea how scientifically sound Sadleir’s claims are. He does seem to be a good marketer, however, and you can watch him introduce his book below:

An Eye for an Eye – Then and Now

Monday, April 12th, 2010 by JEL

The Rev. Howard Bess, in this article, talks about forgetting about retribution and revenge. And argues that what Jesus preached at the end of the Sermon on the Mount was going completely against the grain of what anyone—including God—practiced or believed at the time (or now). Here’s what Jesus said:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you, don’t resist him who is evil; but whoever strikes you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also.” — Matthew 5:38-39

Jesus believed in forgiveness, not in sin as a debt to be repaid. Bess titles his article, “How Christianity Lost Jesus” and feels that the western world in this century has embraced “an eye for an eye” in utter rejection of what Christ taught. How did it happen? Read the article and see his description of how Paul’s theology trumped Jesus’ teachings. Bess closes with:

“There is no evidence that the practice of ‘eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ ever produced an honorable result, made people more whole with lives that are more satisfying, or produced a society that is good for all.”

Social Justice

Friday, April 9th, 2010 by JEL

There are different definitions for “Social Justice” out there, but I found a nice, objective one at BusinessDictionary.com:

“Fair and proper administration of laws conforming to the natural law that all persons, irrespective of ethnic origin, gender, possessions, race, religion, etc., are to be treated equally and without prejudice. See also civil rights.”

Seems like something we would all be in favor of, right? Well, not all of us, apparently. Glenn Beck recently told his listeners to “to leave any church that teaches social justice, and to report its pastor to church authorities.”

If you would like to tell Mr. Beck how you feel about Social Justice and pass along the fact that Jesus was a fan (of Social Justice, not of Glenn Beck), the good folks at Sojourners have an online “Take Action” form.