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For Black Women, Looking Tough Takes a Toll

By Interview by Sarah Arthur Emotional strength can only hide heartbreak for so long, says pyschologist and theologian Chanequa Walker-Barnes You’ve seen her in the news: the calm African American woman reacting with dignity to a high-stress, traumatic situation. Her voice and face are steady. She stuffs down her emotions. No one will see her fall apart. She is the Strong Black Woman. I first heard that phrase in a sermon by Chanequa Walker-Barnes—theologian, clinical psychologist, fellow graduate of Duke Divinity School. Strong Black Woman Syndrome, something she saw regularly in her clinical practice, emerges out of the expectation that black women be “super capable, to take care of others, to be stoic—emotionally strong to the point of stoicism—and radically independent.” And I immediately thought, “I know this stereotype. I remember it from my childhood in the ‘80s. It’s Clair Huxtable.” It’s a cultural stereotype that’s enforced in the media, in popular culture, even in churches, by blacks and whites alike. But Walker-Barnes points out, this pressure isn’t sustainable. Many black women are falling apart physically and psychologically, as she recounts in her book Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength (Wipf and Stock). Picture Diamond Reynolds calmly recording the aftermath of her boyfriend Philando Castile’s …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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California Lawmaker Drops Controversial Proposal to Regulate Religious Colleges

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra SB 1146 won’t be the religious liberty threat many Christians feared. A day after religious leaders released an open letter calling on California to protect religious liberty in higher education, the lawmaker behind a controversial bill dropped the proposal in question, allowing religious schools to keep exemptions to anti-discrimination laws related to sexuality. Under state Senator Ricardo Lara’s amended bill, schools must “disclose if they have an exemption and report to the state when students are expelled for violating morality codes,” the Los Angeles Timesreported. “HUGE NEWS! Sponsor of #SB1146 is amending bill to keep exemptions in place,” tweeted Andrew Walker, director of policy studies at the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). “#SB1146 is still bad, because it has the disclosure (public shaming) element, but this, for now, is good.” Earlier versions of Senate Bill 1146 would have prevented colleges that received state funds from enforcing codes of student conduct reflecting a college’s religious beliefs about sexual identity, including teaching that marriage is between a man and woman and limiting bathrooms to biological gender. Traditionally, California’s religious schools have received a religious exemption from non-discrimination laws. This bill would have limited it to students who were preparing …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Clergy Working Fewer Hours, Getting Paid More

By David Brigg Counting the cost is getting easier. The wages of battling sin are getting better for men and women of the cloth. Non-Catholic clergy have experienced significant increases in income even as their work weeks declined by more than 15 percent in recent decades, according to a major new study of clergy compensation published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. (While the non-Catholic category was primarily Protestant, it did include a small number of non-Christian clergy, the study said.) The study is believed to be the first to take into account the benefits clergy receive in the form of housing allowances or living in church-provided residences, which usually cause difficulty in any wage comparison of clergy to the general public. Overall, in inflation-adjusted wages, non-Catholic clergy made $4.37 more per hour in 2013 than they did in 1983. That figure is more than double the wage increase of the average worker with a college degree. In 2013, the average American made $49,225; non-Catholic clergy earned $46,216. Put another way, the general population averaged $21.20 an hour, while church clergy pulled in $18.85 an hour. (Clergy that worked elsewhere, like in hospitals or administration, earned $21.79 an hour.) Like most everyone else in …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Are Young Evangelicals More Liberal Than Their Parents?

By Ed Stetzer There is a common idea today that young evangelicals are liberating themselves from conservatism, but is that true? The young, restless, and… liberal? Are younger evangelicals really more left-leaning than their parents? The easy answer is, “Of course they are! Look at how many of them are voting for pot legalization and driving those tiny cars!” But not so fast—the swerve into liberalism may not be as drastic as we think, according to a study from 2010 conducted by Buster Smith and Byron Johnson of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University. Smith and Johnson began their research with a couple of hypotheses: Young (18-29 year old) evangelicals are less likely to associate with the Republican Party than older evangelicals and young evangelicals are more likely to self-identify as liberal than older evangelicals. They found some fascinating data that shows young evangelicals may not be as liberal as we think. Are Young Evangelicals Less Likely to Associate with the Republican Party? As we stated above, the first hypothesis Smith and Johnson had was that young evangelicals were less likely to associate with the Republican Party. Is that true? Not really, no. Here are some key stats: 55% of young evangelicals identify with the Republican Party, 24% …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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'Hillbilly Elegy' Hits Close To Home

