Showing posts from May, 2016

When Facebook Functions as a Cemetery

My latest for Think Christian:

I forgot how much Jon complained about his kidneys. He didn't have a disorder or a disease. He just liked to whine every time his wife punched him for saying or doing something silly: "Ow, my kidney!" Except, as my sister reminded me, everywhere on his body was somehow his kidney.

It brought a smile to my face to remember this fun-loving, goofy friend of mine, who died in a car accident more than six years ago. His Facebook account is still active, so the beautiful eulogy my sister wrote about him and his kidneys is still there.

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photo credit: Yellow End via photopin(license)

You Can't Be Holy if You Aren't Willing to Sin

Because holiness has nothing to do with morality.

I've often heard that religion is just a list of do's and don'ts. To those who can't see the relational element in Christianity, it's nothing more than a bunch of esoteric rituals. Catholics, mainline Protestants, and Orthodox Christians do love their self-righteous morals and funny hats. 
But not all Christians adhere to such inflated displays of piety. Some actually care about following God's word rather than their own traditions. They're called evangelicals, and they don't have a list of do's and don'ts. They just have a list of don'ts.
Evangelicals take the Protestant fear of good works to the extreme. Not only do they avoid doing them, they emphasize the opposite: the works they don't do. For them, spiritual maturity is measured by how little they sin. And this belief comes from a faulty understanding of holiness.
The Hebrew word for holiness (quodesh) means apartness. It's the i…

Why Blue Lives Don't Matter

Hint: it has nothing to do with whether or not they actually do.
It's time we end this Blue Lives Matter nonsense. The movement is divisive, combative, and pointlessly retaliatory. All it accomplishes is enraging ignorance and providing a platform for the prejudiced. It is at best worthless, and at worst a cultivator of self-righteous bigotry.
Most importantly, we don't need an advocacy group for cops because nobody thinks that blue lives don't matter.
When a cop gets shot in the line of duty, I've never met anyone who would say that they got what they deserved for choosing that life. I don't know a single person who complains about another victim of a senseless, law enforcement lifestyle.
No, most people take it as a tragedy that such a life was lost in service to the community. That humanity is truly evil to repay their daily sacrifices with a bullet. They deserved better because their lives mattered.
Black people, not so much.
Black people spend most of their ti…

There's No Such Thing as a Spiritually Mature Christian

There are only perfect Christians.
Last year, I received a letter from someone I didn't know who wrote that I was spiritually immature. This person was convinced that I had become so tainted by the culture that I was no longer able to think rightly about my own faith.
It's an odd accusation to make of anyone, let alone someone you don't know, but it's unfortunately not uncommon. Lots of Christians divide each other into levels of maturity with key words like evolution or equality. In this case, the key word was culture--that thing evangelicals think they can avoid but don't realize they're a part of. And it effectively reduced me to the status of a weak-minded infant.
Maybe I should be offended by this senseless assumption, but I'm more puzzled than anything. Because such a statement is ironically ignorant to what spiritual maturity actually is.
When most of us think of maturity, the first thing that comes to mind is wisdom. The older you get, the wiser you…

Don't Pray for Catholics

Pray for the lost within your own church.
Public prayer is powerful. In many respects, it brings a community together around a specific need or a moment of gratitude. But it also can make a statement about the type of church you go to.
For example, at my current church, the pastor will often pray for specific groups of people like those who just lost a loved one or those who lost their job. It's a great way of including those who might be too nervous or too ashamed to share their needs publicly.
The church in which I grew up is another story. It was a typical evangelical church and so, true to form, prayer for non-Christians was a regular part of the service. So far, so good. Until we started praying for our Catholic brothers and sisters to come to know Jesus.
Even at a young age, maybe 8-years-old, I remember thinking: "I thought they were Christians too?"
Come to find out, most Catholics really don't know Jesus. Catholicism is kind of like being a Phillies fan: you…

If You're Racist and You Know It, Please Get Out

Today is the sixty-fourth annual Holocaust Remembrance Day (or Yom Ha'Shoah). It's a day that was originally intended to honor the memory of the six million Jews who died in concentration camps at the hands of the Nazi Party. Over the years, it has grown to incorporate the memory of those who fought to save them like Oskar Schindler.

Of course, memorializing the Holocaust hardly means that its effects died with Hitler. More than 200,000 Holocaust survivors around the world live in abject poverty and daily need. As if that wasn't bad enough, acts of anti-Semitism have increased in recent years with Europe continuing to be especially dangerous.

Even here in the United States, thirty-two swastikas have been found on college campuses since November 2015. Most recently, two appeared at my alma mater, Moody Bible Institute—a school with its own Jewish Studies program. One of them was traced back to a student who was disciplined but not expelled.

A few Moody students felt that th…

Stop Judging the World and Start Judging the Church

The Christian understanding of judgment has reversed the biblical one.

I love criticism. In my mind, progress and improvement are impossible without tearing apart our presuppositions and scrutinizing every value we hold dear.
Unfortunately, few people see it that way. Criticism and judgment are almost universally perceived as negative activities that reflect poorly on those who engage in them. They make people like me come off as divisive and even destructive.

Judgment is especially unwelcome when leveled against the church from those within. We're already hated enough so publicizing our internal disagreements is seen as hurting Christ's reputation. We appear dysfunctional and divided and nothing like the body of loving people we were called to be.

It's no small irony, then, that the church is quick to judge everyone outside of it. Whether it's friends getting drunk every weekend or an entire nation accepting transgender people, some Christians are almost too eager to …