Author Archive

[250] No Secular Space

Polarization is perpetually in the news, and it can create what Ryan J. Pemberton calls “secular space” among believers.  Pemberton is a minister for university engagement in Berkeley, CA, a boiling cauldron of political passion.  His aim is to make the love that should bind believers in Christ stronger than the secular (in Berkeley’s case, political) space that divides them.

“Look down the pew to the right,” he said one Sunday morning.  “Now look to your left.  There’s a fifty percent chance that your neighbor is voting differently than you.”

“it’s a difficult way to do church, but it is also is a beautiful reminder of what it means to for the church to be the church and not an affinity group.” says Pemberton in the Christianity Today‘s “What My Berkeley Congregation Taught Me About Loving My political Enemies.”  Affinity groups segment a church, creating secular space between believers.

Pemberton wisely points out that the key to preventing secular space lies in affirming that our primary identity is as fellow followers of Jesus Christ.  And that is working in Berkeley. “There are communities where I’d find people who share more of my political views,” said one of his congregation, “but they wouldn’t care for me like this community.”

“I couldn’t believe it when I pulled into the parking lot,” said another, “and saw a Trump sticker beside their [church] bumper sticker.  When I realized whose car it was, I also realized not only am I in a small group with that person, but that I love them.”

This is a model to a lost world.  It is incarnational proof that if we let him, Christ can unify us in ways we cannot imagine. DC

[249] In the Box

Identity politics is an outgrowth of postmodernism.  The latter rejects the existence of objective truth in the non-material world, hence truth is customized to the individual, a construction of each individual for herself.

That shifts the focus from looking for truth outside oneself in a spiritual realm—a truth by which one would order one’s life—to one that must be constructed from within each individual box.  Clearly in an era of diversity one is quick to look at ethnic and gender categories as a beginning point to find that truth within one’s box.  Those identity categories (being female, gay, or a racial minority, for example) then become celebrated as the core of one’s being—the center of one’s life.  They become the main source for individual truth, and once that happens, they generate battles that verge on being Darwinian in nature.  Abortion rights, immigration, and nationalism become religious issues owing to their intersection with identity categories such as race and gender.

This is the result of a “spirit of error,” the result of a society that rejects spiritual truth.  These identity categories that once gave rise to important discussions of justice and equity, as we seek the divinely endowed rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, become much more than that—they become the basis of life itself.  DC

[249] Post-Journalism

Sean Hannity of Fox News, regularly laments, “Journalism is dead.”  And he is pretty much correct.  We now have consistent politicization of the news—current events communicated through the lens of an ideological worldview (something at which Hannity is very savvy), rather than carefully expressed as factually as possible.

There are reasons for this.  One is that news channels go 24-7.  In generations past, major networks had one hour for the evening news, a slot so narrow that the major concern lay in deciding what stories of the many daily possibilities would be covered.  The news outlets of today have the opposite problem—too much time to fill.  When that happens the game changes.  Instead of competing for excellence at keeping the populace properly informed through the careful gathering of facts, it degenerates into a battle for ratings.   Flat, white-bread fact is not very stimulating.  It appeals to the cognitive rather than emotional component, and is hardly very enticing to would-be viewers.  Furthermore, in a polarized nation, presenting a uniform political point of view gives the network the best chance at dominating one or the other of the dichotomous political demographic.

The days of Walter Cronkite, John Chancellor and Tim Russert is past.  They are being replaced with the likes of Sean Hannity, Rachel Maddow, and Brian Williams, pallbearers of what once was journalism.   DC

[248] Evolution

Evolution, according to Richard Cromwick, apologist and as well-read a scientific Christian scholar as I know, is a series of unsubstantiated hypotheses.  It is called a science, but it is not science as we define it—verifiable facts about the universe.  It is at best a form of forensic science—a set of theories about the past by applying what scientific facts we have and filling in the blanks with speculation.

For years we have heard of the “theory” of evolution, with “gaps” and “missing links.”  We no longer hear that. It is now proclaimed as a science with little mention of all the still unverified hypotheses that litter the enterprise.  Furthermore, the closer one examines the theory with its millions and billions of years timeline, the less plausible it becomes, given matters as basic as the deterioration of key elements (gases, for example) necessary for the universe to exist.

It is a theory, and a not a very strong one.  Creation makes more sense.  Much of the fossil evidence, for example, is more easily explainable by there having been a worldwide flood (per chapters 6-9 in Genesis) than that we are looking at millions and even billions of years of naturalistic unfolding.  While rendering a fair assessment of evolution is beyond the scope of this essay, to say there are major scientific problems with the theory would be an understatement.

So the question is this: Why is evolution taught as fact in the public schools?

Because the issue is binary.  There are only two choices.  If evolution does not stand, creation is the only alternative explanation.  There are no other academic interstates to travel.  And to accept creation not only necessitates absorbing the humiliating intellectual blow of realizing that we humans are not the most intelligent life form in the universe, but far more humbling, we need to surrender ourselves to the transcendent creator who is. DC

[248] Abortion

The zealous efforts of the pro-abortionists are another expression of identity politics.  Think about it.  The argument begins with gender—a woman’s right to manage her own body.  Men have no business trying to invade that gender-based turf.  But it has dialed up from there.  The push for the end of the Hyde Amendment is also rooted firmly in identity politics.  The argument is that the denial of tax monies to fund abortions discriminates against a identifiable group—the poor–those who cannot afford the procedures.