By Lore Ferguson What J.D. Vance’s book taught me about my own painful childhood in rural Appalachia. J. D. Vance’s new book, Hillbilly Elegy, has hit a national nerve for people on both sides of the political aisle. Rod Dreher’s recent interview with Vance was so popular that the site crashed. “It has become by far the most-read piece ever on TAC (The American Conservative),” according to Dreher. In the interview, Vance talks openly about growing up in rural Appalachia, recognizing moral agency among the poor, and, in Dreher’s words, the need for “more honest dialogue about poverty and dysfunction in America.” Vance also explores a question that many of us are asking: Why are so many people voting for Donald Trump? My own story has something to do with it. I grew up in a 3,000-square foot home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. When I was young, my mother subscribed to colonial home decorating magazines and our county was almost always highlighted in them. We were not allowed to watch sitcoms, but when I caught a glimpse, I couldn’t see the charm—that was my life every day. We were a normal, white, upper-middle-class, large, conservative family. When I was 18, though, my family uprooted …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Our Priorities Are Off When Family Is More Important Than Church

By Joseph Hellerman Jesus’ focus was on the family of God, not the biological family. For several years, I served in a church that was known for its commitment to world missions. Many of our college kids were called into full-time cross-cultural ministry, including a bright young man named Bill. The reaction of his parents, however, caught Bill by surprise. His family had supported missionaries financially, prayed for them, and even fed them Sunday lunch when they were on furlough from the field. But the idea of their son giving his life to overseas missions was too much for Bill’s parents. They wanted Bill to find steady employment and raise a nice Christian family—one that supports missions, of course—like they had. Bill’s parents are hardly unique. American adults, according to a recent Barna study, are “most likely to point to their family as making up a significant part their personal identity.” Country and God come next. Christians are no exception; natural family has usurped God and his family as the primary identity marker for most church-goers. Most of us prioritize our commitment to family above our commitment to the church. This is unfortunate, because the Bible offers us a different set of relational priorities. Jesus: Pro- …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Our Priorities Are Off When Family Is More Important Than Church

By Joseph Hellerman Jesus’ focus was on the family of God, not the biological family. For several years, I served in a church that was known for its commitment to world missions. Many of our college kids were called into full-time cross-cultural ministry, including a bright young man named Bill. The reaction of his parents, however, caught Bill by surprise. His family had supported missionaries financially, prayed for them, and even fed them Sunday lunch when they were on furlough from the field. But the idea of their son giving his life to overseas missions was too much for Bill’s parents. They wanted Bill to find steady employment and raise a nice Christian family—one that supports missions, of course—like they had. Bill’s parents are hardly unique. American adults, according to a recent Barna study, are “most likely to point to their family as making up a significant part their personal identity.” Country and God come next. Christians are no exception; natural family has usurped God and his family as the primary identity marker for most church-goers. Most of us prioritize our commitment to family above our commitment to the church. This is unfortunate, because the Bible offers us a different set of relational priorities. Jesus: Pro- …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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How a Chicago Pastor Helped Rival Gangs Make Peace

By Interview by Morgan Lee After a neighborhood shooting left a toddler paralyzed, Corey Brooks knew it was time for the church to take action. When a six-month-old baby was shot and killed in gang-related violence in the Chicago neighborhood of Woodlawn three years ago, Corey Brooks and his New Beginnings Church ministered to the grieving family. This June, however, when another child—this time, a toddler—was paralyzed in a similar shooting on Father’s Day, Brooks decided to go further, inviting more than 100 gang members together so he could broker a truce that’s still going strong. Brooks recently spoke with Christianity Today assistant editor Morgan Lee about how he built rapport with gang members, his reputation in the neighborhood, and how he hopes other Chicago churches will support his work: How long have you been trying to broker this truce? We’ve been talking about it for over a year now. We had difficulties getting everyone to agree. Finally, we were able to get everyone to come to the table and at least discuss the potential of a truce. What did you address in your meeting? I talked about the pain that everyone has experienced as a result of these shootings. A lot of the individuals there had been …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Egypt's First 'Official' Christian Convert Quits, Returns to Islam

