Monthly Archives: October 2012

Who Should You Vote For? How About…Babies?

Over at Patheos, I just blogged on who I’m voting for this presidential election season.  This topic afforded me the chance to talk more broadly about how abortion is not simply a position, one among many that we could choose.  It is instead a holistic theology.  It is, specifically, a theology of death.

Read the whole thing over at ThoughtLife.

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Filed under abortion, politics

Can Barack Obama Save Liberal Protestantism?

In my first piece over at ThoughtLife, I tackle this question.  As I did on Thursday, I urge you to, in the words of Tina Fey, “go to there.”  Subscribe to ThoughtLife, sign up for it in your RSS feed, and generally patronize this new blog, which is now the home of my “content blogging.”

Here’s a snippet:

Here’s what caught my attention in this segment, though: can anyone reasonably expect to “resurrect” liberal Protestantism?  Forget the political issues involved here and the rather soft journalism at play in this piece.  This is one of the more interesting questions one encounters in the study of modern American Christianity.  Richard Wightman Fox, progressive Christian and author of a classic biography on Reinhold Niebuhr, once mused out loud in a fascinating essay that the dynamic of liberal Protestantism–specifically, its shaping by the culture–set it on a collision course with enlightened secular thought.

In other words, the liberal Protestants were so shaped by cultural mores that their project was essentially destined to merge with the culture.  This is a brilliant insight, and it tells a great deal of the story of liberal Protestantism in the last 100 years.

Read the whole thing (please).

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Peter Greer of HOPE on “Broken Aid” & the Gospel

My friend Josh Good over at AEI’s fantastic Values & Capitalism project just sent around an interview with Peter Greer.  According to Values & Cap, Peter is President and CEO of HOPE International, a global non-profit organization focused on alleviating both physical and spiritual poverty through Christ-centered microfinance in some of the most challenging places around the world, including Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti.

If you like thinking about responsible, church-friendly, gospel-driven social justice work that is friendly to entrepreneurship and aware of the power of the market to affect health for individuals, this will be like catnip to you.  I found Greer’s answers manifestly biblical and helpful.  Here’s a snatch from the broader interview (and see these helpful thoughts on the D’Souza scandal):

What are the economic realities that shape the way that HOPE International conducts its work across the globe?

Aid is broken. Economist Bill Easterly writes that despite a massive increase in aid to Africa over the last 40 years—$568 billion—most African countries are not better off. In fact, many growth rates have plummeted.

We have sufficient data to know that the only way for an economy to grow is through the private sector.

The Brookings Institution reports that since 2005, 70 million people each year are escaping poverty. According to the 58: campaign, between 1981 and 2005, extreme global poverty was cut in half, from 52 to 26 percent. This progress is largely the result of investments and job creation.

Consider China. Thirty years ago, China had more people, percentagewise, living in poverty than every country except four. Today—through economic growth—poverty has been reduced from 84 to 16 percent, according to the World Bank.

Today even Africa is poised for change. Private investments have generated more than 1.7 million jobs (from 2003 to 2010)—bypassing the effect of aid, according to the 2011 report published by Business Action for Africa and Ernst & Young

Job creation and investments, not aid, is what will cause Africa to experience growth, development and a much brighter future.

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Filed under entrepreneurs, missions, social justice

Family Policy Lecture at Family Research Council

Next Wednesday at 12:30pm, one week from today, I’ll be giving the Family Policy Lecture at the Family Research Council in Washington, D. C.  My lecture is entitled “The Sacrificial Witness of the Christian Moral Tradition” and will span history, theology, ethics and public policy.  I will engage the liberal Protestant tradition and its understanding of public square involvement in the course of the lecture.

I am honored to give this lecture, which has featured speakers like Os Guinness, Eric Metaxas, and Ross Douthat, but I am excited to speak on this topic at a thinktank that is doing a great deal to contend for the faith in the public square.

Here are the details from FRC:

The Christian influence in Western society has played a vital role in shaping our nation and the world. Many, such as the great British abolitionist William Wilberforce, have used their Christian faith to inform and drive moral policies. To divorce the Christianity of these men and women from their political action would do a disservice both to them and to history itself.

In today’s world Christianity is often seen as a religious relic of the past. Dr. Owen Strachan issues a clarion call to the next generation of Christians to realize the times demand a strong biblically-grounded, moral witness. Born out of a spirit of sacrifice and humility Christians, must speak out for godliness and righteousness in our public sphere. Dr. Strachan will explain what must be done if the great Christian witness of the past is to once again influence our culture and its government.

You can register for the live-stream here.  You are of course welcome to fly to DC to hear this lecture–consider yourself invited, in fact.  But the live-stream might just work better for some.

By the way, FRC is currently leading the charge for Dr. Angela McCaskill, who was suspended from her post at Gallaudet  University for supporting traditional marriage by signing a petition.  You can show support for McCaskill by going here.  I would encourage you to do so.

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Filed under ethics, public square

For Tonight’s Debate, Use #youngcons on Twitter

If you’re so inclined, use the hashtag code #youngcons on Twitter while Tweeting in Twitteresque ways about the second presidential debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.

A bunch of, well, young conservatives used this hashtag for the VP debate and saw a major response.  It may just crack the Twitter top ten tonight, and that might inspire visions of global domination.  You never know (not that one wants to aim too high or anything).

