Ted's Tidbits

Persecution

Yesterday, I posted a link to an article by Rachel Held Evans on walking the second mile. It was re-posted by a few people and generated several comments on the different people’s posts.

One of the themes I saw in the comments was the idea that serving at a gay wedding is equivalent to “bowing to an idol of sin” and that Christians shouldn’t be forced to do so. I spent some time thinking about this. I began to craft a response in the Facebook comments, but I quickly realized that I was writing too many words to be a comment1. I decided to make it a blog post.

For the sake of this argument, I’ve decided to just take the following assertions at face value2:

  • Gay marriage is sinful.
  • It is a compromise of belief for someone to serve at a gay wedding.
  • Gay couples are targeting Christian wedding service providers by attempting to hire the providers for their weddings and then suing said providers when they refuse service.

Let’s say all those things are true. Christians being targeted for their beliefs and sued sounds like legitimate religious persecution to me. What should the Christian response be?

Should we try to change the law to prevent this persecution? Should we hire lawyers and defend our constitutional right in court? Should we take a public stand for our beliefs and “fight back” against the culture?

Here’s what Jesus has to say:

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:11-12

We’re supposed to be persecuted. If we really believe that serving at a gay wedding is a compromise of our moral beliefs, then we should graciously refuse and then welcome the persecution (e.g. lawsuits) that comes our way without fighting back. Not fighting back probably means settling out of court and paying whatever amount of damages are requested (if not more). Again, Jesus said, …if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.3

We need to remember that those of us who are called to follow Jesus are called to follow him above all other things. We should be Christian primarily and American secondarily. It is very American to want to stand up and defend our rights, but the Christian response is to lay down our lives (the rights go with our lives). The American founders fought their oppressors, our founder told us to love our enemies.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

  1. I must confess that I tend to skim over comments that get broken out into paragraphs. 
  2. Although there is much that can be debated here. 
  3. Matthew 5:40 

The terrorist as rock star

Dave Winer:

...they show us our fear of ourselves. The realization that we equate youthful and sexy appearance with benevolence. Our value system fails. The input does not equal the output. Does not compute.

Go read the full blog post (it’s not very long). This is a brilliant assessment of both the outrage over the Rolling Stone cover and our misplaced cultural values.

One Grain More

This is just brilliant. With the new Les Misérables movie, I’ve often thought of resurrecting Les Buffet, but I’m not sure I could best this.

[youtube youtu.be/k9QbC41oQ…]

Influence

I don’t like national elections. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in and understand their importance. In fact, I think it’s great that every citizen gets a vote in choosing national leaders. The problem I have with national elections is that it over-inflates the importance of our national leaders. They trick us into putting our hopes and dreams into one candidate. The one candidate who has all the answers for the economy, military, society, etc. It’s easy to get caught up in this contest, even if you try not to.

It happened to me this year. I didn’t like either candidate. I felt neither one of them represented me, so I checked out. I voted, but did so almost begrudgingly.

I began to believe the lie that I had no influence in this world.

The truth is, every one of has influence. Influence works like a radio signal. It’s strongest when you’re right next to the tower, and the further away you get, the weaker the signal gets.

How to Save the World Part I: Spheres of Influence

I have the most influence on those closest to me: my family, my friends, my coworkers, my neighbors. I have the least influence on those I see or speak with rarely.

What am I doing with this influence?

When you believe the lie that you have no influence, you absolve yourself from any responsibility to this world and those around you. Once you accept the truth (that you have influence), you must also accept the responsibility.

I want to spend some more time unpacking this concept, but first I think we need to live with these questions:

  1. What is the scope of your influence?
  2. What should you do with it?

2012 Big Tex Choice Awards Finalists Announced

UPDATE: Descriptions Added

The finalists will compete for two awards (most creative and best tasting) on September 3 (Labor day).