By World Watch Monitor After years of harassment and imprisonment, Mohamed Hegazy abandons his unprecedented legal quest. In 2007, Mohamed Hegazy became the first Egyptian to seek to change the religion on his identification card from Muslim to Christian. But after nine years of harassment, imprisonment, and torture, last week Hegazy publicly declared his return to Islam. In a YouTube video, Hegazy blessed Muhammed as “the chief-most among Allah’s creation,” spelled out the Shahada (the Islamic proclamation of allegiance), and apologized to his family. “I want nothing from this video,” Hegazy said in an apparently rehearsed statement. “I have no desires. I will not appear again in the media. I will not appear again publicly. … I say this out of my complete free will. I am under no pressures from anyone. I am not being held by any agency, nor am I under any pressure of any kind. And that’s it.” Hegazy broke new ground in 2007 when he sued to change his religious identification from Muslim to Christian. The judge <a target="_blank" …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Dobson Explains Why He Called Trump a ‘Baby Christian’

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra Offhand comments sparked debate over candidate’s possible recommitment to Christ. James Dobson didn’t realize his off-the-cuff remarks about Donald Trump’s faith would set off so many questions about the Republican candidate’s alleged recommitment to Christ. The former Focus on the Family leader, who has endorsed Trump, publicly addressed the situation for the first time in a letter sent to followers today, stating he “didn’t waffle on anything” when he had to clarify that he didn’t know the exact details of Trump’s relationship with Jesus. Dobson explained what happened following the June gathering of 1,000 evangelical leaders at Trump Tower in New York: I talked that day to what seemed like 500 people in a 15-hour period ending at 11:30 p.m. One of those well-wishers was carrying a recording device, and he suddenly appeared before me and held a microphone in my face. He asked for my impressions from the day. I spoke candidly for about 20 seconds, as I recall. Then he disappeared. By the next morning, millions of people were talking about my saying I had heard during the day that a minister had led Donald Trump to a relationship with Christ. I didn’t elaborate because I …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Actually, the ‘Mommy Wars’ Aren’t Universal

By Patrice Gopo, guest writer Most American moms, particularly women of color, don’t fit the stereotypes. Here’s a common family story among black women in my generation: My grandmother worked as a live-in maid, and my mother lived at numerous relatives’ homes for the first few years of her life so my grandmother could keep her job. Two generations later, I have a spectrum of choices beyond what was available to my grandmother. I can pursue a fulfilling career, stay home, or find something in between. While I believe women can find commonalities despite their different family and work choices, the two sides of the “mommy wars” do not capture the reality for many mothers today. The current conversation about motherhood—centered around married, highly educated mothers who “opt out” of the workforce to stay home with their children—gives the impression that most mothers are caught between extremes of staying home or pursuing a career. Yet only 5 percent of stay-at-home moms fit this affluent demographic, according to Pew Research. Overall, American motherhood looks much different: Single moms now make up a growing segment of stay-at-home moms (20%), and the proportion of stay-at-home moms living in poverty has doubled in recent decades. Despite these statistics, when we talk …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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What I Needed From the Church During My Depression

By Alicia Cohn 3 ways our communities can support mental health. Speaking at the Democratic National Convention last week, the singer Demi Lovato took advantage of the powerful platform to advocate for mental health care in America. “Like millions of Americans, I am living with mental illness,” she said. “Too many Americans from all walks of life don’t get help, either because they fear the stigma or they cannot afford treatment.” “Mental illness” is a scary-sounding category that encompasses a broad array of invisible struggles. Look around you on Sunday. Most likely, there are Christians next to you suffering silently from anxiety or panic disorder, bipolar disorder (from which Lovato suffers), dysthymia or major depressive disorder (from which I have suffered). Whether through personal experience or through someone we know, those of us whose lives have been touched by mental health struggles know that getting help can be the hardest part. Women are twice as likely to experience mental health struggles as men, thanks to major hormonal challenges such as pregnancy and menstruation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 30 percent of women between 18 and 44 years of age are affected by depression, and many of them don’t get …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Weekend Edition—July 29, 2016

