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Evangelical Views of the 2016 Election: Refusing to Play the Game, Profaning the Idol of Presidential Politics

By Noah Toly Author and professor will vote down-ballot, but will not vote for a candidate for president. I’m not voting for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump this November, but it’s not that both candidates are equally unworthy. According to my analysis, Clinton is worthy of at least consideration. Trump is a non-starter. (You can read more about the differing opinions of each in this series on The Exchange.) But I’m not voting for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Additionally, I won’t vote for any of the third-party candidates, either. This year, I won’t be playing the game. My conviction is that not voting can be a responsible way to actively profane the idol that presidential politics have become this campaign season. Idolatry has been a major theme of recent conversations about evangelical support for Trump. Many of Trump’s evangelical supporters throw their weight behind the candidate in hopes that he will deliver on promises of provision, protection, and power in the face of a supposedly apocalyptic tide of political, cultural, and legal change. Seeming to take Trump’s campaign slogan – “Make America Great Again!” – at face value, they believe that he’ll restore their fortunes, protect them from foreign powers and domestic threats to religious …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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‘13th’ Introduces America to the Dark History of Our Criminal Justice System

By Jeffrey Overstreet The new Netflix documentary makes the case that to save the future, we need to stop defending the past. “Defend the past. Save the future.” Those words are lighting up TV screens this week, promoting the new NBC time-travel adventure series Timeless. But really, it’s ridiculous. No matter how many people want to go back and “kill Hitler,” the past cannot be changed. Right? Right? I don’t know. Last night, director Ava DuVernay took me back to familiar figures from my childhood. She didn’t “defend the past.” She revealed politicians I remember as heroes to be complicit in things I find difficult to accept. And if you take that journey with me, we might yet become a church that helps “save the future” by refusing to defend our past. DuVernay, who directed Selma—a gripping historical drama that has the gospel blazing through its veins—has just delivered a brilliant lesson in time travel, and its streaming now on Netflix. It’s called 13th. With startling interviews, ugly statistics, kinetically charged animation, and shocking man-on-the-street footage of American history, 13th reintroduces Americans to their very own criminal justice system. I say “reintroduces” because DuVernay films through lenses that reveal a cancer running unchecked. Full disclosure: Despite Jesus’s call for …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Lovekindness: A Post-Election Path for Christians in America

By Barry H. Corey Democracy sees the value of dialogue for the common good. Where do we go from here? It is November 9, and after an exhaustingly long, divisive election that has at times felt apocalyptic, America now has a new President-elect, Donald Trump. But while there has been resolution to the long-contested question of who will occupy the White House come February, the problems that gave rise to (and were exacerbated by) this horrific election will not be gone from America. We are a nation divided. And the wedges were driven deeper by the vitriol of this campaign. We state our intractable views on everything from race to religion to class to sexuality to culture to Colin Kaepernick. Facebook used to be a place where friends shared updates and photos. Now, it’s a forum for overheated ranting among strangers. Sadly, Christian communities have been complicit in this culture of divisiveness. Whether the topic is Trump, transgenderism, or refugees, on any given day the Christian Twitterverse is barely distinguishable from any other angry subculture. American Christians, like all Americans, are being conditioned by the rhetoric of division. It’s the air we breathe on 24-hour cable news, on social media, and in the click-bait articles that favor unnuanced and …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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There's Still Hope for Our Politics

By Michael Wear But only if we plant our feet in the gospel. Perhaps there was a glimmer or two of the potential for better politics even in this presidential race. At the conclusion of the second presidential debate, in the midst of one of the most bitter, trivial, and personal campaigns in modern political history, the candidates were asked to name one positive thing they respect about their opponent. Donald Trump, refreshingly, took the opportunity to point out that Hillary Clinton “doesn’t quit. She doesn’t give up. I respect that. I tell it like it is. She’s a fighter.” Clinton had a particularly moving exchange with a ten-year old immigrant. When the young girl told the candidate through tears that she was scared her parents would be deported, Clinton called the girl over to sit on her lap. “I’m going to do everything I can so you don’t have to be scared,” she said. “And you don’t have to worry about what happens to your mom or your dad or anyone else. I feel really, really strongly, but you’re being very brave and you have to be brave for them too. Because they want you to be happy. Let me do the worrying. …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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You Are Plural

