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Laughing At, Or Laughing With?

By Asher Gelzer-Govatos When is it okay to laugh at characters in a documentary – and when does that laughter cross a line? Of all the adjectives people might use to describe documentary films–important, artsy, difficult–one that does not spring immediately to mind is fun. But the new documentary Finders Keepers challenges this preconception of nonfiction films as hard work, offering a wild tale full of severed limbs, courtroom drama, and plenty of salty humor. In the midst of the many belly laughs the film offers, though, it also poses a key question for sensitive viewers of documentaries: when is it okay to laugh at the people onscreen? The story revolves around a legal dispute between two men over a preserved, amputated leg. When irrepressible showboat Shannon Whisnant finds the leg in a grill he purchases at auction, he sets out to do the American thing and make some money off the spectacle. John Wood, the leg’s original owner, demands its return. Whisnant refuses to budge. The two men trade words and eventually take each other to court. Filmmakers Bryan Carberry and J. Clay Tweel keep their focus tight on the two characters, and Whisnant especially fills up the screen with his charisma and homebrewed witticisms. As …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Learning to Love My Haters

By D. L. Mayfield, guest writer How even the harshest criticism makes us better writers. Author Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat Pray Love fame) recently posted on Facebook a reflection on how she deals with criticism. To sum it up: she doesn’t. Her words of wisdom reappeared on my feed, shared by writer friends who seemed to agree. As Gilbert puts it, reading criticism of her work is “doing violence to herself.” She recognizes criticism’s established place in the creative landscape, but says it is not a critic’s job to make an author emotionally honest—that is left up to the author herself. Gilbert also notes that she reads positive reviews with relish (“because it’s really nice to hear people say nice things about your work!”) and that she has a core group of trusted individuals that she leans on for feedback—on a certain timeline (“after the book is published THERE IS NOTHING MORE THAT I CAN DO ABOUT IT”). At first, I thought I agreed. Writing for the web, I know what it’s like to be the receiving end of bizarrely personal, speculative, misogynist, ill-informed, and all-around angry comments. I identify with being too thin-skinned for this public world, where it’s easy to nurse the wounds while waving away the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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News: Why Guatemala Elected an Evangelical Entertainer as Its New President

By Steve Sywulka in Guatemala City Voters hope Jimmy Morales will do better than the last two times they gave evangelicals the top job. On October 25th, a bizarre year in Guatemalan politics took another unexpected twist with the overwhelming victory of avowed evangelical Jimmy Morales. The dark horse, under-funded candidate had come from behind in a field of 14 aspirants to lead in the first round, and demolished former first lady Sandra Torres (68% to 32%) in the run-off vote for the Central American nation’s next president. In the months leading up to the elections, the previous president and vice president resigned and were jailed on corruption charges, along with dozens of other government officials. At least 10 members of the Congress of Guatemala and several judges are under investigation. Morales, best known in the past as a TV entertainer, has been characterized as a “comedian.” But it would be more accurate to call him a media personality, actor, producer, and businessman. He has an MBA, a master’s degree in media and communications administration, and a master’s in high level strategic studies on security and defense. He also holds a degree in theology from the Baptist seminary in Guatemala City. He has been a university professor and founded several businesses. In …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Optimism in the Face of My Pessimism

By John Huffman Seven biblical qualities that can nurture hope in today’s church. A few years ago, the late communitarian Robert Bellah and his colleagues identified how radical individualism has taken a toll on our communal well-being. In Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life,they wrote about the religion of “Sheilaism.” They were referring to a woman by that name who put in a little bit of religion here and philosophy there to create her own religion, unique in its specifics to her and no one else. Habits was long on description of problems and short on prescription of solutions. Yet toward the end of the book, Bellah wrote about a small Episcopal church in the San Francisco area. With wistful words, he described how this little group of people committed to Jesus Christ met together regularly to worship, to sing hymns, to pray, to hear sermons, to celebrate Communion. From there, they went out into the surrounding community in the name of Jesus Christ, feeding the hungry, ministering to youth, helping abused women, and caring for the mentally and physically ill. In short, says Bellah, “ seems to be able to combine a sense of continuity with the past and …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Pew: Rich in Faith Get Richer While Poor Get Poorer in America