  • Deep Fried Mac-N-Cheese Slider - This three-cheese mac is baked until golden brown, battered in bread crumbs, deep-fried until crisp on the outside, warm and gooey on the inside. Placed on a slider bun with a griddled beef patty, this southern-style invention almost calls for a rocking chair and a front porch.
  • Chicken-Fried Cactus Bites - Fairgoers will stick with these hand-picked prickly pear cactus pads, thinly sliced, chicken battered and deep fried to perfection. Served with a combination of sweet & spicy secret jalapeno ranch, and agave nectar dipping sauce.
  • Deep Fried Jambalaya - A State Fair spin is given to this Cajun classic. This "from scratch" jambalaya is created using shrimp, cajun sausage and seasonings, then coated in lightly seasoned flour and fried to a golden perfection. This deep-fried Southern delectable will be served with a side of "made in house" spicy ranch sauce.
  • Fried Bacon Cinnamon Roll - Deliciously fresh cinnamon roll dipped in a special sweet pancake batter, folled in crispy fried bacon crumbles, deep fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar. It's a main course and a desert all in one.
  • Picnic on a Stick - Pieces of delicious spicy fried chicken alternate tater tots and slices of dill pickle. Releated three times on a stick then dipped in batter, rolled in bread crumbs, and fried until golden brown, this picnic wouldn't be complete without its choice of BBQ sauce, ranch, or honey mustard. BYO ants.
  • Fried Pork Wing - This juicy morsel is slow cooked for six hours then lightly deep fried, rolled and tossed in a smoked bacon chipotle glaze. Accompanied by old-scool homemade potato chips lightly dusted in barbecue seasoning, it's a sure crowd pleaser.
  • Fried Mexican Firecrackers - A yummy, spicy chicken, cheese and jalapeno mix wrapped in fresh-made masa dough and deep fried to a crispy, crunchy, explosion of flavor. Served with firey TNT sauce.
  • Deep-Fried Divine Chocolate Tres Leches Cake - A slice of chocolate tres leches cake soaked in buttermilk batter, and fried to perfection. A light sprinkle of cinnamon, topped with whipped cream, fresh strawberry slices and peaches are drizzled with a yummy syrup.

They Fried What?!?

History Never Sits Still. Thus Neither Can Our Politics

History Never Sits Still. Thus Neither Can Our Politics

Lee C. Camp:

...everything is so very polarized that it seems, at worst, that there are only two possible positions, or at best, that there is only a single continuum between two possible positions. If the daughter comes home talking about non-violence, and the mother is a supporter of her government's wars, then the daughter must be a damn communist, too. ... ...as the theologians have increasingly explicated, "the powers" get made manifest in a variety of institutions, -isms, systems, and structures. "The powers" are created for good (per the letter to the Colossians) but overstep their bounds, and rather than serving humankind, get "hell-bent on their own survival" (per Walter Wink) and thence begin to enslave and oppress. ... ...to those who foolishly idealize "the free market," we insist that the powers of darkness are cunning, baffling, and powerful, and that they do in fact co-opt the supposedly free market for purposes of greed and grasping which corrupts and controls as much as any tyrannical dictator. Or to those who foolishly idealize "the welfare state," we insist that the powers of darkness are cunning, baffling, and powerful, and that the over-weening bureaucratic mechanisms of control do in fact limit creative human creativity, and create dependence. ... The centralization enacted by Joseph for the good of the starving Hebrews provided the very bureaucratic tyranny that served to enslave those same Hebrews. History never sits still. Thus neither can our politics. If we find ourselves lumping together into one mass group of political enemies anyone who disagrees with us (as in the irrational conclusion that a pacifist must be a communist), the perhaps we have become enslaved to the powers which use a binary, polarizing view of the world to create enemies, stratify communities, and breed hostility, precisely for the good of the corrupt powers, but never for the true good of humankind.

A Restless Patriotism

A Restless Patriotism

Richard Beck:

I'm a mess when it comes to the Pledge of Allegiance. ... So I'm trying to walk this line between being socially appropriate, respectful to others (particularly to those who have lost loved ones in war), deeply grateful, and yet holding onto the belief that the Pledge of Allegiance is inherently idolatrous. ... The problem is that it's a pledge of allegiance. If it were a pledge of respect, love, or gratitude there wouldn't be a problem. ... Can't I just say Love and Thank You without pledging allegiance?

But he’s not really talking about the pledge, he’s talking about the Christian response to war. Within Christianity, you find two opinions of war. One believes that some wars are just, the other that no war is just. Logically, if some wars are just then some wars are also unjust, therefore the “just war” Christians and the “pacifist” Christians should find themselves united in their oppositions to some wars.

But the trouble isn't with the theory. The trouble is in the practice and implementation. ... Just war Christians and pacifist Christians rarely move in concert, despite everyone recognizing that this should happen from time to time. And it might ought to happen most of the time. So what's the problem? ... First, it could be the case that every war declared (and undeclared) by the American government has been a just war. ... The second possibility is that American Christians aren't spiritually capable of resisting the patriotic call in a time of war. That is, when the patriotic call comes it is so powerful that Christians will make any rationalization necessary to fit the current conflict into the mold of just war criteria. At the end of the day, all wars are just wars because they are American wars. ...I think even the most politically conservative Christian would have to admit that this could be a real temptation. And if that is so, then we finally get to the point of this post and back to the Pledge of Allegiance. My question is this: What skills do we need to practice--today--if we are to be ready to face this temptation? And to clarify once again. This isn't about saying there are no just wars. I've granted that part of the argument. This is about something different. It's about creating the ability to notice the unjust one.

Who moved the goalpost?

Who moved the goalpost?