By Clayton Carlson Trillions of foreign creatures in and on our bodies shape our health, desires, and behavior. Here’s why they matter. Let us make humankind in our image,” said the triune God. And then he made us plural, too. “Male and female he created them,” but we are even more plural than that phrase indicates. Each of us is plural. We might picture our “self” as a single body. We know we’re a grand collection of cells, trillions of microscopic units that do everything from moving blood to processing nutrients into energy. But when we think about these cells, we take comfort that together they’re all one “me,” a huge organism sharing one DNA code that all started from one fertilized egg cell. True, we are that. But we are more: Each of us is a collection of communities, millions of millions of organisms working together, with very different DNA. We have about as many bacteria and other microbes in and on our bodies as we do human cells. For decades biologists estimated that we had about 10 times as many microbial cells as our own. But a new study found that the average man has about 39 trillion bacteria in his body and about …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Incredible Indian Christianity: A Special Report on the World’s Most Vibrant Christward Movement

By Jeremy Weber Why it’s the best and worst of times for India’s burgeoning churches. The world’s most unexpected megachurch pastor might be an illiterate, barefoot father of five. Bhagwana Lal grows maize and raises goats on a hilltop in Rajasthan, India’s largest state, famous for its supply of marble that graces the Taj Mahal. He belongs to the tribals: the cultural group below the Dalits, whose members are literally outcasts from India’s caste system (and often called “thumb signers” because of how they vote). Yet every Sunday, his one-room church, with cheerful blue windows and ceiling fans barely six feet off the ground, pulls in 2,000 people. His indigenous congregation draws from local farmers, whose families’ members take turns attending so that someone is tending the family’s animals. The cracks in the church’s white outer walls are a source of pride: They mark the three times the building has been expanded. Thousands of colorful flags stream down the sanctuary along the blue beams that support the corrugated metal roof. Their rustling approaches a roar. When asked the reason for the flags, Lal responds, “For joy!” laughing heartily. The decorations are normally used at weddings. “The same feeling should be inside the church. People should feel this is …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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How Pastors Perceive Domestic Violence Differently

By Bob Smietana – Facts & Trends Most pastors want their churches to be a safe haven, but don’t have a plan to get there. When it comes to domestic violence, Protestant pastors want to be helpful but often don’t know where to start. Most say their church would be a safe haven for victims of domestic violence. But many don’t know if anyone in their church has been a victim of domestic violence. And only half say they have a plan in place to help if a victim comes forward. Those are among the findings of a new report on churches and domestic abuse from LifeWay Research, based on a phone survey of 1,000 Protestant senior pastors. The study was sponsored by Autumn Miles, a radio host and speaker whose church was caught off guard when she told them about her domestic violence experience. “If a woman comes forward and says, ‘I need help—I am being abused,’ a church needs to respond,” she said. “There’s a lot to lose if churches get this wrong.” Most pastors (87%) already believe that “a person experiencing domestic violence would find our church to be a safe haven.” Eleven percent somewhat agree. One percent are not sure. And most pastors (89%) also believe their church regularly communicates that …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Asking 'Why Me, God?' But in a Different Way

By Peter W. Chin The question “Why me, God?” can be a lament, but also an expression of gratitude. I have much to be thankful for this year. January will mark five years since my wife’s breast cancer surgery, after which her chances of recurrence drop significantly. Thinking back to the frightening months following my wife’s initial diagnosis, I remember that many doubts and questions dominated my mind. But no question was more paralyzing and difficult to answer than this one, as well as its myriad variations: “Why me, God?” “God, why did you let my wife get sick with breast cancer? Did we do something wrong? What had we done to deserve this?” “God, why did you let my church plant close down? Am I a terrible pastor, a failure?” “God, why have I been unemployed for so long? How am I going to provide for my family, how am I going to afford insurance in case my wife gets sick again?” “Why God? Why me?” These are questions that every person asks themselves at some point in their lives. But what sets these questions apart are that they are not just personal but theological in nature, and so lay bare our understanding of self, of God, and …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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America the Beautiful, America the Violent