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Second half of landmark survey finds evangelicals remained devout from 2007 to 2014. While America’s “nones” keep losing their faith, a significant study finds that religious Americans are staying stable—and by some measures, even growing—in theirs. “Among the roughly three-quarters of US adults who do claim a religion, there has been no discernible drop in most measures of religious commitment,” concludes the Pew Research Center in its latest report. “Indeed, by some conventional measures religiously affiliated Americans are, on average, even more devout than they were a few years ago.” The report is the second half of the 2014 US Religious Landscape Study, an attempt by Pew to address the problem that the main methods for measuring American faith are flawed. The seven-year study was designed to “fill the gap” left by the United States census (no questions on religion), the self-reporting of denominations (“widely differing criteria”), and smaller surveys (too few questions or people). While most surveys rely on sample sizes of 1,000 or 2,000 people, Pew interviewed 35,000 adults in English and Spanish in 2007 and again in 2014 for the landscape study. CT covered the first half of the results in May, which found that <a target="_blank" …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Review: Trumbo

By Alissa Wilkinson The story of the celebrated and blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter boasts a star-studded cast but a half-baked script. mpaa rating:R (For language including some sexual references.) Genre:Comedy, Drama Theatre Release:November 06, 2015 by Bleecker Street Media “You write every scene brilliantly,” Otto Preminger (Christian Berkel) half-jokes to Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) on the porch of his house, where they’ve been working on the script of the 1960 film Exodus. “And I will direct unevenly.” The quip would function almost too well as a cipher for what happened with Trumbo, except the screenplay isn’t brilliant, either. It has its moments. Once in a while, it’s fantastic. But Trumbo mostly suffers from the now agreed-upon affliction we might call Important Biopic Syndrome, in which all the material that makes for a good movie gets vacuumed up by the things which the movie must signal to us are Important (lest we miss them) via musical cues and circular pans. Moments of political courage, for instance. Especially regarding the First Amendment. Arguments with the family. Epiphanies. Stupidities. One-ups. Sometimes, unfortunately, even jokes. The movie tells the story of Dalton Trumbo, which is both interesting and historically important, especially if that name means nothing to you. Trumbo …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Sarah Bessey: In Praise of Everyday Theologians

By Sarah Bessey, guest writer God-talk isn’t just for academia. It’s for laundry rooms, gyms, hospitals, and everywhere else. Editor’s note: Sarah Bessey’s new book Out of Sorts explores how our faith can change over time. The following excerpt comes from a chapter encouraging readers to not be intimidated to raise questions and study theology as a way to encourage their own spiritual growth and evolution. Robert Farrar Capon writes in The Supper of the Lamb, “There, then, is the role of the amateur: to look the world back to grace.” It’s for this reason that, while I love professional hockey such as the NHL games, nothing gets Canada more excited than the World Junior Ice Hockey Tournament. There’s something about a bunch of kids who play just for the love of the game that is so sweet to us. They’re amateurs, sure, not as skilled as the professionals, but oh, do we love to cheer them on. John Wimber, one of the founders of the Vineyard church movement, used to say, “Everyone gets to play.” He meant that everyone gets to minister, everyone gets to hear from God, everyone has a part to play in this church and in this world, everyone gets …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Some Perspective on Millennials Serving in Ministry

What are we ought to think about Millennials as future leaders of the ministry? The Millennial generation, the oldest of whom are turning 35 this year, are inarguably the ministry leaders of the future. However, Millennials also have the smallest percentage of church attendance of any generation, leaving many pastors looking for insight and advice on how to reach them. While there are many opinions regarding Millennials and the future they may create, there is very little information regarding the perspectives of Millennials serving in ministry positions. Who Was Surveyed Our team took a qualitative approach to this question and surveyed Millennials serving in ministry, asking about their perspectives on religion, spirituality, and church. We used open-ended questions in order to obtain an expression of their thoughts. As is the nature of qualitative research, the results cannot be extrapolated to Millennials in general or Millennials in ministry in specific. Though still to be fully analyzed, the preliminary results are intriguing. Those in our survey ranged from single, to married, to parents. They also ranged from serving in volunteer positions in churches, to serving in Christian non-profits, to pastors. Overall, the trends demonstrated in this group were strong and personally encouraging. For example, many …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Three Ways Christians Can Be Like Jesus Amidst a More Polarized Culture

