[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…)

WWCover-204x300If you haven’t yet bought a copy of Abraham Kuyper’s Wisdom and Wonder, you now have no excuse: You can get the Kindle edition from Amazon for free.

As Jordan Ballor explained at the time of publication, this book consists of 10 chapters that the Dutch theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper had written to be the conclusion of his three-volume study on common grace. But due to a publisher’s oversight, these sections were omitted from the first printing. So they appeared first under separate publication under the title Common Grace in Science and Art, and then were added back in to subsequent printings of the larger set.

These Kindle deals usually don’t last long, so get your free copy today.

Helping Hands sculpture, Mandela Gardens, Leeds - DSC07707Earlier this week, Elise noted an essay by Rev. Schall, which asked, “Do Christians Love Poverty?”

Michael Sean Winters at the National Catholic Reporter also responded to the piece, with the comment, “Almost everything about this essay is obnoxious.”

But I think Winters really misses the central insight of Schall’s piece, which really is an Augustinian point:

A person who sorrows for someone who is miserable earns approval for the charity he shows, but if he is genuinely merciful he would far rather there were nothing to sorrow about. If such a thing as spiteful benevolence existed (which is impossible, of course, but supposing it did), a genuinely and sincerely merciful person would wish others to be miserable so that he could show them mercy!

Thus Augustine explores the implications of such “spiteful benevolence,” which I understand to be the basic point of Schall’s piece. Schall therefore wonders, “Do Christians love poverty as such, as a positive good? Do they want people to be poor so that they can be loveable?”

The spiritual danger of a love for others turning into a lust for dominating power is a real one, even if Winters doesn’t acknowledge it. What Augustine and Schall are really looking for is an attitude toward help that humanizes, one that doesn’t foster dependency in order to keep people in a state of misery, intentionally or not, directly or indirectly. This reality is the kind of loving help that the doctrine of subsidiarity is supposed to engender.

One of the implications of this insight that there is spiritual danger in doing good is that we should always be asking whether our helping is actually hurting.

Blog author: ehilton
Friday, August 23, 2013

We know the government is listening, watching, gathering information. We know that we’re being told it’s all for our own good; after all, who wants to miss a possible terrorist attack? Sleeper cells, the Boston bombers, the haunting memory of nsa-is-listening-to-you9/11 say all of this is necessary for our safety, right? Not so fast, says Peggy Noonan.

First, she reminds us that the NSA has – at least technically – only limited authority when it comes to spying on American citizens. Yet, it seems they are monitoring 75 percent of our internet traffic. And clearly, our privacy doesn’t matter a bit:

 [A] finding was revealed that the NSA violated the Constitution for three years running by collecting as many as 56,000 purely domestic communications without appropriate privacy protections. The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court slammed the agency for “misrepresenting” its practices to the court, and noted it was the third time in less than three years the government misrepresented the scope of a collection program.


Blog author: jballor
Friday, August 23, 2013

I ran across this video yesterday (courtesy of ESA), which I thought presented some interesting challenges and issues:

The video was presented on Upworthy as an example of something “all white people could do to make the world a better place,” that is, use their white privilege to address injustices.

A number of economists, including Milton Friedman and Thomas Sowell, have written about the power of the market economy to overcome racism and discrimination, to put people into relationships on the basis of economic decision-making rather than skin color. As Friedman contended,

the preserves of discrimination in any society are the areas that are most monopolistic in character, whereas discrimination against groups of particular color or religion is least in those areas where there is the greatest freedom of competition.

But as a conversation I had with some others about the video also illustrates, there are times when (at least in the short run interests of the firm), something like profiling can seem to make some economic sense. The successful passing of one bad check can really hurt a store’s margins. Practically speaking the stores often take a complete loss.

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, August 23, 2013

If $15/Hour Minimum Wage Is Good, Why Not $200?
Investor’s Business Daily

Fast-food workers are planning a one-day strike on Aug. 29 to demand an increase in wages from the $7.25 minimum to $15 an hour. But if $15 an hour is so great, why not ask for $100 or $200 an hour instead?

Don’t Just Stand There—Say Something
Albert Mohler

Within the message, I explain the origin and urgency of the title. It is indeed a sin to remain silent in a time of trouble.

Fracking and the cult of Green Gnosticism
Brother Ivo, Cranmer

For many decades we have lived with a succession of failed predictions by the Doom Sayers of the environmental movement.

The Islamic case for religious liberty: Re-reading the Qur’an
Abdullah Saeed, ABC Religion and Ethics

If Muslims are to embrace modernity, including life in a pluralistic, democratic society, without abandoning their faith, they must take up the argument for religious liberty that is embedded in their history and that stands at the centre of their most sacred texts.

[Thanks to RealClearReligion for linking. — Editor]

9781433514838_p0_v4_s260x420Anthony Chute, Christopher Morgan, and Robert Peterson have delivered a real gift toward building a unified future in their newly released Why We Belong: Evangelical Unity and Denominational Diversity. This edited volume brings together Anglican (Gerald Bray), Baptist (Timothy George), Lutheran (Douglas Sweeney), Methodist (Timothy Tennent), Pentecostal (Byron Klaus), and Presbyterian (Bryan Chapell) representatives to do two things: (1) the contributors give personal narratives of how they became a part of their respective denominations and (2) each contributor highlights their respective denominational distinctives. Given the minority position that American Protestants hold in terms of Christians worldwide, the type of unity-in-diversity proposed in this book comes as a welcomed challenge to Christians of all denominations as we face an increasingly pluralistic America together.

American pluralism is not a problem per se, but the diversity of worldviews current in the country provide unique and new opportunities for unity in ways never experienced before in our nation’s history. Evangelical Protestants have had very easy lives in the American story and one could argue that they may have taken their “most favored religion” status for granted which leads to unwise cooperative efforts with government. So much so that, now politicians feel too comfortable proposing legislation that attempts to tell Christians and their organizations how they can or cannot put their beliefs into practice, as if politicians have such authority to speak into the life of the church.