By Peter W. Chin Ferguson may be about race, but it is also about violence. And we should have something to say about both. Let me be clear: I believe that Ferguson is about race. I know that many people disagree with that statement, that Officer Darren Wilson’s actions were not ostensibly motivated by race, and so could not have been racist. But racism goes beyond an individual’s prejudice against people of a different color. It is a historical reality that goes back to the inception of this country, and exists not only in people’s minds but in the halls of our most powerful institutions. So even if an event is not directly motivated by personal prejudice, it can still be about race. I think Lecrae put it far better than I ever could: When people say “why are you making this a racial thing?” They’ve unknowingly answered their own question. —@lecrae, November 25, 2014 Come to think of it, Lecrae says everything far better than I ever could. But what I find strange about Ferguson is that no one is addressing the overarching theme to this entire tragedy: violence. Surely that is the common thread that ties all of these stories together: a young black …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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"What Annoys You About Me?"

By Patton Dodd What we can learn when our kids point out our faults. A Small Talk guest post by Patton Dodd. With three weeks left in our Small Talk series, I am delighted to welcome Patton Dodd, editor of OnFaith, to share his thoughts on what he has learned through his children: One morning early this fall, my 11-year old daughter and I started listing the things we like least about each other. I cannot recall how we got to that place in the conversation, but when you’re talking to Isabel, conversations can go weird places. So, for whatever reason, we were talking and one of us came upon the notion that it would be a fine time to list the key annoyances in our relationship, from our respective points of view. After some No, you go volleying, I went first: “You talk way too fast.” She really does, and the factthatshetotallygetsitfromme does not make it any less annoying. Isabel can turn your average 25-word comment into a couple blurry syllables. “You already tell me that all the time,” she said. “Fine,” I said. “You next. What annoys you about me?” “Well,” she began, great relish in her voice, “the FIRST THING is: You always …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Evangelical Sex Talk Is About Much More Than Sex

By Christine J. Gardner Our views on life inside the bedroom can shape our approach to life outside the bedroom. Evangelicals have long been known for their ability to sanctify popular culture for religious purposes. Popular culture’s obsession with sex is no exception, which raises an evangelistic question: How do we make the gospel winsome to a society steeped in sex? Our answer, according to a new book, has been to affirm that great sex in marriage testifies to the good news of the gospel. We sanctify sex, promising better sex when the Bible is the primary guide. In Saving Sex: Sexuality and Salvation in American Evangelicalism, Amy DeRogatis, professor of religion and American studies at Michigan State University, explores a variety of texts, including evangelical sex manuals, sermons, and purity events. DeRogatis shows how evangelicals’ differing (and often competing) views of sex are about much more than sex: Ultimately, they point toward differing strains of evangelical belief, and differing modes of interacting with secular society. Sex and Salvation The book begins with an overview of the purity movement for evangelical teens. DeRogatis moves quickly through a variety of familiar themes: the fairy-tale narrative and gender roles, True Love Waits purity events, courtship, modesty as a power source …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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God’s Defense Attorney

By Bret Mavrich Millionaire lawyer Mark Lanier moonlights as a Sunday school teacher. Around Christmas, Mark Lanier becomes like the teetotaling Baptist brother of infamous party host Jay Gatsby. Every year since 1994, Lanier’s 35-acre estate in northwest Houston is opened to thousands of colleagues, political connections, family, and friends. Visitors survey the landmarks: a replica of a 6th-century Byzantine chapel, a theological library modeled after seven Oxford libraries, and a Noahide menagerie that includes lemurs and kangaroos alongside their more pedestrian counterparts like sheep and goats. Guests ride a model train among other carnival rides brought in for the event, where Sting, Bon Jovi, Rascal Flatts, and prescandal Miley Cyrus have all performed for as many as 10,000 people. And like Gatsby, Lanier is shrouded in mystery. I first meet him at a dinner in his home, part of a weekend of events culminating in a lecture by Lanier himself. He welcomes 100 of us one by one, flashing a boyish grin and tossing his hair back into place. Virtually everyone at dinner knows only pieces and rumors. I meet college friends of Lanier’s who are visiting his estate for the first time. Dining across from me is an …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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What Kids Have Taught Us About What Matters Most