Dan Bouchelle:

All this happened despite the fact that the language of "salvation issue" and "go to heaven" does not even appear in scripture. These matters are never the concern of Jesus or the apostles. Jesus was concerned about God reigning on earth as in heaven, or to put it another way, the Kingdom of God.

Short-Term Missions: The Ugly

Short-Term Missions: The Ugly

J.R. Goudeau:

Without long-standing relationships, divided by race and socioeconomics and even age, it's very difficult for a short-term mission trip to avoid the trap of poverty tourism. The point should not, should never be, enlightenment for the privileged on the backs of the poor they came to serve. ... Difficult, but not impossible.

This is a very thoughtful post backed by personal experience. I do think that short-term mission trips can be a very good thing, but those embarking on such trips should be mindful of these thoughts.

Imagining Healthcare for All

Imagining Healthcare for All

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

This real alternative is not the result of a grand strategy to reform our nation's broken health care system. It was the fruit of a community trying to be faithful to Jesus. It started with a pastor praying in his hospital bed and some regular church folks talking about how they could share their money.

I love this. The government is going to do what it will do, and we can exert whatever influence we have over it, but we should not rely on them to do the right thing. We should be like Jesus and love our neighbors, poor and rich alike.

The 11 Ways that Consumers are Hopeless at Math

The 11 Ways that Consumers are Hopeless at Math

Derek Thompson:

In his book Priceless, William Poundstone explains what happened when Williams-Sonoma added a $429 breadmaker next to their $279 model: Sales of the cheaper model doubled even though practically nobody bought the $429 machine. Lesson: if you can't sell a product, try putting something nearly identical, but twice as expensive, next to it. It'll make the first product look like a gotta-have-it bargain. One explanation for why this tactic works is that people like stories or justifications. Since it's terribly hard to know the true value of things, we need narratives to explain our decisions to ourselves. Price differences give us a story and a motive: The $279 breadmaker was, like, 40 percent cheaper than the other model -- we got a great deal! Good story.

The rest of this list is great too. There are so many ways that we as consumers are being duped. Derek Thompson puts it this way: “We’re not stupid. Just susceptible.”

Does Google have any social skills at all?

Does Google have any social skills at all?

Sam Biddle:

The idol of technology and the marvels it could yield towers over us, wearing a computer on its face, letting a phone predict its lunch, and sitting in the corner of a party looking at pictures of other people having fun. Google's making plenty of impressive things--but are they impressive things that anyone actually wants?

Great article that gets to the heart of my feelings on Google: with every new cool thing they do, they seem just a little creepier.

Do you see this woman?

Tim Bray:

I was walking along near these parts in early evening, and a very tall very thin very young black woman suddenly materialized at my elbow: "Excuse me, hey!" I averted my face reflexively and stepped out a bit and she said "Oh my god no I don't want anything, just do you know the nearest BART?" and then I actually looked at her and she was just this ordinary girl in a hurry but lost. I told her the way and managed a smile, even though I hated myself.

Reading this upset me because I could see myself doing the exact same thing. I attribute this to fear. Fear of what, I’m not sure, but fear keeps me from looking at people, helps me keep my distance, prevents me from getting involved.

I’m reminded of these words from 1 John 4.18:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear

My experience suggests that the opposite is also true: fear can keep love out. Why am I afraid? What am I afraid of? I don’t know, but I do know that it is my fear that causes me to judge.

I wonder if that was true of Simon, the Pharisee that Jesus visited in Luke 7.36-50. A woman shows up at the meal and begins crying and washes Jesus’ feet with her tears. Simon is quick to note that the woman is a sinner and is offended that Jesus is allowing this action to take place. Jesus takes the opportunity to tell Simon a story, but what gets me the most is the comment Jesus makes after he concludes his story.

Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman?"

Simon ‘saw’ the woman the same way Tim Bray first ‘saw’ the lost girl in San Francisco and the same way I ‘see’ most strangers on the street.

Yet again, I find I have more in common with the Pharisees than Jesus. What am I so afraid of? What will happen if I actually look at the people I pass? How much love am I keeping out as I cling to my fear?

Letting love override your theology

Letting love override your theology

Arni Zachariassen:

I guess everything changes when you let love override your theology. I experienced what that looks like in terms of prayer and healing yesterday. I wonder what it would look like if the same happened to all other areas of life and theology too. Things would change, I bet. They would change a lot.

Cities are Now Growing Faster Than Suburbs -- Except in Dallas, Of Course

Cities are Now Growing Faster Than Suburbs – Except in Dallas, Of Course

Eric Nicholson:

So Dallasites can enjoy having walkable neighborhoods, microbreweries, bike lanes and whatever else to their heart's content, but those things aren't making North Texans stop moving to McKinney. Not yet, anyway. That won't happen until those people die off and their children join the creative class. Or maybe until the coming of the environmental apocalypse. Or we run out of oil? All good options.

