Talk about a string of bad press! In addition to a write up in the Christian Science Monitor [The Coming Evangelical Collapse], a cover article of the Newsweek Magazine entitled “The End of Christian America,” a more readable and short article popped up last week on ABC News entitled, “Young America Losing Their Religion.”
Last Sunday, couple folks were baptized at Quest. Their stories of coming to faith in Jesus always moves me. With permission, here’s the story of Rosalind – one of only 30,000 Karaite Jews in the world and now one of two Karaite Jew believers. I want to encourage you to read it and be blessed.
“The Lord said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. ‘I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’ So Abram left, as the Lord had told him…” Genesis 12:1-4
It feels like my faith journey began before I was born. I guess that’s why my testimony might feel more like a history lesson than a story about God’s grace, but the fact that I’ve made it here is almost testament enough.
I am a Karaite Jew; a sect of Jews that has been around since God passed down his laws to Moses. Originating in Mesopotamia, the area between the Tigris-Euphrates river system (present day Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria, etc.), only 30,000 of us remain in the world today, 4,000 of which reside in the U.S.
I received my share of taunts, slurs, beat downs, and bullying – particularly in elementary and middle school. But when I hear my kids come home and speak of some taunts or bullying, I can’t help it: I get enraged. It pains me immensely.
And so when I read this news from the NY Times about two young 11 year old boys – Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover and Jaheem Herrera – who hung themselves because of “gay” taunts at their schools, I was enraged. There’s couple issues here: bullying and specifically, the bullying and abuse specifically targeted to gay and lesbian students.
What does it all mean?
And if we have 11 year old kids committing suicide, we have to ask the question: Are we doing enough to protect kids and punish those that bully?
Locally, (as I’m sure nationally), there are pastors and others leading, organizing, and encouraging parents to not send their teenagers to schools on (the now passed) Day of Silence – a peaceful demonstration representing the silence many gay and lesbian students feel they must maintain to avoid harassment and bullying at school.
What is the message we are conveying? Can’t this be an opportunity for parents – while one honor their personal convictions – for a teaching moment to their kids?
So, while Christians and churches should certainly have the right to exercise their freedom with their views, all Christians and churches should be enraged at the bullying and verbal, emotional, and at times, physical violence against our gay youth.
Thanks to the collective wisdom of our larger staff, I pulled this “voodoo video” from last week’s Good Friday service.
But I still really like this video. Very thought provoking so I’m now sharing and showing it here on my blog – for your viewing and commentary (video below).
It’s disturbing on several levels including the usage of ‘voodoo’ in it’s title which isn’t the best word in a church context but from an artistic level, this is an amazing video. The incredible animation is created by 26 year old artist Joaquin Baldwin. I don’t know him personally but after watching this video, I suspect he may have been influenced by Christianity in some shape or another. When you watch the film, you’ll see some Christian parallels. Had I shown it, it would have taken some good explanation why I was showing the clip.
Some of you may have already seen this article entitled The Coming Evangelical Collapse [@Christian Science Monitor]. There are certainly some good things for ruminations, discussions, and considerations but like many things written for the purposes of drawing attention, it makes some grandiose statements.
I’d love to hear from you regarding your thoughts and commentary about the article [below]. Do you agree? Disagree? What stood out to you?
And if you believe the Western church is in trouble, here’s the million dollar question: Why and what can be done?
Is Christianity in trouble? It really depends on how you look at the situation. I have shared for some time that we live and have lived in a Post-Christendom Western world for a long time. But because we dominate the resources of the world including information, we think we still remain the cradle of all things vibrant Christianity. Having spent some time in other countries and pastoring two years in Korea in the ’90s, the Western world is NOT the center of the world. I’m not trying to diminish the work of the Church in the West as it’s clear that it’s still influential but the Gospel is flourishing in many places outside the Western world especially in places around Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Furthermore, while Christianity – in its various forms – are struggling in the Western world, we should also point out that it’s not the case in every situation. For example, ethnic churches, on the most part, are still flourishing in the West…
So, are we in the midst of a collapse or a spiritual recession in the West? Well, these are certainly challenging times but just like the current economic recession, I see this as an opportunity for the “evangelical church” to re-discover their identity and grow deeper in our mission. What I’m saying is that decline and talks of death aren’t necessarily bad things since sometimes, those very things will wake us up. And perhaps through ‘death,’ we see the possibility of life anew.
In fact, perhaps this collapse ought or needs to take place in order for us to discover ourselves once more from all that which have lured us away from our identity: both as individuals and as a larger community.
Time Magazine created a list of 10 new ideas that are impacting the world right now and #3 on their list – incredibly – is an old but new movement called Calvinism or “New Calvinism.” Listed as some of the movers behind this new movement are John Piper from Minneapolis, my neighbor Mark Driscoll from Seattle, and Al Mohler. I find it encouraging and phenomenal that this was on the list but think we’re missing something if we think the Holy Spirit is working exclusively through the “new Calvinists.” Despite our cynicism and reports of the collapse of the evangelical church, the Holy Spirit is working…
Mark – on his Resurgence blog – listed the distinctions between Old and New Calvinism. He cites four main differences:
Old Calvinism was fundamental or liberal and separated from or syncretized with culture. New Calvinism is missional and seeks to create and redeem culture.
Old Calvinism fled from the cities. New Calvinism is flooding into cities.
Old Calvinism was cessationistic and fearful of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. New Calvinism is continuationist and joyful in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
Old Calvinism was fearful and suspicious of other Christians and burned bridges. New Calvinism loves all Christians and builds bridges between them.
While I personally roll with the Covenant denomination, I am advocating that we never be an island to ourselves. I spent most of my early years in Reformed and Presbyterian Churches including two years in Korea at what I perceive to be one of the most influential [but completely unknown to Westerners] churches called Onnuri. I received my Masters of Divinity degree at Princeton Theological Seminary so I have a good deal of exposure and understanding of Calvinism and Reformed Theology. It’s clearly shaped a portion of my theology and ecclesiology.
So having said that, I like to think that we’re really all part of One Larger Team called the Kingdom of God. Thus, if those four traits are the characteristics and commitments of New Calvinism, we should all be BIG fans. I would certainly be and would genuinely love to see my co-laborers in the New Calvinism team be committed to being Missional, Urban Minded [and not just the Suburbs], led by the Holy Spirit, and Bridge Builders.