Current Affairs

So the RNC Finds It Hard to Reign in The Donald or, Reality TV’s Presidential Nomination Edition

Some despise Reality TV. Survivor. Big Brother. The Biggest Loser. The Amazing Race. The (Celebrity) Apprentice. The repetitive complaint is, “But this is not real.” However, the number of seasons these shows are in suggests they still make networks money. Survivor – 30. Big Brother – 16. Biggest Loser – 16. The Amazing Race – 26. The Apprentice – 14. Lots of money. Welcome to Reality TV the Presidential Nomination Edition. Read More

When Representatives Don’t Represent or, Protect Your Children

We all suffer the personal realization that we may not represent well. Big 12 Media Days taking place in Dallas came with the the discussion of Bob Stoops and the Oklahoma Sooners taking in Dorial Green-Beckham. It is yet to be determined if he will be eligible to play for the Oklahoma Sooners this season. Read More

Church As Counter-Testimony to Power – Part 1

While some of the worst fires burn in Australia, a strange fire burned in California. We should pray for both. Estimates put the number of homes burned in Austrialia at some 200. No one knows what the internecine fires will consume stemming from that strange fire on the US West Coast.

Many have weighed in with their interpretation of the conference bearing the name, Strange Fire. Tim Challies seemed to offer a reasonable roundup even if one might disagree with his personal opinions on the matter. He provided no incendiary sentences. Dave Miller made Phil Johnson’s presentation. Evidently Phil had smoke in his eyes while reading SBC Voices. He got Dave wrong. It could have been Dave’s notorious lime green jacket that influenced Phil’s hermeneutics.

I only heard about the conference after the fact. To push the fire metaphor too far, reading about it was like seeing the aftermath of the Colorado fires this summer. Once beautiful land forever changed by the consuming fire.

Christian groups, and certain personalities, seem to make the news more about their participation in intramural squabbles than the healing brought to a broken world in Jesus’ name. Even a couple of adult teenagers attempted to crash the fiery party. Who would be surprised at these usual suspects?

The hubbub exposes the oft vied for place of authority to speak for a fractured Evangelicalism. If there are excesses among charismatics, they are equaled by different excesses in their critics. Who gets the final word? Bloggers?

Absent an Evangelical magisterium, we witness those with larger churches, more money, greater access to media, and able to generate a fandom stepping up to set the rest straight on any number of contested matters. The Charismata is but one hot topic that gets bobbled. Protecting Evangelicalism from everyone else in Christendom certainly compares to battling runaway fires.

Vying for power and influence seems counter intuitive to the Way of Jesus but certainly consistent with how our host culture functions. Have we been lulled into thinking that the way of power actually comports to the vision of Jesus sending his disciples into the world to do what he did?

Those in my tribe think deconstruction, the postmodern version, the cause of many a fire. Look carefully. Evangelicals need no external help to get a fire going.

Maybe there is a need to take this thing apart. There is a strand of deconstruction that looks to make affirmations, not negations. Were we to take this episode in Evangelicalism apart we would be looking to affirm the impossible. That is, it seems unlikely that the large body of people whom self-describe as Evangelical could ever be mobilized beyond defending his or her sacred ground. Such a vision surely passes for an object in which to hope because its history, statistics, and present condition make the prospect impossible. So, perhaps it just might happen. But, it won’t come from the cavalry coming over the hill spreading from west to east, choose a highly visible pastor/ministry, or from south to north, think of the largest Evangelical denomination in the United States.

We have had plenty of time to see if Christian celebrity will help the situation.

What if we returned to viewing the Church as counter testimony to power? In this series of posts, who knows maybe just one but could be more, I would like to consider some ways in which the impossible might become possible, perhaps.

Consider this quote from C.S. Lewis a means to stir your thoughts,

As Christians, we can’t love the whole world. But we should remember that God has placed us in a specific community at a particular time. We’re called to love those around us. Loving them means serving them – and in doing so, we become the best of citizens.

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Lift the Cuban Embargo – Glad for Some Baptist Voices

When the SBC voted a resolution inviting its constituency to boycott Disney it was a selective action. The tentacles of the corporate giant reached into places many hardly realized as they raised hands agreeing to abstain from watching, buying, or going to anything Disney. That was 1997.