By Amy Julia Becker Moms, dads, and a godmother reflecting on the big things small voices help them understand. Over the course of eight weeks this fall, eight diverse and talented writers contributed their perspective on what the children in their lives (moms, dads, and a godmother) have taught them about “what matters most.” To conclude the series, here they are: “What Annoys You About Me?”, Patton Dodd. What we can learn when our kids point out our faults. “I need to make sure those I love know I love them just as they are, especially when I’m revising everything else. Someday, perhaps we’ll all get the ultimate upgrade we’re hoping for, but in the meantime, living with the likes of Bel is upgrade enough for me.” Talking with Kids about the Problem of Evil, Jennifer Grant A mother’s wisdom poured out to her eldest son. “Ultimately, I knew I could no longer tell him what to think or what to do, regardless of how much he trust he places in me. Like it was when he was very young, my job was to listen to him, tell him about my own experiences of God’s presence, and let him continue on his own faith journey. And trust that …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Why Russia’s Evangelicals Thank God for Putin

By Mark R. Elliott Despite the Crimea takeover and Ukraine conflict, many church leaders are grateful for Putin’s leadership. Evangelicals in Russia have become ardent fans of President Vladimir Putin because of Russia’s efforts to maintain its influence in Ukraine, its takeover of Crimea in 2014, and the widespread Russian belief that the West is to blame for the present economic woes on the home front. This realization dawned on me during my November visit to Russia. The evidence is hard to ignore. Meeting in St. Petersburg back in May, the official Congress of the Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists ended their meetings with a strong endorsement of Putin just two months after brutal conflict broke out in eastern Ukraine. Addressing Putin, they said, “We express to you sincere appreciation for your labor in the post of president. . . . We reaffirm our principled loyalty with respect to state authority, based on the unchanged words of the Bible, ‘Let every soul be in subjection to the higher powers: for there is no power but of God; and the powers that be are ordained of God’ (Rom. 13:1, ASV).” The evangelical congress also directly challenged the legitimacy of Ukraine’s Maidan Revolution and the February 2014 overthrow of pro-Russian …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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When Jesus Says, ‘Don’t Follow Me’

By Jeff Strong And, instead, return to where you came from. “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” —Luke 2:20 “And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” —Matthew 2:12 This year as I read and prayed through the Christmas story again and again, one dimension that I’d never noticed before caught my attention. The second chapters of both Luke’s and Matthew’s gospels reveal a theme of post-Christmas returning. After their respective epiphanies, we read that both the Magi and the shepherds returned. Returned to what? They returned to their vocations and their normal, everyday lives. How strange would that have been? The shepherds had seen the glories of heaven, heard the songs of angels, and been led to the manger of the Christ child. The Magi had experienced their own awe-inspiring, star-guided vision leading them to the new King. And now both groups find themselves returning to the lives they once knew. But they couldn’t have returned the same. When you encounter the Christ child, there is no going back. You return, but you return …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Review: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

By Kenneth R. Morefield Saving the world—and a dark and bloated summer movie season—at the last possible second. mpaa rating:PG-13 (For sequences of action and violence, and brief partial nudity.) Genre:Action Directed By: Christopher McQuarrie Cast: Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg Theatre Release:July 31, 2015 by Paramount Pictures I suspect that by the time the next Mission: Impossible film rolls around I won’t remember a thing about Rogue Nation‘s plot—or much else, except maybe Tom Cruise hanging on to an airplane door. (Or was that the one where he was hanging from a glass skyscraper?) It’s surprisingly pleasurable, a romp through a series a snazzy set pieces that are linked by familiar themes. What’s fun about it comes from how it’s executed, rather than any innovation. And execute, it does. The latest installment in the long-running franchise somehow manages to find the shrinking sweet spot between pretense and camp. The movie never winks at the audience, but it also refuses to take itself too seriously. After its prologue–one of several echoes of the Bond franchise that seem deliberate–we see Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) adrift. He’s learned that the secrecy and integrity of the IMF force has been compromised, and then he watches a colleague’s execution. Hunt himself …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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An Exercise Called Temptation