Disrupt Your Church's Status Quo ... Or Else?

Disrupt Your Church’s Status Quo … Or Else?

Michael Frost:

If you want to be a different sort of person, you've got to remove some of those structures that have made you comfortable being what you are now. So buildings and programs and paid staff and all those sort of things, they create a crucible in which we don't need to change or move. So, I would say, some sort of liminal experience that shatters that, like selling your building or stop paying your ministers or something that forces disequilibrium into which then one must imagine and one must rethink.

We’re currently going through a process of dreaming about the future of our church. I haven’t heard any suggestions as drastic as this, but it makes me wonder if this is the path we should be considering. Maybe not selling our building or firing our staff, but focusing less on programs that make us comfortable and more on things that upset us.

After X Years Programming

After X Years Programming

Dave Winer:

The conventional wisdom is that you "move up" into management long before you've been coding for 37 years. Only thing is I don't see programming as a job, I see it as a creative act.

Hospitality

Hospitality

Dan Bouchelle:

...hospitality in the USA is a dying virtue. Sadly this is true even in the church. When we have people from other countries visit the US through MRN, these foreigners often express surprise that American Christians will take them out to eat but not invite them into their homes. Our houses have become refuges from the world instead of portals for the world into the Kingdom of God.

Treat Them as a Pagan or a Tax Collector

Treat Them as a Pagan or a Tax Collector

Richard Beck:

[Matthew 18.15-17] is one of those passages that has been use to support practices of exclusion and excommunication within the church. Specifically, if a fellow brother or sister is in sin and fails to repent at the encouragement of the church we are to "treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector." That is, we are to shun them. ... The key ... is found in how Jesus interacted with "tax collectors and sinners." That is, it makes no sense to read Jesus as telling his followers to treat tax collectors and sinners like the Pharisees were treating tax collectors and sinners. (see Matthew 9.10-13a)

Context matters.

The Moral Importance of the iPhone

The Moral Importance of the iPhone

John Pattison:

In a 2007 interview with Arthur Boers, the philosopher Albert Borgmann makes the case that television is of moral importance. Borgmann says: "When I teach my ethics course I tell these relatively young people that the most important decision that they'll make about their household is first whether they're going to get a television and then second where they're going to put it." I think for my generation and for the generation coming after mine, the questions could probably be amended to (a) "Are you going to get a smartphone?" and (b) "If so, what limits are you going to place on its use?"

These are good questions. One of the struggles I’m going to face is finding appropriate limits to set for my son and his interaction with technology. We have a good idea about limits on television because it’s been around longer than we have. Smartphones and the always-connected network we’ve build is still quite new.

There Are More Homeless Children in Dallas Than Ever

There Are More Homeless Children in Dallas Than Ever

Anna Merlan:

This year, 496 homeless adults said they had children living with them. That's an 8 percent increase since 2011, and a 36 percent increase since 2010. MDHA estimates that nearly 3,000 Dallas Independent School District students are homeless. ... MDHA also reports that it found 190 homeless youths unaccompanied by parents, a 272 increase over last year.

This survey was done by MDHA, an organization whose goal is to end chronic homelessness in Dallas by 2015.

Sin No More

Sin No More

This is a nice follow up to Richard Beck’s post on John 8.1-11. He investigates the possibility that if John 8.1-11 were not in the Bible, could John 5.1-15 serve to reinforce Jesus’ hard stance on sin (“Go and sin no more.“)?

Guy on a Buffalo

Guy on a Buffalo

And now for something completely different…

…a guy on a buffalo:

-><-

Go And Sin No More

Go And Sin No More

Speaking of not fearing we are reading the Bible wrong, Richard Beck calls into question the moral standards of Jesus:

Let's say John 8.1-11 really isn't a part of the Bible as certain evidence might suggest. Let's say that Jesus never said "Go and sin no more." Imagine those words aren't in the Bible. Then ask yourself this: is there anywhere else in the gospels where Jesus says anything similar?

Do Not Fear the Facts

Do Not Fear the Facts

Scot McKnight:

As a professor I teach my students at least two things about method: face the facts and do not fear the facts. I believe this means we have to face both what the New Testament teaches and what science teaches.

I appreciate how he opens up and shares his internal conflict about what do to when scientific discovery seems to contradict what we read in the Bible. It can be a scary process to really question things that sit at the cornerstone of your world view, but I think it is a necessary endeavor. At the end of the day, I don’t want to believe something because I always have, or because it’s comfortable. I want to believe something because it’s true.

That means I can’t be afraid to ask questions like this:

What if we are wrong in our interpretations of the Bible?