By Ed Stetzer New data from Pew Research Center points to a growing ideological polarization in the U.S., and an opportunity for us to be like Jesus. Yesterday morning, Pew Research Center published a new set of data from a recent study on Americans and religion. You may remember a similar study in May of this year called the “American Religious Landscape” survey. (For my take on those, see articles at CNN, USAToday, the Washington Post, and here on my blog.) The newest data confirms much of what the General Social Survey (the data I used in many of the above articles) shows. America is becoming more secular, but the faithful are remaining devout. There is more than one thing going on, but a big part is that “nominal” Christians, the data shows us, are abandoning the “Christian” label more in the last seven years than they have before. As every single reliable researcher believes: the church isn’t dying. In other words, there’s not a collapse of practicing Christianity, and that’s the headline of almost every story, though some people still won’t believe it. But, take a look at the stories and their headlines such …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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What Is the Missional Church (Part 4)?—Shaped By God and His Mission

By Ed Stetzer Mission and missions must work together. We mustn’t have one without the other. The Missional Church is Shaped by God and His Mission In order for the church to recover its missional passion, we must reclaim our lost sense of the glory of God’s mission. While evangelical churches affirm the orthodox doctrine of God, we approach him too often as a God we can use. He is a God for us, for our satisfaction. We have shrunk God down to our size. We have limited the scope of his mission in our minds. We have unwittingly bought into the idea that progress is more important than redemption (Stetzer, 175-179). Our zeal for mission has been undermined by our small view of God. We have simply replaced God’s purpose for the world with our own purpose for the world. Even when we serve and help and give and share, we too often do it from a sense of obligation or a desire to impress. We have become a church that is motivated by a host of things but a singular desire to glorify God. We will not recover the missional vision of the church until we recover the grandeur of a big God, of being …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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When Complaining Tears Us Apart

By Sharon Hodde Miller Sociologists say voicing our frustrations brings us together. Scripture offers another way. Complaining is a social lubricant that makes conversation easy, whether we’re talking about our families or the weather or the switch from Daylight Saving Time. When we commiserate with one another, we connect. Some researchers suggest complaining facilitates bonding and is psychologically healthy. Irene S. Levine, a professor of psychiatry at New York University, describes complaining as an opportunity to feel understood. Through it, we offer one another “reassurance and support.” The “bond” created by complaining is why, in its presence, many of us instinctually join in, even when we can’t relate to the specifics of the complaint. Maybe you’re not married to a messy husband, but your roommate is kind of a slob. Maybe your husband isn’t lazy and forgetful, but there was that time when he double-booked your schedules. I don’t know about you, but I have complained about people and things that had not bothered me otherwise, simply to be included. A couple years ago, I sat with a group of exhausted young mothers as we sipped our coffees and laughed about our weeks. We relished the pause from a frenzy of kids and commitments, and …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Why Settle for the 'Wilberforce Option' When We Have Dr. King?

By Gabriel Salguero There is a model for cultural engagement that doesn’t depend on power and privilege. “There remains an experience of incomparable value. We have for once learnt to see the great events of world history from below.” This quote, from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s essay “After Ten Years,” could describe many evangelicals after the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges ruling. Losing cultural influence is a necessary corrective to conflating Christian witness with political and cultural dominance. Christian witness is never a guarantee of success. But there is something missing in many descriptions of this “from below” moment. Evangelical Christians are not, and have never been, a monolith. Sweeping statements about past dominance and present dislocation show that, for many, evangelicals of color remain Ralph Ellison’s “invisible man.” Many Hispanic, Asian, and African American evangelicals are not having a “Chicken Little” moment. Our sky is not falling, because we have lived under fallen skies for years. Conservative Christians have been disproportionately affected by racism, immigration, poverty, and denial of voting rights (to name a few issues) for decades and centuries. Why did lack of progress on these issues not arouse similar concerns long ago? Author and activist Lisa Sharon Harper put the point vividly to me: “None of church …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Accelerating Accuracy: The Bible Translation Challenge

