Success and Mayhem, Who is Responsible?

by on July 26th, 2012

The news has been filled to brimming with fodder for blogs the last couple of weeks. Conservatives went into a feeding frenzy with the declaration by Barack Obama: If You’ve Got A Business, You Didn’t Build That . His claim isn’t surprising in light of his overall worldview but to have it so clearly expressed in the political season was a bit jarring so some. The left is rushing to defend the idea that that we are products of our culture, surroundings and upbringing and therefore are only successful because of everyone else and all that went before us.

In the early morning hours of the 20th, as I was driving though California, the breaking news took over XM airwaves Continue reading …

Let’s End the War on Poverty

by on June 28th, 2012

I know, some will gasp in abject horror and even cry out while tearing their clothes, “Why do you hate the poor?” This is an emotionally charged issue to be sure but MCOI has never really shied away from controversy. Although I am not suggesting we forsake the poor I am suggesting we follow the arguments used for abandoning the war on drugs to answer whether we should continue the War on Poverty. Consistency in political social policy is as important as consistency in an individual’s life. The parameters are fairly simple and I think Sting did as good of a job as any in his March 2010 piece, Let’s End the War on Drugs. He argues that is has been, “…the most unsuccessful, unjust yet untouchable issue in politics…” While it may not be the “most” unsuccessful” it has been pretty unsuccessful and it is for the most part “untouchable,” politically at least. What are the criteria Sting used to demonstrate his point? Continue reading …

No Retreat but Much Surrender: Changing Christian Engagement on Homosexuality

by on June 7th, 2012

In two previous blog posts I examined the Christian engagement with the post-Christian culture. Those posts implied that the dominant paradigm of Evangelicals preserving our culture by “Taking back America” is wrong-headed. It is wrong-headed because it denies the moral strangeness that exists between Christianity and Secularism. In the next post I opined that the Christian efforts to preserve traditional marriage will fail. I was pretty pessimistic.

My prediction is that gay marriage is an inevitability. Eventually there will be a federal law.  I predict that same-sex couples will not settle for tolerance and being left alone with their right to marry. Instead many will demand non-discrimination from religious organizations. They will insist that churches rent out their fellowship halls to same-sex weddings if they are going to do weddings for any hetero-sexual couples and will sue if they are denied. . . To be clear I don’t think there is any amount of voting or lobbying or grass roots efforts that will change this.

Christians need to shift from the dominant paradigm to something else. In this last post I want to propose what that “something else” might be. As always these ideas are mine alone and do not necessarily represent Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc.

Rodney Clapp the author and former editor of Christianity Today says that in the dominant paradigm of engagement with culture the Church sees itself as the  “Sponsoring Chaplain” of society. Continue reading …

The Day the Narrative Changed

by on May 31st, 2012

Its not often that we see a social narrative change before our eyes but I humbly submit that I think we witnessed one on May 9th.  North Carolina passed a controversial measure to prohibit gay marriage and President Obama declared that he had changed his mind and gay marriage should be legal.

Just like, Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street, hard facts and strong opinions spread around the world as everyone and their cousin posted meme after meme expressing their opinion in no uncertain terms. Many, many people rejoiced at the news that the President’s opinion had evolved. For North Carolina citizens, the task of defending their vote became something else: a war of sentiment and emotion.  The true extent of the moral strangeness that I discussed in my last post was laid bare for all to see.

Before May 9th, there was no shortage of disagreement about gay marriage or homosexuality itself. It was passionate. Christians no less so than non-Religious people. There was nothing new about one side claiming the other was unreasonable. There was nothing particularly novel about the debate about institutions and the significance of the word “marriage” but there wasn’t a lot of talk about bigotry. After May 9th, Bigotry was the prevailing narrative.

Continue reading …

Moral Strangers

by on May 24th, 2012

My son, Wesley, is getting to the age where we have to talk about stranger danger. This is particularly a concern for my wife and I because Wesley is, to put it mildly, sociable. He talks to everybody. While I was waiting for my oil to be changed at Wal-Mart the other day, Wesley was carrying on a conversation with a bicycle mechanic, a 70 year old grandmother of two, and a 19 year old co-ed. While I was at the counter being told I absolutely must get that $65.00 radiator flush or else, I overheard Wes announce to his companions “My dad turned forty and has a lot of grey hair because of me and my sister.”

So obviously we need to explain that striking up conversations with complete strangers is something we only do when a parent is around. Christian bioethicst and Eastern Orthodox Christian, Tristam Englehardt Jr., writes about a different kind of strangeness. Moral strangeness:

Moral strangers are persons who do not share sufficient moral premises or rules of evidence and inference to resolve moral controversies by sound rational argument, or who do not have a common commitment to individuals or institutions in authority to resolve moral controversies.

Here’s a way to illustrate the problems with having a substantive moral debate between moral strangers. Suppose that an Evangelical Christian and an Atheist both see the following picture posted on facebook.

Continue reading …

Brain damage

by on May 17th, 2012

Bill Cosby is one of my favorite comedians. In fact, he is a favorite for many in part because his themes are exaggerations of situations which are common to more humans cross culturally. For example, his album, To Russell My Brother Whom I Slept With resonated those of us who had shared a room with our siblings as we remembered drawing an imaginary line down the center of the room to keep our brother or sister on “their side” (the door was usually on “my side). His description of “the belt” is hysterical and yet seemed to describe the implement of punishment as I sometimes thought of it myself as a child.

Bill Cosby has also been able to incorporate religious themes with equal ease into his routines. Continue reading …

Marketing Racism for Fun and Profit with Jesse and Al

by on April 26th, 2012

Wikipedia has a short article on the February 26, 2012,  Shooting of Trayvon Martin. In it they mention that Trayvon was an African-American but of the George Zimmerman, the one accused of shooting Trayvon they call him a “biracial Hispanic.” This is somewhat intriguing since they do not refer to Barack Obama as a biracial president in their piece, Barack Obama but instead describe him as “the first African American to hold the office.” Is this an attempt to create a link of racism on the part of George Zimmerman to his shooting of Trayvon Martin or an unwitting acceptance of claims of some in the media and especially of 2 religious leaders, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton? I don’t really know. Why describe George Zimmerman, whose father is White and mother is Hispanic as “biracial” and Barack Obama whose father is Kenyan (Black) and mother is white as “African American”? Perplexing. Continue reading …

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