Category: Christian Social Thought

popeThe day Pope Francis was elected, I went directly to the bar. It was about noon when I first got word that white smoke had been spotted outside of the Sistine Chapel.  Soon after, my phone began to flood with texts declaring “Habemus Papam!” I called up a few of my Catholic friends and we decided that the best place to watch the announcement at St. Peter’s was none other than our favorite college pub.

The bar was empty so we asked the bartender to change the TV channel and ordered our first round. Our celebration had begun.

I remember the intensity in the room leading up to the reveal of our new Holy Father. When the announcement finally came, it was followed by a dramatic “Who?” None of us had heard of this beloved Cardinal from Argentina nor considered him in our discussions about possible Papal contenders. (more…)

Charitable giving, for the most part, involves money. But not always. The auto manufacturer, Toyota, donates efficiency. The car company’s model of kaizen (Japanese for “continuous improvement”) was one their employees believed could be beneficial beyond the manufacturing business.

Toyota offered to help The Food Bank of New York, which reluctantly accepted their plan. The charity was used to receiving corporate financial donations to feed their patrons, not time from engineers. But the non-profit quickly saw results.

Toyota’s engineers helped reduce the wait time for dinner from 90 minutes to 18.

Instead of having clients stream into the cafeteria 10 people at a time, the company recommended that diners take a seat just as soon as one becomes available. Toyota also set up a waiting room where diners could pick up trays and designated one employee whose job is to scour the dining room for an available space.

Toyota has ‘revolutionized the way we serve our community,’ Margarette Purvis, the chief executive and president of the Food Bank…

Toyota also worked with the Food Bank in their outreach distribution services following Hurricane Sandy, as the video below shows.

Gerard Berghoef & Lester DeKoster, in their book Faithful in All’s God’s House: Stewardship and the Christian Life, say this about work:

It is of the nature of work to serve the community. Whether work is done in the home, on the land, or in the countless forms of enterprise developed across the centuries, work is doubly blessed: (1) it provides for the family of man, and (2) it matures the worker.
Both of these points are well-illustrated in the video.

DSC_0167For a few years now, I have been puzzled by why Rachel Held Evans remains popular among many younger evangelicals and why the secular media finds her credible. I was struck by Evans’ recent CNN article “Why Millennials Are Leaving The Church.” When reading the post it becomes evident that Evans is not talking about the “holy catholic church,” but a narrow subculture of conservative American evangelicals. The post does not address why young adults in America are leaving the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, broad evangelical, nor mainline churches. Moreover, after reading this opinion piece it became clear to me that what Evans is saying Millennials want from “the church” is fully found in the United Methodist Church (UMC).

Evans rightly argues that conservative evangelical churches will not be able to bait-and-switch young adults with “cool” gimmicks in order to keep them in the doors. Historically speaking, American Christians have always panicked about teens and young adults leaving the church. For example, anxiety over fledgling youth attendances in churches served as the catalyst for the creation of the YMCA and the Boy Scouts. In the 1960s, making church cool led to the introduction of jazz into youth group culture in many Catholic and Protestant churches. After making this good point Evans claims that Millennials are leaving the (evangelical) church because Jesus cannot be “found” in it. This is the point where the post takes an odd ecclesiastical turn.

Evans says that what Millennials really want from “the church” is:

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Ed Stetzter thinks so. In a Christianity Today article, Stetzer says our fundamental rights – rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights – are getting abused. He says alarm bells should be sounding among Christians, but that doesn’t seem to be the camerascase.

Our Founding Fathers saw the Bill of Rights as providing barriers against government overreach and abuse.

People (particularly people in governments with power) could not be trusted to have no checks on their power. Why? Well, some of it had to do with history. For example, a bill of rights was an English concept preceeding the American experiment. But, some of those colonists held the view because of biblical convictions about fallen nature and the need to protect rights that some might want to take away.

Yet, Christians today do not sound much like the Christians then.

While Big Brother’s eyes grow stronger, some Christians just shut their eyes tighter. Perhaps if we better understood current events, we might consider their skeptical approach to the government power.

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A study out of Harvard University focusing on tax credits and other tax expenditures has caused 24/7 Wall St. to declare that America has 10 cities where the poor just can’t get rich. Among the reasons that economic upward mobility is so Detroit Area Economy Worsens As Big Three Automakers Face Dire Crisisminimal in these cities: horrible public education (leading to high dropout rates) and being raised in single-mother households. What these cities share is an economic segregation: two distinct classes of people, with virtually nothing in common.

However, it seems not only bold but disingenuous to say that there “are cities where the poor cannot get rich.” Is it tough? Yes. Is it impossible? Of course not. In A Field Guide to the Hero’s Journey, entrepreneur Jeff Sandefer tells how he made his first job work for him. It wasn’t glamorous. (more…)

Dr. Ben Carson, the neurosurgeon who made a splash at the last Prayer Breakfast at the White House, will now be writing a weekly column at The Washington Post. Carson has retired from his position as head of pediatric surgery at John unclesam-question-2Hopkins Hospital, and is now interested in speaking out on issues affecting American life.