Here are a couple of Christianity Today pieces I wrote recently on Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, by the way.  And here’s a very good one from my buddy Denny Burk on the importance of bringing pro-life convictions to bear on voting.  Evangelical conservatives are of course “whole life” advocates–we wish for holistic human flourishing at all stages of life.  But to get to all the stages of life, of course, one has to exist, and not be killed in the womb.

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Things You Should Agree With: Rondo Is the NBA’s Best Point Guard

My favorite NBA point guard, Rajon Rondo, just got a glossy spread in Boston Common magazine.  I am fond of Boston Common for many reasons, not least because it is the location of Park Street Church in Boston, the church my dissertation subject, Harold John Ockenga, led for 33 years.

But Ockenga is gone now, and Boston has a new stylish leader: Rondo.  He’s the NBA’s best point guard.  He can dominate the game without scoring.  I think he’s poised to have a big year.  Here’s a bit about Rondo:

Rondo’s résumé includes plenty of impressive statistics, but a point guard in the NBA is never defined purely by numbers. At Rondo’s position you can have a great game and not necessarily score a lot of points, and he’ll be the first to say it. “It’s always the whole package,” he says. “Some fans look at a point guard and say he had 26 points, seven assists, and eight rebounds, and they’ll say he had a great game. But there is a lot of talent in the NBA, and eventually that talent catches up with you. The mental game is where it’s at. I would say the game is 80 percent mental and 20 percent physical, for me at least. What separates great players from good ones is performing consistently. I can dominate the game in any number of ways, not just with the numbers.”

People can judge point guards by assessing passing, scoring, defense, and a slew of other things, but Rondo takes it a little further. “My definition of what a good point guard is might be different from what some others might think,” he says. “I’ll give you an example: If [head coach] Doc Rivers gets thrown out, I can run the team for the rest of the game. I know what plays to call, what sets to call, or when to call time outs. It’s more than keeping track of the score. There is so much more going on that you take for granted on any given night, and there are only so many guys who can run a team when you don’t have a coach. In that category I think I am the best at what I do.” Rondo has the rare ability to see the big picture while still focusing on the details of his own game.

Read the whole thing.  This is valuable information, people.  The Celtics matter, and I say that without any of the bias that would accrue to a New England native who grew up in the halcyon days that were the Bird era.

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Why Joe Biden and Kobe Bryant (!) Showed Poor Leadership

Last night, in the Vice Presidential debate, Vice President Joe Biden had this to say about the recent debacle in Libya which culminated in the horrifying killing of a U. S. Ambassador with barely a whisper from executive office (full transcript here):

RADDATZ: What were you first told about the attack? Why — why were people talking about protests? When people in the consulate first saw armed men attacking with guns, there were no protesters. Why did that go on (inaudible)?

BIDEN: Because that was exactly what we were told by the intelligence community. The intelligence community told us that. As they learned more facts about exactly what happened, they changed their assessment. That’s why there’s also an investigation headed by Tom Pickering, a leading diplomat from the Reagan years, who is doing an investigation as to whether or not there are any lapses, what the lapses were, so that they will never happen again.

RADDATZ: And they wanted more security there.

BIDEN: Well, we weren’t told they wanted more security there. We did not know they wanted more security again. And by the way, at the time we were told exactly — we said exactly what the intelligence community told us that they knew. That was the assessment. And as the intelligence community changed their view, we made it clear they changed their view.

I’m still trying to wrap my mind around these words.  A sitting Vice President of America blames the intelligence community on what happened in Libya?  Perhaps intelligence was lacking–that’s way above my pay grade.  But this blame-shifting seems problematic.

In my view, a good leader takes the blame and spreads the credit.  A bad leader spreads the blame and takes the credit.  Surely there is complexity in major matters of state, just like there is in business, spiritual life, and elsewhere.  But at the end of the day, a virtuous leader will fall on the grenade.  He won’t pass it to others.

The emblem of this kind of others-centered leadership is Jesus Christ.  In the most profound metaphysical way, he took our blame and gave us his merit (see Romans 4-5).  This is the image of leadership that animates us as Christians.  It changes the way we move and act and inspire and repent.  We are those who are free to acknowledge our sin, our failing, because God has been lavish with his grace, and nothing can separate us from it.

For those of you who like basketball, here’s an interesting parallel.  Now that Steve Nash, 2005-06 NBA MVP, is on the Lakers (swallowing bile now), Kobe Bryant–alpha male of alpha males–took the opportunity to tell Nash that he won his trophy because Bryant was playing with subpar teammates: “I tell Steve, you won MVP but I was playing with Smush Parker,” he said.  This is a perfect illustration of what we’re discussing here.  Never mind that Kobe is the NBA’s worst proponent of “hero ball” (and not terribly good at it, statistically) and that he is nursing wounds from six years ago despite the fact that he has won five rings, been MVP, and Nash has won no championships.  He has the temerity to dog an ex-teammate (one who, granted, didn’t play very hard) nearly a decade later.

So kids: don’t be like Kobe.  Actually, all of us can learn from these two examples of poor leadership.  Fathers can lead with humility, confessing their sin; business leaders don’t have to project invincibility; even professors (uh oh!) can show their students that they don’t know everything, and that that’s okay.  Humility, after all, is not weakness.  It is strength, much as the world–and major debates–say otherwise.

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Filed under basketball, leadership, politics