Compromised

Two quotes worth considering in this day when evangelical Christians are so intertwined with Republican politics.

“We as a church have become spiritually lazy, substituting aggressive culture-war tactics for the generous, self-sacrificing humility Jesus taught and modeled. Cultural aggression is easier, and it allows us to think we’re still ‘not of this wold,’ even as we use worldly strategies to get our way.” (Justin Lee, “Torn”)

Philip Yancey tells of asking airplane seatmates what the words “evangelical Christian” bring to mind. “Mostly I hear political descriptions: of strident pro-life activists, or gay-rights opponents, or proposals for censoring the Internet…. Not once–not ONCE–have I heard a description redolent of grace. Apparently that is not the aroma Christians give off in the world.”

Because evangelical Christians have so closely aligned with conservative politics, I suspect way too may nonChristians lump us all together as narrow-minded, Obama-trashing, immigrant-hating, gay-bashing, science-denying, poor-despising, FoxNews-worshiping, war-mongering, and generally government-hating zealots.

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Theology Off the Top of My Head

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Earlier this year, I developed what seems to be a cowlick–a small patch of hair that just won’t lay down properly. I can splash some water on it and smooth it down. But I’m torn by two theological issues which inform my response.

1. Is this just the way God made me? And God doesn’t make mistakes? If so, I should embrace, yes celebrate, the cowlick. It is part of my identity in Christ.

2. Is this just an example of the fallen world in which we live? Surely God didn’t make Adam with a cowlick. When sin entered the world, so did cancer and polio and all manner of evil, including cowlicks. In which case, I should force it into submission with water or even some nasty gel, if not shave my head entirely.

Scripture is unclear regarding how I should respond. I seek godly counsel.

(Oh, and while I’m on the subject–what’s with all the gray?)

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Antiqology

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July 4 seemed like a superb opportunity for some soda-related Americana. So for our family’s July 4 gathering at my brother’s rural home in Convoy, Ohio, I took along an ice chest filled with about 25 bottles of soda from Antiqology.

Antiqology is a great little store in downtown Huntington. They have a wall containing about 300 different types of sodas–lots of root beers, birch beers, cream sodas, and sundry other flavors. I have a variety of root beers, Fentiman’s Curiosity Cola, several Jic Jac flavors, and more.

Everyone loved picking through the ice chest to find a bottle to try out. The Hippo Size drinks seemed to be the most popular. The photo shows seven different kinds of root beers I’ve gotten from Antiqology.

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DIY

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If it can’t be fixed with WD40 or duct tape, it probably can’t be fixed. Thus concludes this edition of Life 101.

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Christians Incognito

One of the things which drives me nuts, as our denomination’s communications director, is that I can’t talk about some of our most exciting work in other countries. If I did, I could cause serious problems for Christians serving there.

We have a number of missionaries serving in “undisclosed” countries–places where “missionaries” aren’t supposed to be. I hear about their ministry, and our constituents would love to know about it. But I can’t communicate what these folks are doing–especially not on the internet.

Every Thursday, we have devotions in our office. Today, we had special prayer for one of these persons. We had solicited prayer requests in advance for this person. But the responses were phrased as “please be thinking about….” That meant “please be praying about….,” but this person didn’t want to use the word “prayer” in an email, which the government might intercept.

Just shows some of the sensitivities Christians deal with around the world–places where real religious persecution occurs.

 

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Some Clear Thinking on a Complicated Issue

This is an excellent piece by my friend Dave Schultz, written for his newspaper column. He and I tend to think alike on most issues (worship music being the prime exception). I particularly resonate with him when he writes, “I am always looking for the middle ground. Even when there is no middle ground to be found, such as in our current quandry, I keep trying to find it.”

There is quite a range of viewpoints on the gay-marriage issue in the church-going world–what is biblical, what are gray areas, what should be forbidden in the church but allowed in secular society, what attitude should Christians have. Dave navigates through a lot of those waters.

He hits some of the relevant nails head-on with this: “God hates divorce, but American society puts up with it — and that’s something, I think, that directly informs the same-sex marriage debate. Just because God doesn’t like it does not mean it should be subject to a societal ban.”

I’m passing this along as some clear thinking on the issue by a friend of high Christian integrity.

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Who Gets Hit By Lightning?

barryben

Interesting little fact: of the 261 persons killed by lightning during the last seven years, 211 were men. The conclusion in the article I read: Men are stupid and think they are invincible.

Seven persons have been killed by lightning so far this year–all men. They were: fishing, closing car windows, riding a motorcycle, picking blueberries, roofing a business, and near tall trees. Men are more likely to do outdoors-related things.

Also interesting: lightning deaths have greatly dropped. In 1943, there were 432 lightning deaths, compared to just 13 in 2013. I guess people are spending a lot less time outdoors. Could this be an argument in favor of spending the day watching TV, or letting your kids hibernate in their rooms playing video games? Were my parents irresponsible for letting me roam around outside all the time?

