Posts tagged with: christianity today

community-muralWhat is a “community?” What are the boundaries of a community or organization? And – most important – why is community important?

Andy Crouch, writer, musician and Acton University plenary speaker, says we need to ask and answer these questions. He begins his discussion with the recent Supreme Court decision regarding Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods. While the decision was sound, Crouch says it speaks to something beyond the law:

It reminds us that fewer and fewer of our neighbors understand how religious organizations—and all communities smaller than the state—contribute to human flourishing and the common good.

One essential question in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby was the extent to which a for-profit corporation can hold to a religious (in this case, Christian) identity. In her dissent, Ruth Bader Ginsburg cited approvingly the idea that for-profit groups “use labor to make a profit, rather than to perpetuate a religious-values-based mission.”

The words rather than are key. In Justice Ginsburg’s view, it seems, corporations cannot serve—or at least the law cannot recognize that they serve—any god other than Mammon. She articulated an equally small view of nonprofits when she wrote that “religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith.”

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stop traffickingIn the past few years, Americans have learned a lot about human trafficking. It’s increasingly encroaching into our cities, towns, neighborhoods. Many groups are working valiantly to bring victims out of trafficking situations, and help them become safe and productive members of society.

However, U.S. immigration laws are getting in the way. Jennnifer Allen Jung, a immigrations attorney specializing in human trafficking cases, says are current laws are keeping many victims from stepping out of the shadows and getting help.

I’ve listened to clients tearfully and slowly pour out the details of the horrors they’ve lived through, only to find out they don’t qualify for a particular immigration relief because they entered the country two months too late. Immigration law is as complex as tax law. Few understand it, and yet it impacts millions: U.S. citizens in mixed-status families, an alphabet of visa holders, the contentious undocumented immigrants.

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andy crouchCan we boil down the idea of “common good” to just 7 words? Andy Crouch is willing to try. As executive editor of Christianity Today, and author of Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power, Crouch is all about culture, human flourishing and humanity’s common good. Crouch told Acton’s Manager of Programs Mike Cook a bit of what he plans to discuss at this year’s ActonU:

‘The common good’ provides a basis for personal choices, shared effort, and social policy deeply rooted in fundamental Christian convictions. It also defies easy partisan categories. We’ll explore a seven-word summary that helps make the common-good tradition widely accessible and concretely practical: ‘the flourishing of the vulnerable in community.'”

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Colonial Church of Edina

Colonial Church of Edina

Pastor Daniel Harrell had a heart for missions, so upon unexpectedly receiving roughly $2 million from a land sale, his Minnesota church was energized to use the funds accordingly. Though they had various debts to pay and building projects to fund, the church was committed to allocating at least 20 percent to service “outside of their walls.”

“The sensible way to spend the 20 percent would have been to find a successful service agency and write the check,” Harrell writes, in a recent piece for Christianity Today‘s This Is Our City.* “But I hated that idea. Surely we could leverage this money in a way that would let us get personally involved.”

The process proceeded as follows:

We had the money. We had the wisdom and experience, especially in fields related to business. What we lacked was our particular calling (or the energy to follow it through). What if we challenged young adults in our church and wider community to generate an idea that could become our calling?

I proposed we take $250,000 and sponsor a social entrepreneurial competition. We could invite innovators ages 35 and younger to submit project proposals with gospel values of grace, justice, love, redemption, and reconciliation. We’d ask that applicants affirm the Apostles’ Creed, because we wanted our effort to promote Christian faith. Our church would provide funding and expertise, networking, creative community, and acceleration toward successful launches. We’d use business acumen to make the projects sustainable and stress measurable outcomes. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, September 20, 2013
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UntitledIn an interview with Christianity Today, social critic Os Guinness explains why religious liberty it necessary for societal flourishing:

Americans employ the term “religious freedom,” while Europeans prefer the roughly synonymous term “freedom of religion and belief.” In the book, you suggest something deeper and broader with the term “soul freedom.” What is “soul freedom”?

“Soul Liberty” was Roger Williams’s magnificent term for religious freedom. It stands over against those who confuse religious freedom with mere toleration, or shrink it to mean only the freedom to worship. It challenges those who view it simply as “freedom for the religious,” or think that when religion is dismissed, religious freedom can be ignored. As Article 1 of the Global Charter of Conscience declares, religious freedom is “the right to adopt, hold, freely exercise, share, or change one’s beliefs subject solely to the dictates of conscience and independent of all outside, especially governmental control.” Seen this way, freedom of religion and belief (which covers secularist worldviews too) is essential because it involves nothing less that our freedom to be human.

You call “soul freedom” the “golden key” to building a free, just, and equitable public square. How so?

Religious freedom is a foundational human right that should be guaranteed and protected simply for its own sake. But over and above that, numerous studies show that when religious freedom is respected, there are many social and political benefits, such as civility in public life, harmony in society as a whole, and vitality in the entrepreneurial sectors of civil society. Violations of religious freedom, such as the recent health care mandates hitting Catholic hospitals and other religious employers, are therefore not only wrong, but blind. As such requirements spread, they will cramp, if not kill the goose that lays the golden egg. One day our brave new government officials will go out in the morning and find there is no golden egg—and therefore they must spend more, and grow government even larger, to cover the gap created by the diminishing of the faith-based organizations.