By Ed Stetzer Disaster Relief, Excuses, Sharing faith, Church signs, and more! Preaching in the Wake of Disaster—Jamie Aten Bringing hope to victims of a disaster is a great opportunity and responsibility. Conflict Resolution, Excuses, and Race Relations—Barnabas Piper Isn’t it about time we who claim the gospel move forward—fast—toward racial reconciliation? After Childhood Abuse, How Can I Trust Others with My Kids?—Nana Dolce A thoughtful answer to the question of how to protect our kids and minister to others. Stop Assuming Your Neighbors Are Hostile to Your Faith—Trevin Wax This is a good word. God is at work in people’s lives whether we see it or not. One thing we can always have confidence in—Aaron Armstrong Providence doesn’t mean that we see every possibility, only that God does. Want to read a weekly digest of The Exchange blog? Click here to subscribe to Christianity Today’s Newsletter for The Exchange to get weekly wrap-ups direct to your inbox. Don’t forget to subscribe to the The Exchange Podcast in iTunes. Click here to listen to my interview with Dr. John Sorensen. Earlier This Week on The Exchange God …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Sacred Ritual of Church Suppers and Snacks

By Rachel Marie Stone By honoring the gift of food, we honor the body of Christ. The apple juice didn’t taste quite right. Neither did the cookies, which were the store-brand imitation of the better-tasting, more expensive version. And there was always fear that there wouldn’t be enough. There would be pushing and grabbing, big kids taking six cookies, and occasionally tears. Always small for my age, and the pastor’s daughter to boot, I didn’t have it in me to jostle and struggle against the other children for the snacks at coffee hour, at Vacation Bible School, at Sunday school. It wasn’t worth it. “Why does the apple juice at church taste weird? Why do we have ‘creme-filled sandwich cookies’ instead of Oreos?” I asked my mom. Maybe the budget didn’t allow for better. This was a generation ago, and “organic” was not a commonly used term. And anyway, we were just kids. Did it matter, really? The grownups got weak and bitter coffee with powdered non-dairy creamer in thick white Styrofoam cups, and those little powdery donuts that came in white and blue boxes from the grocery store shelves and mysteriously stayed fresh for weeks. Church ladies bought several boxes on sale and stored them in …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Real Cost (and Power) of Seeking Justice

By Gary Haugen The murder of Willie Kimani can rally the global Body of Christ for an end to impunity. Earlier this month I spent two weeks in Kenya, where international attention has focused on the abduction and murder of three men: my colleague Willie Kimani, a human rights lawyer and investigator for IJM, our client Josephat Mwenda, and their taxi driver Joseph Muiruri. Willie and the IJM team were pursuing a case against a Kenyan police officer for shooting Josephat, and the two went missing with their trusted taxi driver while heading for their homes following a court hearing in Nairobi. Tragically, eight days after they went missing, despite an extensive search led by Kenyan police and IJM staff, their bodies were found in the Ol-Donyo Sabuk River to the northeast of Nairobi on July 1, 2016. On Monday, July 18, four police officers were charged in their murder. While we are encouraged by the investigation and arrest, our hearts are still devastated. And even as we deeply mourn these obscene murders, we are profoundly grateful to every government agency, nonprofit, church, and individual who used their voice to rally an urgent response to their disappearance. Now we need continued action to help us bring …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Lord's Supper Is a Rehearsal Dinner

By Derek Rishmawy When we partake in communion, we’re practicing for something big. My wedding rehearsal dinner was, in itself, a joyous experience. I don’t often think back and wish we would have eaten a certain food or gone to some other venue (though I do sometimes wish I had been wearing my beard a bit thicker at the time). In the providence of God, we managed to pull together just the precise blend of friends, family, and food to mark the miraculous union of two into one. There is one odd bit of wedding culture, however, that I don’t think I ever fully managed to grasp before I experienced my own wedding: how important the rehearsal dinner is to making all that goodness happen. Aside from getting to eat a little more, what is the point of feasting before you feast? Feasting with the Lamb The buildup to a wedding is a microcosm of the whole of history. When John the Revelator recorded his vision of the drama of history, one of its key scenes is a wedding celebration. On that day, the Bride, Christ’s church, will come arrayed in the splendor of spotless holiness to wed her king, and the glory of that festival will be …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Gift of My Anxiety