By Freddy Boswell, Samuel Chiang, Bob Creson, Carl Moeller, Michael Perreau and Roy Peterson A coalition of Bible agencies warns against overemphasizing speed. Every Tribe Every Nation, an alliance of philanthropic and Bible agencies, represents groups that have developed more than 85 percent of the Bible translations in the world. It includes the American Bible Society, Biblica, Seed Company, SIL, Wycliffe USA, and the United Bible Societies. After Christianity Todaypublished its article on Mobilized Assistance Supporting Translation (MAST) in its June issue, the alliance sent this statement. See also today’s CT report on the ongoing debate over MAST. Speed and accuracy. In many areas of life, we are challenged to balance speed and accuracy. An equestrian trying to finish a course in the quickest time with the fewest penalties. The typist who strives for the fastest speed with the fewest errors. Medical researchers searching for the quickest path to a cure with the fewest side effects. And when it comes to Bible translation, speed and meaningful accuracy are also fundamental principles that undergird the work. We have an incredible sense of urgency to ensure that all people can access the gospel message, but we take very seriously our spiritual responsibility to ensure that each new translation accurately relays the Scripture’s full meaning and spirit of …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Goodbye 'Bathroom Bill': Houston Voters Reject New LGBT Protections

By Kate Shellnutt Inspired by subpoenaed sermons, conservative Christians overturn HERO. At the polls yesterday, Houston voters rejected an anti-discrimination law that would extend protections for LGBT residents among other groups. The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, or HERO, was branded the “bathroom bill” by opponents who feared accommodation of transgender individuals would give men, including sexual predators, the right to use women’s restrooms in public. Conservative Christian congregations in the area rallied and prayed against HERO as a violation of their beliefs on gender identity. “Biology and the Bible show us that there’s a difference between men and women,” said Gregg Matte, pastor of Houston’s First Baptist Church. “In order to keep men out of women’s locker rooms, I want to encourage you to vote ‘no’ to Proposition 1 (HERO).” Ed Young, pastor of Second Baptist Church, called the ordinance “a very serious moral issue” that could potentially open the city up to godlessness. “It has been reported that we discriminate,” he told his church. “If we open up our facilities so that someone can choose … those of us who believe that men should use men’s facilities and women’s facilities, we will be discriminated against.” Opponents raised nearly $3 million to campaign against the law, more …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Is Germany’s Refugee Crisis a Muslim Mission Field?

By Morgan Lee A three million-strong Christian denomination says a “strategic mission” to convert Muslims goes against “the spirit” of Jesus. Up to one million refugees are expected to arrive in Germany by end of this year, hoping to gain asylum in the European Union’s largest country. Many are arriving from Muslim-majority countries, including Syria, Afghanistan, and Iran. But while German churches have been eager to materially support the refugees, Christians aren’t on the same page about sharing the gospel with newcomers. One prominent denomination has claimed in a position paper that trying to evangelize refugees is unchristian, reports Religion News Service. “A strategic mission to Islam or meeting Muslims to convert them threatens social peace and contradicts the spirit and mandate of Jesus Christ and is therefore to be firmly rejected,” said the Evangelical Church of the Rhineland in a paper entitled “Pilgrim Fellowship and Witness in Dialogue with Muslims, according to RNS. A denomination of about three million, the Evangelical Church of the Rhineland is one of twenty Lutheran, Reformed and United Protestant groups that make up the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD). According to the most recent figures, 23 million Germans are part of EKD, whose numbers …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Review: Spotlight

By Kenneth R. Morefield What happens when good men stop doing nothing? mpaa rating:R (For some language including sexual references.) Genre:Drama, Historical Theatre Release:November 06, 2015 by Open Road Films Editor’s note: the following is a review from the Toronto Film Festival, where the film premiered in September. My biggest fear going into Spotlight, the historical drama which reenacts the Boston Globe‘s exposé of clergy sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church, was that auteur Tom McCarthy would find some way—probably through lionizing the journalists—to recast this horrific chapter of our history into a feel-good story. In America, we don’t mind movies that ask us to pity victims. But we sure seem to hate anyone or anything that asks us to not feel quite so good about ourselves. I had nothing to worry about. If anything, Walter Robinson’s (Michael Keaton) biggest epiphany is a bit of a Schindler moment: Why didn’t I do more? As Robinson and his team of investigative reporters act as our surrogates, they don’t lead us into the temptation of self-righteous hindsight, nor do they deliver us from realizing that we’re complicit in our silence. Spotlight is a serious film, both artistically and morally, and it wrestles with explosive content while never …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Sherry Turkle: How to Keep Your iPhone from Destroying Your Relationships

