The World Wide Religious Web for Tuesday, January 10, 2012


MEDIUM AND MESSAGE: Christianity and the Future of the Book.

But however important defense of the paper codex may be, the obligation to defend the book remains far greater. It is the book, largely as it emerged from the early Christian Church’s understanding of its own Scriptures, that has enabled much of the best that has been thought and said in the past fifteen hundred years. And its key virtues can be preserved, and perhaps even extended, in forms other than the paper codex. By contrast, screens that allow only minuscule chunks of text to be displayed at any one time — and that effectively remove from perceptual awareness context, sequence, and narrative — do violence to the book qua book. If Christians forget, or forget more completely than they already have, the integrity and necessary sequentiality of their holy Book, and of the story it tells, that would be a catastrophe for Christianity. But even those who do not care for Christianity should remember that Christians tend to be a proselytizing people, and the message that they bring will always be entangled with technologies of reading. Over the long haul, as fields of cultural force shift their patterns, that may come to matter to people who now look on Christianity with indifference or hostility. When the evangelists come to our doors, may they come bearing iPads and Kindles.

CIVILITY: The Cure for Election Madness.

In the midst of a raging political debate, it is difficult to step back from the battle lines and carefully assess a proposed policy’s likely success. But if we want our faith to inform our political actions and offer a positive Christian witness, such a measured approach is not only wise—it is essential.

  1. 1.       Admit the Complexity of Political Issues…
  2. 2.       Play Fair in the War of Words…
  3. 3.       Engage Hard Issues…

IT’S NOT CALLED ‘THE FIRST FREEDOM’ FOR NOTHING: Religion and Freedom.

So threats to religious liberty do not just harm individual believers. In seeking to corral, marginalize, and privatize religion, they endanger the health of religious institutions more generally, threatening to cut off a critically important source of moral reflection and orientation. This enfeebles rather than enlivens the moral content of our culture, a content that we all, believers and non-believers alike, rely upon to exercise our freedom.

HENCE, THE NEED FOR GRACE AND HUMILITY: The Moral Complexity of Social Issues.

THE LATTER: God: Psychological Projection or Real, External Being?

The Catholic philosopher and apologist Maurice Blondel, a contemporary of Freud, seizes on the atheists’ reductive conclusion to argue that God is not a projection of what is within, but the external reality toward which human action is directed. For Blondel, in the summary of Father John Cihak, human beings discover an external transcendent reality when reflecting on freedom and the insatiability of the will. Unable to find fulfillment in the finite –which is all that exists in the worldview of Feuerbach and Freud – human beings must open themselves to something beyond themselves

ARAB SPRING, COPTIC WINTER: Is the Arab Spring Good News for Christians?

Middle Eastern Christianity is, like the Middle East itself, bewilderingly diverse. Until today, it is a much larger community than most Western evangelicals realize. It is also deeply ingrained in the various social contexts of the region. In other words, Christianity has always been part of the Arab world, and its diminishing status will threaten not just the presence of Christianity in the land of its birth, but the very fabric of the region as a whole.

ABOUT THAT DIVERSITY… Identity among Middle East Christians.

The Maronites and Copts used to maintain Syriac and Coptic respectively as their sole liturgical languages even after the Muslim conquests, but have gradually come to incorporate Arabic to a limited degree as their adherents have adopted Arabic as their language of everyday communication. However, the Assyrian churches, whose adherents primarily speak various Eastern Neo-Aramaic dialects as their mother tongue, still maintain Syriac as their sole liturgical language.

STRAW MAN: Biblical Economic Justice: Supply and Demand Isn’t Enough.

But an extremism that elevates supply and demand to its solitary and highest priority rejects a more encompassing Biblical commitment to care for the widow and the orphan, to provide food and clothing for the poor, to educate and nurture all its children, to live harmoniously with creation. Such a idolatrous dogmatism must be rejected, both in the name of our Founding Fathers and in the name of the world’s wisdom traditions.

The issue is not economics versus ethics. The issue is what sphere (individual, family, society, state) is supposed to provide the relevant goods.

KINDNESS TOWARD STRANGERS: Evangelicalism’s Changing Heart on Immigration.

Younger evangelicals see immigration less as a law-and-order issue and more as a justice issue. It’s part of the expanding pro-life base, where Christians champion the cause of the unborn, fight human trafficking, and see the undocumented immigrant as a life worth saving. It is a nuance informed not by political sensitivities, but by Scriptural convictions.

ANTI-SAME SEX MARRIAGE = ANTI-GAY? Public Opinion on Same-Sex Marriage.

It is unwarranted and irresponsible to interpret opposition to same-sex marriage as a proxy for being anti-gay. There is no empirical evidence to suggest that senior citizens are anti-gay.

ANTI-CIVILITY: The deceit of Dan Savage.

BIG GOVERNMENT IS ALWAYS THE PROBLEM: The Problem with Compassionate Conservatism.

At the same time, it seems to me that many compassionate conservatives don’t fully appreciate the moral, social, and legal urgency of reducing the state’s size and reach, instead of primarily focusing upon streamlining government’s role. The capacity, for example, of even well-intentioned government interventions and apparently benign public-private partnerships to help facilitate dysfunctional families as well as suck the life out of the rich mosaic of free associations and autonomous institutions often conceptually cobbled together under the rubric of civil society has been exhaustively documented. Moreover, as I’ve argued elsewhere, the sheer number of laws and regulations that now govern our lives represents a genuine threat to rule of law, inasmuch as the sheer profusion of laws increases the potential for arbitrary decisions by courts and governments, including by those who don’t want to act arbitrarily.

MEGA-CHURCHES LOCATED AMONG MEGA-POPULATIONS: The distribution of mega-churches in the US (map).

MEGA-EGO? Ed Young, Christian Pastor, to Stream 24-Hour Bed-In from Church Roof.

FEELING GROOVY: Paul Simon: “God comes up a lot in my songs.”

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