Showing posts from June, 2015

God, Country, Family and the American Religion

What's missing?

In this time-honored trifecta of American values, we see priority given to religious faith, to patriotism, and to loved ones. It's meant to encapsulate the American life and rally our loyalties around the things that really matter. But it does more than that. It also suggests a sense of priority. It's a subtle reprogramming of our natural inclination to love others by making it dependent on duty: first to God and then to country.
But its understanding of God and country is not a Christian one. If anything, it conflates the two under the banner of Manifest Destiny. Because in saying that this country is a Christian nation or at least was founded as such, we've elevated country to the same level as God in our lives. We're, in effect, saying that God has ordained this country in a way that serving him comes through serving America. Since God's values are at the heart of this nation, we can be assured that protecting American interests is the highes…

Christians Should Celebrate the Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Those who refuse to celebrate are those who refuse to see anyone as greater victims than themselves.

For those who support gay marriage, including many Christians, yesterday's Supreme Court decision forcing all states to recognize it is a huge win. I expect there will be people marrying on Halsted Street during tomorrow's Pride Parade in Chicago as they celebrate the rights they fought for so long to have.
But not everyone will be celebrating. Over 40,000 people have signed a pledge to defend traditional marriage at any cost, including civil disobedience. A coalition of African-American pastors has also promised that they will not obey what they deem as "an unjust law."
These are people who feel cornered by culture. Not only are the moral standards they grew up with slowly eroding away, they sense that their rights to their convictions are eroding away as well. And while I understand this defensive posture, I think it fundamentally misunderstands why gay people want …

The Confederate flag and Christian allegiance

My latest for Think Christian:
Last week's racially motivated massacre of nine African-Americans at a South Carolina church has renewed debate over the Confederate flag, which accused killer Dylann Storm Roof can be seen displaying in photos. While some point to this and the flag's association with groups such as the Ku Klux Klan as evidence that it is an expression of hate, others have argued that it’s simply a symbol of their cultural heritage. But it's more than just a symbol. A flag is a rallying cry and a show of allegiance. Next week, on the Fourth of July, many of us in the United States will proudly fly the Stars and Stripes not only as a flag, but as our flag. What looks like a mere piece of cloth on its own quickly transforms into a statement of identity as soon as it adorns our homes.Continue reading...

photo credit: Confederate Battle Flag via photopin(license)

Don't Wait to Forgive

If we really understood what forgiveness is, we might find ourselves actually looking forward to it.
When we think of forgiveness, most of us think of a wrong forgotten and a relationship restored. In short, all is well and everything is back to normal. If you've been hurt, or more importantly if you've hurt someone else, you know how untrue that is. Some wrongs can never fully be forgotten and some relationships can never be repaired. When damage is done, loss is inevitable.
One of those losses might be the relationship. Reconciliation is an ideal goal but it's not the goal of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a change of attitude, not a change of circumstance. And some circumstances, particularly in cases of abuse, might never allow for change let alone reconciliation.
This is why we often make repentance precede forgiveness. If we've already started with the assumption that forgiveness leads to reconciliation, then repentance becomes the safeguard against having to forgiv…

Charleston Christians Should be Hated

This post was also featured at Think Christian. Read it there.


There is nothing in the world hated more than this.

During his bond hearing this past Friday, Dylann Roof heard words of forgiveness from relatives of Wednesday night's shooting victims in Charleston, South Carolina. Some of the members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the site of the shooting, even encouraged him to repent praying that God would have mercy on him.

Most people are dumbfounded at the relatives' response. On Twitter, the vast majority are awed and moved by this incredible display of selflessness and love.
I Stand In Awe Of The People In #Charleston Their Faith In God And The Strength It Takes To Forgive. — Sunny Flowers (@850Sunny) June 20, 2015 But some seem shocked. A few expressed genuine honesty that, while they're impressed with what these family members have done, they could never forgive such a person.
@cnnbrk bless who ever gave forgivenes…

Happy Father's Day! Now Be a Better Dad

It's easy to forget about a responsibility that doesn't come with constant reminders.

