The World Wide (Religious) Web for Wednesday, November 9, 2011

WEALTH & RELIGION: “Research: Rich God, Poor God.”



4. Put the government out of business wherever you can. If it is not the government’s job to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, minister life to the wounded, then perhaps it is time for us to prove it. I find this deeply challenging but I try to find ways to gather around the ones in need in our church and community in real, tangible ways. I want to be the hands and feet of God, making space for his way of loving people one-by-one. I much prefer the organic life of God, the yeast in the bread of life, handed out freely. Stuffing food bins for the poor. Helping out-of-work friends with resumes and contacts. Collecting coats for the homeless when the weather gets cold. Making meals for my neighbour who is sick or even offering a night of baby-sitting to young parents even.

This should’ve been #1.


AROUSAL ADDICTION: “The Isolation Generation.”

Psychologist Philip Zimbardo describes drug addiction as “wanting more,” but guys today have what he calls arousal addiction, always “wanting something different.” This never-ending stream of stimulation is behind the growing failure of males to connect with women socially or to succeed academically. They’re dropping out of life.

Zimbardo cites excessive internet use, video gaming, and online porn as causes of this new addiction. By age 21, boys spend 10,000 hours gaming, two-thirds of that time in isolation. The average young man watches 50 porn clips per week.

“Boys’ brains are being digitally rewired in a totally new way, for change, novelty, excitement, and constant arous-al,” Zimbardo says. “They’re totally out of sync in traditional classes, which are analog, static, and interactively pas-sive. And they’re totally out of sync in relationships, which build gradually and subtly.” This is creating a generation of young men who do not connect well in traditional teaching situations and who lack social skills especially with women.

The link includes interesting stats on education and religious participation too.


ANTI-ANTI-INTELLECTUALS: “The Scandal of the Evangelical Experts?”

The Anointed raises important questions about the way that some evangelicals sequester themselves in intellectual cul-de-sacs. But the book also makes me wonder what Christians in positions of academic influence can do to help upgrade the intellectual rigor of American churches. Obviously, academic Christians have largely failed to reach a general audience of believers or there would be less of a market for the populist entrepreneurs to fill. But deriding evangelicals’ intellectual deficiencies in venues such as The New York Times probably isn’t the most promising way to start addressing that failure.


LOVE JESUS? START A “JUNTO.”“Benjamin Franklin, Christian Discpler.”

Benjamin Franklin was not an evangelical. His optimism and belief in unending progress was not always compatible with the Christian belief that the world is sinful, broken, and in need of redemption. But Franklin understood that the life of the mind was cultivated in community. His Junto was a kind of intellectual equivalent to the proverb, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).


LOST IN TRANSITION: “A Generation Detached.”

In a recent column about the book [Lost in Transition by Christian Smith, et al.], David Brooks suggests that “many of these shortcomings will sort themselves out as these youngsters get married, have kids, enter a profession or fit into more clearly defined social roles. Institutions will inculcate certain habits. Broader moral horizons will be forced upon them.” I am far less optimistic. Emerging adults are spending more time away from those institutions (especially the religious ones) than have previous generations. And it’s not at all clear that they’re going to come back. A fundamental demographic shift is occurring, and it may end up making the moral shift permanent.


THE GOD GAP IN POLITICS? “Democrats are Less White, More Liberal, and Less Religious Than They Were in 2008.”

In many respects, the demographic profile of Democrats nationwide is similar to what it was in 2008, although Democrats have become somewhat less white and more liberal than the party that nominated Barack Obama as its presidential candidate that year. As a group, Democrats are more likely than average to be women and nonwhite, less likely to be religious or married, much less likely to be conservative, and much more likely to be liberal than the U.S. population as a whole.


NOT A GOOD THING: “The Issue-Driven Church.”

The Issue-Driven Church runs serious risks . . .

  • The loss of a distinctively Christian narrative for what it does.
  • The loss of an identity and mission that is (for lack of better terms) trans-historical and trans-cultural.
  • The loss of a call to a common mission that allows for differing convictions about how faithful Christians might fulfill that mission.
  • And the loss of the conviction (or at least the awareness) that God-as-three-persons-in-one is indispensable to the life of the church.
  • So, if so much is at stake, why is The Issue-Driven Church so powerfully attractive to some denominational leaders?
  • It gives us a church we can control and a definition of the church’s mission that we can name.
  • It allows more easily for making common cause with socially active secularists.
  • It caters to the de facto deism at work in American religious communities, which finds it difficult to believe in a God who is active in the world in other ways, but has no difficulty in believing broadly in a God-out-there that charges us to care about certain issues.
  • And it is inclusive, minimizing the theological barriers and practices like baptism to people finding a way to connect with the life of the church.


EVANGELICAL ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM LEADS TO ATHEISM? “Fringe view: The world of Jesus mythicism.”

A significant number of Jesus mythicists appear to be former conservative Christians who have become atheists. Perhaps having been trained early on to think in all-or-nothing terms, they are now inclined to deny that the Bible was right about anything. Others may find it is far easier to view Jesus as a fabrication than to enter into the tumultuous waters of historical investigation.

It is easy—and to a certain extent appropriate—to dismiss mythicists and their pseudohistorical methods and claims. But there is a lesson to be learned from them. All people are prone to being deceived—and to deceiving themselves. Fervent belief can move us to offer an Amen before our minds have weighed or investigated claims. A desire for certainty can also lead us to seek simple answers, confidently offered, rather than the cautious and heavily qualified answers that experts give. But the cautiousness of experts doesn’t indicate a lack of confidence in their methods or conclusions. It reflects the humility that comes with awareness of complexity.


HOW DID I MISS THIS? “Flash mob—preparing chaplains to respond.”

“The mob was comprised of Central Bible College and AGTS staff and students along with students from Evangel University,” Jernigan says. “In this scenario, the mob started making fun of religion and then started stealing and breaking stuff at AGTS. We had several individuals who confronted the mob, and ultimately the mob turned on them. Bystanders were beaten, with one ultimately being ‘shot and killed.'”

Looks like the consolidation of the three Springfield schools is working out, uh, nicely so far.


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