Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
- The Almost True Story of Ryan Fisher, by Rob Stennett
- Playing for Pizza, by John Grisham
- Rooms, by James Rubart
- The Chopin Manuscript, and The Copper Bracelet, written by some of the top thriller writers today
Monday, December 27, 2010
This story took place almost four years ago, but I just heard about it today. Here's the synopsis:
On January 12, 2007, in a subway station in Washington, D.C., a musician took out his violin and began playing. It was almost 8:00 am, and during the next 43 minutes he played six classical pieces. 1097 people passed by during that time, most hurrying to get to work on time. Of those, only seven people stopped what they were doing and just listened. Twenty-seven people dropped money into his violin case, the grand total being $32.17 ($20 of that was given by one woman who recognized who the musician was). Three days before, this musician had played in Boston, where the cheapest seats were $100.
The musician was Joshua Bell, and this was a social experiment organized by The Washington Post. You can read the article here, and below is a video of the performance.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Retailers in Texas who celebrate Christmas better shout it from their garland-wrapped rooftops lest they incite the anger of local Christians. Conservative mega-church First Baptist Church in Dallas (FBCD) has just launched a web site with the expressed purpose of keeping Christmas “everywhere.” By logging ontowww.grinchalert.com, shoppers can place businesses on the “naughty” or “nice” list depending on whether or not a business acknowledges Christmas.
“When companies use misplaced political correctness to halt the celebration of Christmas, they belong on the ‘Naughty List,’” the website says. “We also want to know which companies are celebrating Christmas with excitement and meaning–especially those who keep Christ in Christmas where He belongs!”
Everyone recognizes, of course, that the holiday most people are celebrating this time of year is indeed called “Christmas.” According to Rasmussen, 92% of Americans say they celebrate Christmas. However, 58% of those who celebrate Christmas are more likely to wish a casual acquaintance “Happy Holidays.” FBCD Pastor Robert Jeffress claims he intends the website to combat such political correctness in a way that's “fun.” But some don’t seem to be enjoying it quite as much as he is.
Rabbi Geoffrey Dennis of Congregation Kol Ami said, “Rather than honoring Christmas, this kind of campaign feels meant to remind me and people like me we are second-best members of this society . . . I realize every movement needs an issue to rally around. How about ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’?”
The Rabbi makes a good point, but his call for a Christmas ceasefire will likely fall on deaf ears. At least as long as Christian culture warriors like Jeffress see Christmas not just as a sacred holiday, but also a critical battleground. In the "War on Christmas," lines must be drawn in the December sand to make sure that the famed greeting “Merry Christmas” isn’t replaced by its evil half-brother “Happy Holidays.”
Without fail, certain radio and television personalities devote a significant amount of time to this so-called “war” each year. A few years ago, Fox News' John Gibson released the book, The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Holiday is Worse than You Thought. About the same time, Focus on the Family began their “I Stand for Christmas” campaign, which included a site where consumers rate retailers based on how “Christmas-friendly” they are. Last year, I found a stack of “I Say Merry Christmas Bumper Stickers” in our church mail room. Beginning around Thanksgiving, you can hear the sounds of clips being loaded in churches and Christian homes across the country.
The more I watch this holiday holy war, however, the more convinced I am that many American Christians have not fully thought through the issues at play. For example, we claim that we want Jesus to remain “the reason for the season,” but our actions belie a different focus. As I wrote in The Huffington Post last Christmas:
Most of us spend a paltry amount of time reflecting on Jesus compared to the massive amount of time we spend shopping at the mall, attending parties, wrapping and opening gifts, and eating huge meals. We might spend an hour at church on Christmas Eve holding a candle and singing "Silent Night" but we likely spent four hours at the mall the day before. Sure, we may gather around grandpa for a stiff five minutes and listen to him read a chapter from the Gospel of Luke, but we hardly listen. We are licking our chops at the mountains of presents behind him. In reality, Christmas for Americans--and yes, even the Christian ones--is shaped more by Currier and Ives than Joseph and Mary.
I often wonder what Jesus would think if he returned to earth at Christmas and surveyed the way all of his followers were celebrating his birth. What would the one who "has no place to lay his head" think about our gaudy decorations and lavish presents totaling over $400 billion in America alone? Would Jesus be pleased to find us remembering his lowly birth with materialism and gluttony?
It is nothing short of hypocrisy for American Christians to force others to “keep Jesus in Christmas” when we helped kick him out of the holiday long ago.
[For ways to curb Christmas consumerism, see Advent Conspiracy.]