About a month ago, your church was probably filled with flowers and moms who didn't normally attend. The service likely had a couple of extended applause times built-in, and the sermon was probably on Proverbs 31. In short, it was a celebration. Mothers were given a "good job" and a Cracker Barrel gift card and sent on their way.

Father's Day, on the other hand, is a different story. There are no flowers. In fact, the service doesn't look a whole lot different than any other Sunday--except for the sermon encouraging men to be better dads. It's a far cry from the pomp and circumstance of early May, and many men are fed up with it.

They're fed up with the inconsistency between to the two holidays.

They're fed up with how every sitcom paints the father as a bumbling buffoon.

They're sick of being disrespected, emasculated, and under-appreciated.

And they'…

Where Caitlyn and Rachel Belong

The reason many of us have a desire to belong is because many others have made us feel like we don't.
When Caitlyn Jenner is accused of being narcissistic and Rachel Dolezal is said to be deceptive, I can't help but think that these are the words of white, suburban prom kings and queens. In other words, people who have never been ridiculed for being different. As a four-eyed nerd whose average score in hacky sack is two, I can say from experience that this sort of criticism is dismissive.
It all starts when the boy who loves math and science drops the ball for the first time. In the next game, that boy will find himself near the end of those picked. Soon other boys who used to call him friend will start calling him butterfingers or "Mr. Sports". His name will magically disappear from birthday party invitations as his identity gradually shifts from boy to pariah.
Becoming a teenager who grows out his hair and beard and dresses all in black, it would be easy to mistake…

The Truth is Never in the Middle

Contradiction confuses truth, but moderation abuses it.

There are two sides to every story. In the American political system, there are liberals and conservatives. In the many stories lately of unarmed black men being killed, there are cop supporters and protester supports. And in the recent Duggars scandal, there are those promoting justice and those promoting mercy. While most are quick to pick sides, some people are willing to look at the bigger picture and consider both sides. And according to conventional wisdom, the truth is always in the middle.
That's because there's always an element of truth in each side. Liberals are right that some things need to change and conservatives are right that some things don't. Both cops and protesters are guilty of evil while making good points. And when it comes to sin, Christianity nimbly juxtaposes justice and mercy. And since two contradictory sides can't both be truth, we're left with creating a third side that's a c…

I Hate Happiness

And I've given up trying to be something I'm not.

I hate happy people. I can't stand their plastic smiles, their positive outlook on life, even their optimistic encouragement. To me, this little act is so transparent and it infuriates me that they think they're fooling anyone. No one's life is that perfect. Life sucks. Everything disappoints, everyone disappoints, nothing will ever be right and then we die. Yes, there's eternity and all that noise, but waiting for it is like telling a kid to eat their vegetables when there's cake in front of them. What's to keep me from dashing my peas against the wall and digging into that devil's food?
Right now, it's the eyes of my wife and daughter. Every time I speed up on an off-ramp praying for release, I see them looking down at that hole in the ground, dressed in black, soaked in rain and sorrow. I imagine my wife's laughter becoming labored and my daughter's invincibility beginning to bleed. Th…

French Fries for Jesus (how to be the salt of the earth)

Never apply a metaphor beyond the parameters set by the text.

There's a moment we will all face at some point in our lives. That moment when you order fries at McDonald's... and they forget to put on the salt. Whenever this has happened to me, I don't even want them anymore. And if I wasn't such a fatty, I'd probably throw them in my fire pit so that the local wildlife wouldn't have to suffer the same disappointment.
The salt is what makes the french fries. In fact, I'd say it makes McDonald's. And what's funny is that without it, the food doesn't taste bad, just bland. Yet most of us cringe at the thought. We'd rather get mediocre, salted fries from somewhere else than unsalted fries from the golden arches. Salt tastes that good.
It's also one of the more interesting comparisons that the church is given. Scripture records Jesus saying:
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It…