By Interview by Morgan Lee The MIT expert weighs in on our worst technology sins. If you’ve ever watched a group of people glued to their smartphones and wondered how these devices are shaping our relationships, Sherry Turkle’s research is for you. The MIT professor, known for her insightful books and TED talks, studies Americans’ relationship with technology and how it spills over into our interactions with our partners, kids, and friends. A recent Pew Internet survey found that 9 in 10 Americans had used their cell phones during the most recent social gathering they attended, even though the vast majority of us (82%) consider it annoying or distracting for others to do so in conversation. Actually talking with other people, free from interruptions, can help mitigate some of the damage done by distracting smartphones and tablets, writes Turkle in her new book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. “The pathway to empathy is something you learn through conversation. It’s not as if we need to invent incredible new technology,” she said. “We learn empathy through the process of conversation.” Turkle recently spoke with CT assistant editor Morgan Lee about the constant interruption of digital notifications, how we became so uncomfortable …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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True Friends Will Change You

By Leilani Mueller, guest writer Transformative friendships happen everywhere… not just in small groups. After a welcome banquet for new students, the two of us sat beside a fountain and chatted about our shared backgrounds. Among the mostly white student body, we’d noticed that we were both multi-racial. From there, we discovered that we were both theater girls, having even played some of the same roles before. We loved books and beauty, and we were in the same honors program. We both took our faith seriously. Amid the excitement of so many shared passions, I met one of my best friends. In his book The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis defines friendship as the moment when two people realize a shared love. Over time, this kind of instant connection evolves into something more. A friendship based on mutual interest turns into the chance to shape and sharpen each other’s interests. You grow and change because of the other person. It’s this transformational nature of friendship that makes it a significant part of our lives as Christians. God uses friendship not just to change us, but to make us like him. Dallas Willard states in The Divine Conspiracy that making people like Christ consists in “bringing people to believe with their …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Want to Be a Servant? Dress Like One.

By Alfred Cedeño How my life uniform helped me to consider the needs of others above my own. Whenever my grandpa described his journey as an indentured servant from Puerto Rico to Michigan 60 years ago, he highlighted three facts: He brought enough money to bribe a foreman to drive him to a bus stop and escape his duties as a farmhand. His trip to the mainland US was initially temporary, for some of his fellow travelers simply wanted to make enough money to take back to their families. On the flight back, the plane crashed and killed most of his former coworkers. He brought a lot of clothes to America. (He liked to tell this part with gusto.) I’ve learned two things from listening to his story: My grandfather was once a swaggy island dude, and he intended for our family to be more than servants. Sixty years after my grandpa’s escape from poverty in search of a better life—and even more clothes—my cousin Jason, a Vineyard pastor, and I chatted in a hospital waiting room while my dad recovered from surgery. While we discussed ministry and relationships, I described my newest life change, a change sure to make me iconic and more …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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What is the Missional Church? (Part 5)—Forgetting Missions

By Ed Stetzer How might the local church better engage in world missions for the glory of God? Reasons Why Missional Churches Do Not Do Missions As the missional conversation continues and deepens, there is a growing trend among missional churches to forget the lost world around us. Why has this happened? There are five reasons I think this has happened: First, in rediscovering God’s mission, many have discovered its personal dimensions only. The encouragement for each person to be on mission (to be “missional”) has trended toward a personal obligation to one’s immediate context. While mission to our local communities is important, an inordinate focus on “local” neighbors misses the church’s obligation to “global” people groups. Second, in responding to God’s mission, many have made everything “mission.” Missions historian Stephen Neill, responding to a similar surge in mission interests, explained his concern this way: “If everything is mission then nothing is mission.” Neill’s fear was that the focus would shift from global evangelization (often called “missions”) to societal transformation (often called “mission”). Next, in relating God’s mission, the message increasingly includes the hurting but less frequently includes the global lost. Missional churches seem to speak more of underserved peoples rather than unreached peoples. As we engage to …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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