Tuesday, 12 December 2017

How to Celebrate Christmas as a Cultural Minority

Christians abroad and Muslims at home helped me find the holy day in the holiday.

Holidays are a blend of culture, tradition, marketing, and consumerism—with sometimes a little religion thrown in. At least that’s how it feels in the US. How and what we celebrate has a lot to say about our own culture. Christmas, in particular, is a perfect example of the syncretism of modern-day religious celebrations: We can blame Hallmark all we want, but most of us have willingly engaged in the commercialization of a day that’s supposed to revolve around prayer, gratitude, and religious devotion.

Two unique Christmases from my childhood and young adult years have given me perspective on what it means to practice the holiday outside of this mainstream context.

When I was eight, my family was in central Mexico on a two-month-long trip. My mother bought my siblings and I each a bandana and used it to wrap up a few little toys and candies. We sang Christmas songs by candlelight and ate enchiladas. Even as a child, I knew these rituals differed from those of years past, when we had snow outside, holidays cartoons on the TV, and an Easy Bake Oven underneath a sparkling Christmas tree. Nonetheless, I was still happy. I relished the differences, and the night felt holy—connected more closely to the story of a savior who entered the realities of our world.

The second time I celebrated Christmas in another country, I was in India, where Christians are a religious minority. There were no decorations in the stores, no holiday tunes being piped in everywhere. It was hot and dusty and didn’t feel like Christmas at all. I was a recent high school graduate, and I cried when my parents called me on the phone.

On Christmas Eve, the group I was with attended the one Catholic church in a city of millions and ...

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The Biggest Loser in the Alabama Election

It’s not Republicans or Democrats, but Christian witness.

No matter the outcome of today’s special election in Alabama for a coveted US Senate seat, there is already one loser: Christian faith. When it comes to either matters of life and death or personal commitments of the human heart, no one will believe a word we say, perhaps for a generation. Christianity’s integrity is severely tarnished.

The race between Republican candidate Roy Moore and Democratic candidate Doug Jones has only put an exclamation point on a problem that has been festering for a year and a half—ever since a core of strident conservative Christians began to cheer for Donald Trump without qualification and a chorus of other believers decried that support as immoral. The Christian leaders who have excused, ignored, or justified his unscrupulous behavior and his indecent rhetoric have only given credence to their critics who accuse them of hypocrisy. Meanwhile the easy willingness of moderate and progressive Christians to cast aspersions on their conservative brothers and sisters has made many wonder about our claim that Jesus Christ can bring diverse people together as no other can.

The Hypocrisy on the Left

From moderate and liberal brothers and sisters, conservatives have received swift and decisive condemnation. They call these conservatives idolaters for seeking after political power. They call them homophobes for wanting Christian bakers to legally follow their conscience. They call them racists and Islamophobes for wanting secure borders. These moderates and liberal evangelicals are so disturbed by the political beliefs of their brothers and sisters that many say they don’t even want to be associated with them anymore; they seem to view these brothers and sisters in Christ as tax collectors ...

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Monday, 11 December 2017

Galatians 4:4-5

“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.”

from
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?version=NIV&search=Galatians%204:4-5

Apocalypse Now? Evangelicals and a Raw Deal at Raw Story

Raw Story claims that a state senator “predicts Trump’s Jerusalem embassy decision may usher in Armageddon.” But, he didn't.

Over the weekend, we witnessed yet another example of a visible (Christian) public leader saying something foolish. It was one more example in a long line of Christians saying stupid things that make the rest of us look bad.

Or was it?

Florida State Senator Doug Broxson gave the introduction speech for President Trump at a rally this past week. In response to the speech, Raw Story got the initial scoop, blaring out the headline: “Florida rally cheers when Republican predicts Trump’s Jerusalem embassy decision may usher in Armageddon.”

Well, that seems stupid. And you know how I hate it when Christians say stupid things.

So, when I read the article, I eventually came to the quote in question:

“Now, I don’t know about you, but when I heard about Jerusalem — where the King of Kings [applause] where our soon coming King is coming back to Jerusalem, it is because President Trump declared Jerusalem to be capital of Israel,” Sen. Broxson predicted.

To be honest, I was preparing myself for the worst. The past few months have conditioned me to expect the unexpected when it comes to any politician speaking on religion. Given the declaration of the headline, I was half expecting predictions of the four horsemen storming the cabinet room.

I read and re-read the quote several times to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. Once you get past the urgency-inducing headline, I realized that I saw no prediction other than that Jesus was coming back.

I listened to the speech and, admittedly, it was unclear.

But, news flash: most evangelicals (and many other Christian traditions) believe Israel has a prophetic significance and that Jesus is coming back.

This led me to the conclusion that this story (and its ...

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The story of the Exodus from Egypt as Exceedingly Ridiculous

In light of some Exodus talk, and some Christian commenters here defending its historicity, let’s look at the utter ridiculousness of the accounts found in the Bible. Here are some notes I use for my Gid on Trial talk. The movement of the enslaved Hebrews out of Egypt with Moses (and Aaron) as their figureheads, […]

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http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tippling/2017/12/11/story-exodus-egypt-exceedingly-ridiculous/

The Power of the Spoken Word [Gospel Life Podcast]

Start each week with this encouragement to show and share the love of Jesus.

