COMPETENT TURK WATCH: “When Baptists Voted for a Heretic.”
The Baptist alliance with Thomas Jefferson helps illuminate recent controversies over Pastor Robert Jeffress’s negative comments about Mitt Romney’s Mormonism. It reminds us that there was a time when conservative Baptists were willing to support a presidential candidate whose personal beliefs starkly differed from their own. As of 1800, Jefferson was still fairly quiet about his religious skepticism. (After he retired from politics, it became clear that he did not believe in the divinity of Christ, the Trinity, or the miracles in the Bible, including Jesus’s resurrection.) But Jefferson had already said enough to convince some Federalist opponents that Jefferson did not believe in traditional Christianity. So why would the Baptists of 1800 support a man whom opponents called a “howling atheist,” while some Baptists today refuse to support Romney because of his Mormonism? The difference is that Baptists in 1800 understood that politics often requires making alliances with people outside the evangelical fold, in the interests of shared public priorities. For the Baptist supporters of Jefferson, the top priority was religious liberty.
UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES: “Anti-Christian Backlash After South Sudan’s Secession.”
Emboldened by government calls for a Sudan based on Islamic law since the secession of South Sudan, Muslim residents have attacked Christians trying to finish constructing their church building near Khartoum. Meanwhile, local authorities are threatening to demolish three other church buildings that already exist.
Muslims in the north, where an estimated 1 million Christians still live following the secession of South Sudan on July 9, fear the potential influence of the church, they said.
They want to reduce or restrict the number of churches, so that they can put more pressure on believers,” said a church leader on condition of anonymity.
INTELLECTUALLY UNSERIOUS ATHEISM: “Magic versus metaphysics.”
Some atheists are intellectually serious. Some are not. There are several infallible marks by which an atheist might show himself to be intellectually unserious. Thinking “What caused God?” is a good objection to the cosmological argument is one. Being impressed by the “one god further” objection is another. A third is the suggestion that theism entails a belief in “magical beings.” Anyone who says this either doesn’t know what theism is or doesn’t know what magic is. Or (no less likely) doesn’t much care one way or the other – it’s another handy straw man, useful for those who want to believe that theistic arguments are manifestly fallacious or otherwise silly, or who find it rhetorically useful to pretend that they are.
PRIVATE INTERESTS & THE COMMON GOOD: “SlutWalkers, Occupiers, and Idiots.”
Both SlutWalk and OWS idiots highlight the need for institutional commitments to practicing the virtues. The long history of Greek philosophy and Christian asceticism is founded on an insight that contemporary culture desperately needs to recover: namely, that the only social cure for sin and evil is spiritual practice. Aristotle understood such practice to be like unbending a stick: that is, unbending the human heart in the opposite direction of vice so as to find its center in virtue. Augustine similarly understood that such “unbending” occurs only through the participation in communities of conversion, rooted in the shared desire for goodness.
The idiot wants to critique institutions. The wise person wants to call institutions to recover the virtues. I agree with Gandhi’s basic insight: be the change you want to see in the world. Practice the virtues; interrupt the patterns of unhealthy imitation of sin. And don’t be an idiot about it; be a citizen.
SHE’LL REGRET IT WHEN SHE’S 40: “Barbie Gets Inked… Yawn…”
THE GREAT RECESSION HAS NOT CANCELED THE GREAT COMMISSION: “Missionary Money: Easier to Give, Worth Less than Ever.”
Financial turmoil in global markets continues to play havoc with the value of the U.S. dollar, but technology continues to make the transfer of donor dollars to missionaries quicker and easier.
IN GOD WE…DOUBT? “Why It’s Good to Doubt God.”
Doubting God is painful and frightening because we think we are leaving God behind, but we are only be leaving behind the idea of God we like to surround ourselves with—the small God, the God we control, the God who agrees with us.
A GOOD PRAYER: “St. Thomas Aquinas’ Prayer for Scholars.”
You who are the true source of life and wisdom and the Principle on which everything depends, be so kind as to infuse in my obscure intelligence a ray of your splendor that may take away the darkness of sin and ignorance.
Grant me keenness of understanding, ability to remember, measure and easiness of learning, discernment of what I read, rich grace with words.
Grant me strength to begin well my studies; guide me along the path of my efforts; give them a happy ending.
You who are true God and true Man, Jesus my Savior, who lives and reigns forever.
WHO’S “WE”? “Are we turning Steve Jobs into a saint?”
CNN asked four experts on religion and technology to weigh in on whether former Apple chief Steve Jobs is achieving a kind of secular sainthood. Here are their responses…
HONEST WORK? “Can a Christian work in the marketing field?”
Lately I’ve been wondering if a Christian CAN (not should, but CAN) would in the field of advertising–as it operates today in America. It seems to me that the marketing industry has become so powerful and pervasive AND deceitful that a Christian would have to compromise his or her principles of honesty to work there.