For many in the world of politics, identity supersedes all other considerations—from religion to the common good.  Because in the postmodern kingdom of identity politics there is no truth.  There are only perceptions of truth, perceptions that are much a function of the worldview of the group with which one identifies, whether that be one’s race, gender, income, or sexual orientation.  The only point of consensus in identity politics is that no objective metaphysical truth exists, so no one has the right to advocate a set of ethics that should govern the conduct of everyone.  DC

[247] Search

Few verses describe our times better than 2 Timothy 3:7 that speaks of people continually learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth.  In short, many people do not want the truth.  They want to search for truth.  Name any serious thinking person, from your next door neighbor to your favorite university professor, and chances are she will talk about truth in terms of searching for it.

We have truth.  The very word appears roughly 250 times in the Bible (depending on the translation), the most authenticated book of all time.  But people do not accept the truth, because that truth goes beyond knowledge, it requires submitting to it.  And submission does not align with the fallen nature of humankind.  So the search goes on. DC

[247] Politics as Religion

Politics has become emotional. Rallies for Trump are reminiscent of passionate homecoming ready-to-do-battle pep rallies, while many of his opponents justify violence and physical confrontation as a means to stop his advocates.  The MAGA cap is the most divisive symbol in the US.

Although politics has always stirred emotions, it has for the most part, remained within the boundary lines of civility.  What has changed?

There are many theories on this, but I invite you to consider this.  The more secular a culture becomes, the more spiritually empty the population becomes.  Religion, in general, is much about meaning and purpose.  The less religious a people become, the less purpose many of them have.

What will fill that vacuum?  For many, it is politics.

Politics—the borders, the celebration of identity, the many sides of diversity (from immigration to admissions to college), and the near civil war over abortion—becomes not bigger than life, but for many the central meaning to life itself.  The current out-of-control fanaticism is a spiritual rather than an ideological reality.  DC

[246] Fruits

Despite the raging success of the economy among other things, Trump is very vulnerable in 2020.  The reason is that too many people do not like him.  The polls indicate he is consistently short of an even 50% approval rating.

Why is that?

The Apostle Paul may be a bit helpful here.  In Galatians 5:22-23 he tells that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control.”  There is much discussion as to the nature of Trump’s faith, but little debate that he is a bit short in some of these divinely advocated characteristics. Worse, his words and actions are often antithetical to these Christian traits, causing his popularity to wane.

In polarized times, the devoted partisans on each side will vote along party lines, irrespective of the personalities of the candidates.  Those less passionate about party will make two decisions when they vote: First whether they believe a given candidate is competent; and secondly–for those candidates who pass the first test—who they like best.  That is why it is called the popular vote.  And Trump, much the favorite of evangelicals due to his responsiveness to their issues, may lose nationally because he falls short in the very areas of character Christians advocate. DC

[246] Divorce

We have way too many divorces in the Christian world.  There are well-known Christian colleges with alumni divorce rates that rival the national average.  Many of us have contributed to these disturbing statistics.

These things ought not to be.  The church and Christian colleges need to address this.  In many instances, neither has really come to grips with why divorce rates have spiked.  In the pre-industrial and industrial eras (as Aren Renn of urbanophile.com calls them), marriage constituted a culturally approved economic unit.  Men provided for their wives and children, while women managed the household duties.  The latter included primary care and nurture for children and myriad other tasks including cooking, cleaning, etc.–sans the appliances of today.

In short, marriage was a practical necessity, and divorce was devastating—economically—to both parties. In those times if you asked a man if he liked his job, chances are he would snap, “It’s a job.”  I know.  I did it.  Men did not look for “fulfillment” in their jobs. They had to make a living.

Similarly, people did not necessarily seek deep, intimate, emotional bonds in marriage. Surely many marriages enjoyed such closeness, but a marriage bound mainly by economic convenience and the presence of children was not necessarily unsatisfying.

Things are very different in the current post-industrial age.  Marriage is not an economic necessity for either gender.  Sex is readily available everywhere and children are not always born in wedlock.  More important, we expect much more from marriage now.  We want intimacy and companionship in a lonely, segmented world.  And many of us marry people we did not know when we grew up.  We no longer live in a womb-to-tomb community that makes divorce taboo. Furthermore, we live in a secular, narcissistic culture, one in which lack of fulfillment is a sufficient reason to leave what was intended to be a lifetime union.

All the while, the Christian world has (a) not addressed the challenges of post-industrial marriage, and (b) tacitly made divorce more acceptable.

That has to stop.  Christian colleges and churches need to confront this crisis head-on.  Classes, workshops, seminars—from a Christian perspective—need to be present in churches in colleges. The family is the most important institution in a society.  When it crumbles, the society crumbles.  When it crumbles in the Christian world, we have no witness. DC

[245] Development

Whenever there is a discussion of increasing student diversity in Christian colleges you will hear this retort:  We could get more [you can fill in the blank here] but they are too far below the academic standards of our school to succeed.

There are two responses to this not-very-intelligent objection.  First, how hard is the school trying to get “qualified” minority students?  And while we are at it, how hospitable is the school to such students?  How “at home” will they feel?  Why should they want to come to the school?  For many such students, they are trading off a supposedly Christian education for an atmosphere—at the state university—in which they feel more welcome.

But let’s yield the point on the foregoing and focus on those “academically deficient” minority students.  There are two types of academically limited students.  There are those that do not have the intellectual capacities to succeed.  There are students of all colors in this group.  There are also those who are intellectually capable, but who—owing to the high schools they attended–have not had an adequate preparation to succeed in an academically demanding environment.  There are so many “Homeless to Harvard” stories out there that there should be no dispute as to the existence of this second group.

Why aren’t Christian colleges pursuing these students with an eye toward developing their academic potential?  There are myriad developmental programs available.  They began to appear in the 1970’s and have proliferated ever since.  In our electronic world there is unlimited access to them.  You don’t have to have a very good success rate for these developmental programs to pay for themselves.

If our Christian colleges truly value people of all races, and wish to develop disciples– body, mind, and spirit, they need to get past superficial barriers and engage the task aggressively.


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