By Laura Turner How persistent fear has kept me tethered to God. My first memory is a memory of fear. At four or five years old, alone in my bedroom, I was gripped suddenly by the certainty that something would go wrong. I looked up at the pink bows my mom had painted on the walls, my stomach twisting in knots. The conviction that the future wasn’t friendly made itself manifest in my body. It was the beginning of a lifelong relationship with fear. “Feelings make excellent servants, but terrible masters,” Dallas Willard wrote. This is part of what Jesus is telling us when he commands us, “Don’t be afraid” (Matt. 14:27). The admonition not to fear is the most frequently repeated command in the Bible. It’s routinely appealed to as if it were a neat syllogism: Jesus said “do not fear”; Christians obey Jesus; therefore, I am not afraid. God said it; I believe it; that settles it. Would that it were so simple. Fear in the form of anxiety (owing to Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which I have) is a constant companion. A persistent, irrational fear about the future is the best definition of anxiety I have heard, and it joins me daily as …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Dinner Table Taboo Americans Would Rather Break

By Bob Smietana – Facts and Trends Who wants to talk politics vs. religion, and whether they have more to share or learn. Of the two subjects most likely to be banned from the dinner table, most Americans would rather talk about politics than God. Yet Christians are split on whether they want more spiritual conversations or fewer ones, and whether they have more to share or learn during such chats. LifeWay Research surveyed 1,004 Americans in order to compare how often Americans talk to others about politics to the number of times they talk about spirituality. Two-thirds of Americans (64%) say they had at least three conversations about politics in the last month. Eight percent had no conversations about politics. By contrast, fewer than half (44%) had three or more spiritual conversations in the same time frame. Twenty-two percent had no conversations about spirituality. Overall, 6 in 10 Americans (59%) say they’re more comfortable discussing their political views than their spiritual beliefs. But there are distinctions among certain groups. Women (51%), those who go to church at least once a week (57%), and those with evangelical beliefs (63%) prefer to talk about their spiritual views. Men (69%) and those who don’t have evangelical beliefs (65%) prefer to talk about politics. Most Americans also say …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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The Casserole-Toting Church Ladies Hold the Secret To Happiness

By Megan Hill I don’t want to be married anymore. This refrain propelled Elizabeth Gilbert from her prone position on the bathroom floor into the wondering and wandering that became her 2006 bestselling memoir Eat, Pray, Love. In its pages, she travels the world, gets a divorce, tries everything, rethinks everything, and ends up on the deck of an Indonesian fishing boat in the arms of her future husband, whom she calls Felipe. And now, she doesn’t want to be married anymore again. On July 1, Gilbert announced her separation from Felipe in a Facebook post noting that the reasons for the divorce are “very personal.” In the resulting flurry, public commentators can barely conceal their eagerness at the thought of another Gilbert adventure. The New York Times reported the divorce as a fresh manifestation of Gilbert’s “trademark wanderlust.” Elle enthusiastically congratulated her on “embarking on the next journey.” Apparently, everyone preferred the free-wheeling of Eat, Pray, Love to the plodding of her subsequent book about marriage, Committed. Gilbert’s divorce-hedonism-remarriage-divorce saga is obviously distasteful to many Christians, but we can be equally fascinated (and misguided) by a very similar narrative. Gilbert wrote a memoir about questioning expectations and leaving her husband; Christian authors …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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Q+A: Why Letting the Dishes Go Can Save Your Soul

By Interview by Andrea Palpant Dilley In her latest book, Shauna Niequist trades “competition, comparison, and exhaustion for meaning, connection, and unconditional love.” Almost ten years ago, Shauna Niequist published Cold Tangerines, a tender, transparent book about “the extraordinary moments hidden in our everyday lives.” In her latest book, Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living (Zondervan), Niequist finds herself wiped out, overworked, and fighting to regain long-lost tranquility. “This book is an account of my winding, messy journey from exhaustion to peace, from isolation to connection, from hustling and multitasking to sacred presence,” writes Niequist. I talked recently with Niequist about “fake resting,” practicing the Sabbath (for real), and how as a teenager her parents freed her from being “the perfect pastor’s kid.” “Now that I’m a parent, I think, ‘Holy cow, how did you have the restraint and faith to be cool when I was putting you through such ridiculous situations?’” she told me. “I want to be parents like them.” Half an hour into the phone interview, Niequist’s son came running through the door crying after a hard day at school, and she respectfully bowed out of our conversation to tend to his needs. Which …read more Source:: Christianity Today       ...
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