The Power of the Spoken Word

Colleen Cooper, development coordinator at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, talks about the power of God’s Word spoken aloud and how this simple practice can give hope to those who need it. Both in our personal quiet time, and in our outreach, speaking Scripture aloud can impact us beyond what we can imagine.

Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.

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Evangelicals and Domestic Violence: Are Christian Men More Abusive?

A sociologist looks at the data on domestic abuse against women.

As a sociologist who studies family and marriage trends, I predict that in the coming years, we’ll see a growing wave of mainstream media and academic stories contending that religion, especially evangelical Christianity, hurts women, children, and families. These stories will be framed around one key question: Is faith a force for ill in family life—from marriage in general to domestic violence in particular?

In recent years, the question has focused especially on spousal abuse against women.

For example, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) recently published a report titled, “Submit to your husbands: Women told to endure domestic violence in the name of God.” The subtitle, too, issued a similar claim: “Advocates say the church is not just failing to sufficiently address domestic violence, it is both enabling and concealing it.”

The series, which set off a firestorm between defenders and critics, exposed numerous cases of battered Christian wives who had been neglected or let down by their pastor or Christian counselor. Spotlighted by both ABC’s online and television coverage, the story left the impression that some evangelicals’ support for gender traditionalism and male headship set the stage for abusive behavior. Although it ran in a major outlet half a world away, the story is suggestive of the kind of coverage that is likely to become more common here in the United States.

This story and others like it, however, underscore common misperceptions about how religion impacts male behavior in marriage.

So, what does the science tell us? Are some forms of evangelical Protestantism bad for marriage and “good” at fostering domestic violence?

The answer is complicated, ...

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Interview: Beautiful Word: The Story of the ESV Illuminated Bible

Renowned designer Dana Tanamachi brings modern illustrations to the ancient text.

Centuries before Christians searched Scripture on illuminated digital screens, the Word of God was “lit up” with masterful calligraphy, colorful illustrations, and gold and silver filigree in the illuminated Bibles and manuscripts of the Middle Ages.

A new Bible edition from Crossway offers contemporary readers a glimpse of that classic style in an English Standard Version (ESV) Bible glimmering with hundreds of hand-drawn gold illustrations.

Christian designer Dana Tanamachi, nationally renowned for her chalk art and lettering work, spent seven months creating full-page illustrations for each book of the Bible and served as art director for the project, which follows Crossway’s launch of a multi-volume reader’s Bible in 2016 and a single-column journaling Bible in 2014.

“I’m not aware of anything else quite like the ESV Illuminated Bible,” J. Mark Bertrand, a Bible design expert who runs the blog Lectio, told CT. “Maybe because the ESV Illuminated Bible is a mass market effort, maybe because of the clear influence of the ‘Bible journaling’ trend—which the ESV Journaling Bible helped create—it feels like something unique.”

Even with the growth of Bible sites and apps, around 80 percent of Bible readers—and about as many millennial readers—still prefer to study a physical text. New Bible designs and formats aim to make it easier and more engaging for today’s readers to get into the Word.

“Our prayer is that the added ornamentation and illustrations will draw the readers’ eyes to the beauty of the Word of God itself,” Crossway writes in the ESV Illuminated Bible.

Several more recent efforts to bring the historic practice ...

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How Can We Cultivate a Sense of ‘Belonging’ in Our Gospel Witness?

Belonging is one of the great longings of the human soul.

I am white.

And I am part of a community of ethnically diverse women who come together each year for five days for a spiritual retreat. This spiritual practice is life-giving, stretching, and enriching. Although I work in correctional ministry alongside a very diverse group of people, prior to this group, I did not have any close friends who were ethnically diverse.

I love these women and am indebted to them for helping me develop, and continue to develop, my cross-cultural intelligence. As a result of our relationship, I have gone on to develop other relationships with those who are ethnically diverse from me.

During one of our retreats, one of the women made a comment which has deeply impacted me. She stated, “I feel like I belong in this group,” to which I responded, “Meaning, you can be yourself?”

Her response stopped me in my tracks: “No, I can be myself in other settings, but here I belong.”

Everyone longs to belong to someone or to a group. Humans need to feel closely connected to others, where they feel safe, cared for, and loved.

Author Evelyn Underhill identified belonging as one of the great longings of the human soul. The idea of belonging is a felt need that we can tap into when sharing the gospel with others as well. Creating a sense of belonging takes intentional time and effort. Below are a few ways to build belonging.

First, identify people who you sense are seeking a place to belong.

This may even be family members. Just because someone is in a family, he or she may not feel like he or she belongs. I think of friends who are the only Christian in their family, and thus often feel like outsiders.

Second, build your cross-cultural intelligence.

This can be done through developing ...

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