Will you let temptation devour you, or will you use it to grow in righteousness? If you ever want to read Christian material that is spicy, dramatic, and packed full of truth, just read sermons from seventeenth-century English preachers. Picture them passionately preaching to women in their funny bonnets and men in their strange black ties, who tremble with awe on those old wooden benches as they listen. John Owen was one of those ministers, and what he had to say about temptation is profound. He said, “Temptation is like a knife, that may either cut the meat or the throat of a man; it may be his food or his poison, his exercise or his destruction.” In short, Temptation can kill you or make you stronger. I’m sure we have all thought of temptation as being our poison or destruction—but have we ever thought of it as being food or exercise? Now, I think it’s fairly obvious to us that temptation can kill the soul. What is less apparent, however, is how it can become an opportunity for growth. Understanding this is a bit trickier to comprehend. But doing so can be life changing. The reasons we would miss this are if our view …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Russell Moore Wants to Keep Christianity Weird

By Sarah Pulliam Bailey The public-policy leader for the largest US Protestant denomination isn’t worried over Christians’ loss of power. He says it might just be the best thing to happen to them. Moore didn’t expect to see female bodybuilders tanning naked across the street on a hot June day. So the eighth president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), the public-policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, took to one of his pulpits: Twitter. “These people told me we ought to keep all the neighbor kids inside while they are naked out here. Y’all have never seen me this mad,” tweeted Moore, a father to five boys. Moore chuckled recounting the story while holding his youngest during family dinner. The day after his neighbors agreed not to tan naked in their front yard, Moore tweeted, “So far today we still have our First Amendment religious freedom and everyone in my neighborhood has their clothes on outside. #winning” Compared with today’s myriad court battles in which Christian individuals and organizations worry that their religious freedoms will soon vanish, tanned bodybuilders seem like a minor threat. But the encounter epitomizes the way Moore is practicing patient pluralism—and helping a denomination of about 16 million do the …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Do You Believe A False Teaching?

Answer these questions to find out. A 2014 survey conducted by LifeWay Research for Ligonier Ministries reveals that many American evangelicals hold views condemned as heretical by some of the most important councils of the early church. Nearly a quarter of participants believe false teachings about Jesus, and more than half about the Holy Spirit. Find out if you are among them by answering “true” or “false” to the following statements. 1. God the Father and Jesus Christ are equally divine. 2. Jesus is a hybrid, partially divine and partially human. 3. God the Son is uncreated. 4. The Holy Spirit is a force 5. The Holy Spirit is less divine than the Father and the Son. 6. “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Spirit” are three different names for one divine person. Answers 1. True. The Council of Nicaea in 325 affirmed that the Father and the Son are of the same divine essence, and condemned Subordinationism, which teaches that Jesus is inferior to the Father. 2. False. Apollinarianism, condemned at the Council of Constantinople in 381, taught that Jesus is not equally human and divine, but is one person with one nature. Jesus has a human body and soul, but a divine mind. 3. True. The Council of Nicaea affirmed that …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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A History of Faith and Flatulence

By Wesley Hill Terry Lindvall leads a tour of irreverent poems, bathroom jokes, and other running gags of religious satire. If your Facebook feed is anything like mine, you know nothing unites your friends (aside from political debate and celebrity gossip) like a juicy link from The Onion, America’s most popular satirical news site. Because I have so many Christian friends, Onion articles that touch on religious themes tend to garner the most “likes” in my feed. A couple of years ago, when a story appeared with the headline “Christ Reluctantly Enters Area Man’s Heart,” it dominated my feed for days. Its appeal was its wink-wink honesty about the foibles of Christians. It skewered our judgmental moralism. When Jesus is quoted in the article as saying, “To be honest, before Derek confessed his sins, repented, and sought my grace in pious supplication, I was really looking forward to sitting on my throne and judging him,” we’re meant to chuckle at our own sanctimonious reflection—and mend our ways. … Stories of Mockery Some predictable names and tales appear. Monty Python, G. K. Chesterton, and Jonathan Swift have cameos. And of course, reformer Martin Luther (1483–1546) is prominent. Luther satirized the countless dubious relics in the Middle …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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