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Richard Engel – A Master War Correspondent

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I’m a huge fan of NBC’s Richard Engel. We’re watching one of the best-ever war correspondents in action.

As a quasi-journalist, I’ve always been a fan of war correspondents. Ernie Pyle set the standard during WW2. Walter Cronkite and Andy Rooney cut their teeth during WW2. The New Yorker’s AJ Liebling wrote “Molly,” the best piece of war writing I’ve ever read; it shows up in most WW2 anthologies. I reread it a couple months ago.

Vietnam gave us David Halberstam, Michael Herr, Joe Galloway (“We Were Soldiers”), and Peter Arnett. Arnett, of course, also covered the Gulf Wars and everything in between. Christiane Amanpour did superb reporting in various conflicts, including Bosnia.

In the current conflicts, two men stand out to me: Dexter Filkins of the NY Times, and Richard Engel.

I love listening to Engel. When on camera, he is totally prepared. He can answer every question asked of him, showing that when off-camera, he’s doing diligent reporting. He can put conflicts in historical context–both recent history, and history going back centuries. He can explain the dynamics of the various parties in a conflict (like in Iraq). He knows the perspectives of everyone, from top leaders to grunt soldiers and civilians on the street. He is fluent in Arabic (and Italian and Spanish).

Some reporters, like Geraldo Rivera, like to be chummy with the troops. That’s crowd-pleasing, but it isn’t reporting. Engel goes deep to get information, and he skillfully conveys it to the public.

Probably most of the best war correspondents work in print, mostly for major newspapers or freelance. They aren’t as visible as TV reporters, but usually go far beneath the surface in their reporting. Engel started out there, going to Iraq in 2003 as a freelance journalist. NBC quickly snapped him up, recognizing his brilliance. He has since reported from the midst of every hotspot–Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Gaza, Somalia.

Enjoy him while you can. Engel operates in a dangerous career. As we know, sadly, from Ernie Pyle, who died on Okinawa from Japanese machine gun fire.

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The Libyan, and Gitmo vs. Supermax

Kudos for capturing this Libyan fellow. I’m sure it took a while to compile the evidence for a definitive conviction. Glad the FBI was involved.

The FBI was involved early in the Afghan war. Captured terrorists were talking freely to the FBI. The FBI was interested in convictions, and was going about everything methodically and properly. But then Cheney engineered turning everything over to the CIA. The CIA didn’t care one bit about convictions–they just wanted information. And so, they used torture, launching one of the saddest periods of US history. It also accounts for our problems with trying the Gitmo detainees; the use of torture invalidates, under US law, most of the “evidence” against these guys. (The book “The Dark Side” tells all about this, including the enormous success the FBI was having in the early days until the CIA took over.)

But with this Libyan, we did it right.

The folks at FoxNews, of course, are putting the worst possible spin on this guy’s capture. They refuse to give President Obama credit for anything. I listened to The Five on the way home from work today, and I’m sick and tired of their constant negativity. I think I’m done with them. I’ll just listen to music. (The evening line-up at MSNBC is totally unwatchable, lest you think I have a double standard.)

Anyway, FoxNews advocates sending this Libyan to Gitmo and, though they won’t come right out and say it, torture the guy for information. Well, we don’t torture anymore–I’m deeply proud to say–so that won’t happen.

I’m guessing this guys WANTS to be sent to Gitmo. The alternative is spending his life in a Supermax prison, where a number of other convicted terrorists are already rotting away the rest of their lives. Supermax is a living hell, very inhumane. I’d prefer Gitmo, too.

It sounds like the FBI has the convictable goods on this guy. It’ll take a while, perhaps a couple years, to obtain a conviction. But the guy will be convicted and spend the rest of his life in a Supermax. He may be able to trade some information, but it won’t get him far.

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Press “Order” to Order

ziosks-promo

Chili’s is doing away with waiters and waitresses, replacing them with tablets. You order from the tablet, and pay with it. It’s a business decision, a money-maker. Tests show:

  • People order faster, since they don’t need to wait for a server. That cuts an average of 5 minutes off the meal…meaning a quicker turn-around of tables.
  • The pictures on the tablets are much bigger than in a traditional menu.
  • People order far more appetizers–20% more. It’s an impulse thing. If you come hungry and you’re greeted with a picture of nachos, you may well order it.
  • Pictures of desserts appear as you’re eating. Chili’s has seen a 20% increase in dessert sales. Hit a button, and somebody will bring it.
  • The tablets set a default tip amount of 20%, which people tend to go with. They can change it, but it requires a conscious action. I’m not sure who you’re actually tipping, of course, since you don’t have a server.

So we may someday say, “Yeah, I remember when people actually came to your table to take your order.” Is this a good thing?

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