Additionally, we need to think through what we’re asking for. By waging the war on Christmas, we are pressuring many people who don’t actually trust upon Christ to verbally acknowledge him. In so doing, we may be actually promoting a limp cultural religion that fails to promote radical gospel-centered living. How much true value is there in forcing those who aren’t Christians to use the name of Christ? As church historianSteve McKinion has pointed out, such things “may very well be at the heart of ‘using the Lord’s name in vain.’”
If we want to win the war on Christmas, we need to stop fighting it. Enjoy the season, reflect on Christ, break bread with those you love, and look for opportunities to meet the needs of others. Such things will seem more authentic to a skeptical world and scream “Merry Christmas” in ways a retailer never can.
Santa Claus and his elves are seeing more heartbreaking letters this year as children cite their parents' economic troubles in their wish lists.
U.S. Postal Service workers who handle letters addressed to Santa at the North Pole say more letters ask for basics — coats, socks and shoes — rather than Barbie dolls, video games and computers.
"The need is greater this year than I've ever seen it," he says. "One little girl didn't want anything for herself. She wanted a winter coat for her mother."
Cesar, 7, wrote for himself and his baby sister.
"This year my moom don't have much money to spend on Christmas gifts so I'm writing to you," Cesar told Santa. "It would make us very happy if you and your elves would bring us toys and clothes."
There are more letters from unemployed parents asking for kids' gifts they can't afford, says Darlene Reid of New York City's main post office.
One mom sent a turn-off notice from the electric company, Fontana says. A single mother of a girl, 8, and a boy, 2, wrote that she recently lost her job. "I am unable to buy my children toys and clothes," she said. "Santa may you help me with my family?"
Tough times are shrinking the number of Secret Santas, Fontana says. Meanwhile, "the percentage of people who need help has increased," says Mark Reynolds at the Postal Service's Chicago district, and about half the letters won't get answered.
Melanney, 9, asked Santa for a coat and boots. "I have been a very good girl this year," she wrote.
Monday, December 13, 2010
On Saturday The Commercial Appeal ran a great article on our family's involvement with Peabody Elementary School. It was written by David Waters. From the people I've talked with, as well as comments on their site, it seems that it's giving hope to many. One of the takeaways I've had from reading the article and the comments is that I am grateful for the community who is walking with us. These decisions can be difficult ones, but at every step of the way, it's has been easier knowing that we're not going it alone.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Over the past few months I’ve read a lot of articles on this subject. Here are some of the most helpful ones.
Women and Ministry, by Tim & Kathy Keller
Here’s what I like about this one. First, it’s Keller. I find it’s always a good idea to see what he says on a given issue. Second, though he’s a theologian and academic, he’s also a pastor, and this article is written from the perspective of a church wrestling through an issue. Third, I appreciate the fact that his wife, Kathy, writes with him. Finally, I think it’s quite balanced.
Summaries of the Egalitarian and Complementarian Positions on the Role of Women in the Home and in Christian Ministry, by Bruce Ware
Again, I appreciate this one because of its balance. He gives what each side believes, then gives objections from the other side to those beliefs. He deals with pretty much every Scripture passage there is on this issue. He packs a great deal into eleven pages.
Keeping Complementarians True to Scripture, by David Gushee
This is a very short but sweet article on the need for consistency in this issue.
Women and Ministry at IBC
This 24-page paper was written by the elders at Irving Bible Church after they spent over a year in study in conversation. Like Keller’s paper, it is written not for the sake of debate but because a church was wrestling through an important issue. I sensed a great deal of humility as I read it. In the end, they come to the same conclusion as Redeemer Pres did: all ministries are open to women except for the office of elder. The confusing part is that sometime after this they invited a female to be their lead pastor. I want to know more about that.
The Role of Women in Worship and Ministry: Some Hermeneutical Questions, by David Dockery
If you can get your hands on this one, it is well worth the read. As it says in the title, it deals with the many hermeneutical issues involved with this issue.
50 Crucial Questions about Manhood and Womanhood, by John Piper & Wayne Grudem
This article definitely takes the complentarian view, but it is extremely good. When I wrote a paper on this issue nine years ago, I read their book Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Although it is very persuasive, even then the issue of consistency kept me from adopting this view completely.
For the egalitarian side, I would recommend reading Scot McKnight’s blog. Here is the link to his category “Women and Ministry.” Lots of great posts there.
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history. Most managers are now women too. And for every two men who get a college degree this year, three women will do the same. For years, women’s progress has been cast as a struggle for equality. But what if equality isn’t the end point? What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women? A report on the unprecedented role reversal now under way— and its vast cultural consequences
To survive in a hostile world, guys need to embrace girly jobs and dirty diapers. Why it's time to reimagine masculinity at work and at home