Eight years later the SBC dropped the boycott. Dr. Richard Land contended that many off the record conversations indicated Disney indeed listened. He insinuated the effort led to the eventual vote of no confidence for Michael Eisner. That was 2005.

In between these events the SBC voted to cut its ties with the Baptist World Alliance. Search high and low and you cannot uncover a solid reasoning for the move. I had my own off the record conversations having served on the General Council of the BWA at the time. What seemed to be missed by the discovery of a needle of theological liberalism in the haystack of 200 million Baptists worldwide was that the SBC had neither the interest nor the structure to speak into international matters of justice. The BWA did. That was 2004.

The SBC severed its relationship with the one entity that worked around the world to bring peace by engaging people, systems, and structures that made life difficult for other human beings all in the Name of Jesus. There have been reports that the SBC may be rethinking the relationship as its attempted alternative has all but failed. I hope the SBC rejoins the BWA at some point in the future. It will require putting aside animosity toward the CBF.

Recently I listened to an interview with Frank Shcaeffer. He noted that his move away from the extremes of the Evangelical world came as he witnessed a lack. The largest Christian block, arguably, in the world often ignored some of the most egregious matters of justice.

Bono recently applauded Evangelicals (21:40) for their efforts for their leadership in curbing AIDS/HIV progress. The largest Evangelical denomination rarely gives as much energy to human trafficking, sexual abuse, AIDS/HIV, and poverty as it did when poking a finger in Disney’s face.

Meanwhile the BWA continues to advocate for matters of justice in the word. It is one of its organizational elements for which they provide staff. Sunday, July 7, the BWA issued a press release once again advocating the end of the Cuban embargo. The consequences seem clear. Castro did not flinch and the Cuban people suffer.

Washington, DC (BWA)–The General Council of the Baptist World Alliance® (BWA) passed a resolution asking the government of the United States to lift its long standing embargo on Cuba.

The US embargo against Cuba was first imposed in October 1960, was strengthened in 1962 and codified into law in 1993. It includes commercial, economic, financial and travel prohibitions and restrictions.

“The BWA urges the US government to end the embargo of Cuba and re-establish formal diplomatic relations with the Cuban government” and “lift all remaining restrictions on travel to Cuba by US citizens.” Both governments need to “set in place a process for negotiating legitimate bilateral grievances.”

Essentially asserting that the embargo is irrelevant, the council, which comprises Baptist leaders from around the world, said “more than two decades have passed since the end of the Cold War, and that most manifestations of that struggle have been ameliorated or abolished, except for the continuing United States embargo against Cuba begun in 1960.”

The embargo, the resolution claims, serves no useful purpose. “The interests of neither nation – nor those of the international family of nations – are served by the status quo.” Rather, “the lifting of the embargo will improve living conditions for Cubans and provide greater opportunities for commerce, education, and travel.”

The BWA governing body noted that several of its member organizations in the US “have been on record for more than two decades in opposition to the embargo” and that “annually for the past 21 years the United Nations General Assembly has voted – nearly unanimously – for an end to the embargo.”

The council expressed concern about the effect the embargo has on Baptists on the Caribbean island, which has the fastest growing Baptist membership in the Caribbean. “The Baptist World Alliance® stands in solidarity with Cuban Baptists who have been negatively impacted by this embargo.”

The General Council convened during the BWA Annual Gathering that was held in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, from July 1-6.

In 2000 I was in Havana for the BWA General Council meeting. I heard stories from local pastors of what life was like. If I recall correctly, some talked of shoes made of Bible covers. Intercepted Bibles were stripped of their covers to make shoes. I recall the indoor stadium built to host the Pan Am Games crumbling due to poor construction. I remember the beggars who longed for something to eat. Recently I was reminded of my own action to help a young mother in need of milk while standing in a convenience store in Havana across from our hotel.

One of these days maybe the largest, wealthiest group of Baptists will put more energy in addressing these issues that surely rank higher in terms of frequency than same-sex marriage and are as risky to the viability of life as the matter of abortion. Surely it does not take much to see these matters as Gospel matters. We could then run a headline that includes Southern Baptists not just some Baptists.

And yes, our church has supported the BWA since the SBC severed ties.

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