Read more . . .

[This post was co-authored with Chris Horst, director of development at HOPE International. He is a This is Our City fanboy and is grateful that Christianity Today has given him freedom to write about manufacturers, mattress sellers, and solar product designers, all working for the common good in Denver, where he lives with his family. Chris blogs at Smorgasblurb, and you can connect with him on Twitter at @chrishorst. His first book, Mission Drift, will hit shelves this spring. The views expressed in this essay are his own.]

oil traffic

Oil boom traffic in Watford City, North Dakota

In a marvelous profile for This is Our City, Brandon Rhodes explores how a 25-member church is contributing to its neighborhood through farmer’s markets, block parties, and yarn-bombings. “They made a decision to radically localize how they practice being church with the common good and the gospel in mind,” Rhodes writes. “…They take a ‘nearby-first’ approach to living it out.”

James K.A. Smith responds at Cardus, and though he, too, celebrates the slow-and-artsy, he also emphasizes the importance of the macro-and-dirty. Decrying what he describes as “a sort of vague Anabaptism” among younger evangelicals, Smith challenges “Portlandia Christians” to consider the systemic challenges that either hinder or empower our cities. “We have scaled our expectations and our efforts as if the rejection of triumphalism means a retreat from systemic change,” he writes. “It’s like we’ve decided we should make lovely art not culture war.”

Turning his focus toward Detroit, which he describes as a “colossal disaster of municipal government,” Smith concludes that “farmer’s market’s won’t rescue the city” but “good government will.” Yet as he goes on to note, the solution is not either/or, but both/and: “It’s peach preserves and policy making. Coffee shops and court nominations. Block parties and bills in Congress.” (more…)

Katie Nienow worked in youth ministry for four years. After deciding to transition into the world of business, her former boss was not pleased. “You’re leaving the one thing God has best designed you to do,” he said.

Throughout her time in ministry, Nienow says that her interest in business and economics felt “ancillary to the call.” In a new video from Nathan Clarke and This Is Our City, she explains how that perspective was fundamentally transformed.

As Nienow explains:

God really awakened me to understanding that the gospel going forth in the world was a much broader restoration of communities, of cities, of economic systems, and that perhaps, just perhaps, God had gifted me because he wanted me to participate in that in a broader sense. (more…)

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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Evangelical leader Luis Palau discusses his old friend and fellow Argentine native, Pope Francis, in a new interview at Christianity Today. A few excerpts that stood out to me:

He’s a very Bible-centered man, a very Jesus Christ-centered man. He’s more spiritual than he is administrative, although he’s going to have to exercise his administrative skills now! But personally, he is more known for his personal love for Christ. He’s really centered on Jesus and the Gospel, the pure Gospel.

We’ll see what the effects will be for international relationships and openness, because he’s not a manipulator. He’s a straightforward, straight-shooting person. He says what he thinks and he does it sincerely.

Although he’s gentle, he has strong moral convictions and he stands by them even if he has to confront the government. And he’s done it before. With the evangelical community, it was a very big day when we realized that he really was open, that he has great respect for Bible-believing Christians, and that he basically sides with them. … They work together. That takes courage. That takes respect. It takes conviction. So the leaders of the evangelical church in Argentina have a high regard for him, simply because of his personal lifestyle, his respect, his reaching out and spending time with them privately.

On Pope Francis’s concern for the poor and the youth of Argentina:

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New RadicalsI recently expressed my reservations about David Platt’s approach to “radical Christianity,” noting that, outside of embracing certain Biblical constraints (e.g. tithing), we should be wary of cramming God’s will into our own cookie-cutter molds for how wealth should be carved up and divvied out.

In this month’s cover story in Christianity Today, my good friend Matthew Lee Anderson of Mere Orthodoxy does a nice job of summarizing some additional issues surrounding the broader array of “radical Christianity” books and movements.

Sprouting from a diverse set of personalities ranging from Platt to Shane Claiborne to Kyle Idleman to Francis Chan to Steven Furtick, “the radical message has found an eager market,” Anderson explains, with sermons and books that “have both incited and tapped into a widespread dissatisfaction with many Americans’ comfortable, middle-class way of life and the Christianity that so easily fits within it.”

Anderson appreciates the energy and sincerity of those seeking to subvert “comfortable Christianity,” but offers a helpful critique of the overall urgency of things, beginning with an observation of the movement’s “reliance on intensifiers”—a reality that, for Anderson, demonstrates a distinct blind spot:

These teachers want us to see that following Christ genuinely, truly, really, radically, sacrificially, inconveniently, and uncomfortably will cost us…The reliance on intensifiers demonstrates the emptiness of American Christianity’s language. Previous generations were content singing “trust and obey, for there’s no other way.” Today we have to really trust and truly obey. The inflated rhetoric is a sign of how divorced our churches’ vocabulary is from the simple language of Scripture.

And the intensifiers don’t solve the problem. Replacing belief with commitment still places the burden of our formation on the sheer force of our will. As much as some of these radical pastors would say otherwise, their rhetoric still relies on listeners “making a decision.” There is almost no explicit consideration of how beliefs actually take root, or whether that process is as conscious as we presume.

This gap becomes further evident, Anderson argues, when one observes the narrow range and overly dramatic thrust of the narratives and testimonies held up by the movement:  (more…)