In an interview with The Daily CallerCarson stated that he wanted to encourage Americans to speak up about their thoughts on the direction the country was headed.

The main thing I would do is try to help Americans…to recognize that they need to speak up for what they believe in. They should not allow themselves to be bludgeoned into silence by the secular progressive media and other people.

Dr. Carson is concerned with the bloated government, using a startling comparison to highlight his view of the situation:

Government has a natural tendency to grow and as it grows it requires more and more resources and where do those resources come from? The people. Right now government is like a morbidly obese individual who they can’t even get up and move but they need a lot of calories to maintain themselves and that comes from everybody around them. They would be much leaner and meaner and effective if they could lose some of that weight and that’s the same thing that would happen with our government.

Carson also spoke to the fact that he believed that there was a strong desire by some to drive God out of the nation, along with the moral base that religious belief brings with it.

Read “Neurosurgeon Ben Carson Says US Government Is ‘Like a Morbidly Obese Individual’” at Christian Post Politics.

calvinThough primarily a theologian, the famous Reformation figure John Calvin had much to say about the application of biblical principles to politics. His focus on the sovereignty of God in all aspects of Creation led Calvin to believe in God’s ordinance not only in the spiritual realm, but also in civil government. Citing Scriptural passages such as Proverbs 8:15-16 – “By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth” – Calvin demonstrated that all governments are ordained by God. In Calvin’s mind, therefore, the rule of civil authority was paramount to the governance of society.

Law had been the subject of Calvin’s studies before he joined the Reformation movement. Although originally decided for the priesthood, Calvin had been sent to Orleans to study law by his father following a dispute with a local bishop in Paris. It was in Orleans that the importance of the legal order was first engrained into his mind. From there, he moved to Bourges to study under Andrea Alciato, an ingenious Italian humanist lawyer who taught Calvin new ways of studying and analyzing historical legal sources. Calvin would later use these skills in his analysis and interpretation of the Bible. All his training in France would prepare Calvin for a life of theology and statesmanship in Geneva. (more…)

adderallWhen a culture values individualism as a virtue, it sends a message to young people that what really matters in life is your performance. To make matters worse, this performance pressure is coupled with the idea that unless you are on top, you just don’t matter. In fact, if you sprinkle in a little anxiety about being materially successful in life on top of individualism you have the recipe for moral compromise. This is exactly what is happening on high school and college campuses across the West. Just as athletes are known for taking performance enhancing drugs in high school and college, students are falling prey to taking performance enhancing drugs to increase their test scores.

College professors are opening up to the idea of drug testing students for the use of “smart drugs” before exams just as we might test athletes for steroids before a major competition. The Telegraph newspaper recently reported the following:

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Blog author: jballor
posted by on Monday, July 15, 2013

Lewis Hine Power house mechanic working on steam pumpOver at Think Christian, I reflect on an “authentically Christian” view of work, which takes into account its limitations, failings, and travails, as well as its promises, prospects, and providential foundations.

The TC piece is in response to a post by Simon Critchley and Jamieson Webster, in which they juxtapose the pscyhologizing of work as subjectively authentic self-expression with their own preferred view of work as something done simply “for the sake of sustenance.”

Critchley and Webster are right to point to the dangers of unchecked subjectivism, but are wrong in devaluing work as merely instrumental. David F. Wells of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary penned a monumental indictment of the inroads radical subjectivism has made in Christian, and particularly evangelical, circles in his 1994 book, God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams. As Wells puts it, the difference between the objective and subjective points of departure for our knowledge amount to two different ways of seeing the world; one is biblical, the other is worldly. “The one belongs to those who have narrowed their perception solely to what is natural; the other belongs to those whose understanding is framed by the supernatural. The one takes in no more than what the sense can glean; the other allows this accumulation of information to be informed by the reality of the transcendent,” writes Wells.

More recently, Carl Trueman of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia analyzed the shift from objective measures of oppression to subjective psychologizing in the context of political ideology. “Supplementing the economic categories of Marx with the psychoanalytic categories of Freud, Marcuse and his followers effectively broadened the whole notion of oppression to include the psychological realm. Such a move is dramatic in the implications it has for the way one views politics. Simply put, oppression ceases to be something that can be assessed empirically in terms of external economic conditions and relations, and becomes something rather more difficult to see, i.e., a matter of the psychology of social relations,” writes Trueman. (more…)

Last night I attended an engaging lecture at Calvin College by Dr. William Abraham of the Southern Methodist University Perkins School of Theology. Abraham, whose religious background is Irish Methodist and who is now a minister in the United Methodist Church and the Albert Cook Outler Professor of Wesley Studies at Perkins, gave a presentation titled, “The Treasures and Trials of Eastern Orthodoxy.” As someone who was once an outsider to the Orthodox Church and is now an insider (as much as a former outsider can be, I suppose), I can say that Dr. Abraham’s lecture highlighted many things that I see in the Orthodox Church myself as well as bringing others into focus, in particular five treasures the Orthodox bring and four trials that they face in our current, global context. (more…)