The Missing Links – February 10, 2013

  • A self-described lesbian leftist professor describes her conversion at Christianity Today.  “I continued reading the Bible, all the while fighting the idea that it was inspired. But the Bible got to be bigger inside me than I. It overflowed into my world. I fought against it with all my might. Then, one Sunday morning, I rose from the bed of my lesbian lover, and an hour later sat in a pew at the Syracuse Reformed Presbyterian Church.”
  • a Liberal-Democrat Member of Parliament and former minister, explaining why she voted against the redefinition of marriage in the British Parliament on February 5.   “My concern, however, is that by moving to a definition of marriage that no longer requires sexual difference, we will, over time, ultimately decouple the definition of marriage from family life altogether. I doubt that this change will be immediate. It will be gradual, as perceptions of what marriage is and is for shift. But we can already see the foundations for this shift in the debate about same-sex marriage. Those who argue for a change in the law do so by saying that surely marriage is just about love between two people and so is of nobody else’s business. Once the concept of marriage has become established in social consciousness as an entirely private matter about love and commitment alone, without any link to family, I fear that it will accelerate changes already occurring that makes family life more unstable.”
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The Decade’s Biggest Changes in Christianity

Several scholars and journalists weigh in at Christianity Today.  For example,

“The huge surge of Christianity in China is a major development that several decades down the road could make the difference between peace and war. If Christianity continues to grow in China, I think relations between the U.S. and China will develop very well. If Christianity sputters out there, we’re probably looking at a military confrontation of some kind. The hopes for world peace depend on what happens in China.”
Marvin Olasky, editor-in-chief, WORLD Magazine

“The speed with which the emerging church movement has dissipated, or lost momentum. At the beginning of the decade, ’emerging’ was a huge buzzword. It peaked in 2002 or 2003; in the time since then, it has become a stigma or albatross that people don’t want to associate with. You don’t hear anyone talking about the emerging church any more. It doesn’t really sell the books that it used to. People thought it was going to be the next big thing and revolutionize the way we do church and change everything, but it seems like the reaction against it has been even more significant.”
Brett McCracken, author, Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide

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Insightful Commentary on Craigslist Erotic Services News

Her.meneutics (a Christianity Today blog) interviews Kaffie McCullough “who for eight years has led a statewide campaign to stop the prostitution of children in Georgia” and heads up the Atlanta-based A Future. Not a Past. program, a wing of the Juvenile Justice Fund.

If you’re not familiar with the recent developments, the post summarizes:

The same feature that has made Craigslist so popular — namely, unlimited free advertising — has brought the decade-old website under heavy criticism for providing unmonitored forums for prostitution in its 570 city hubs. After several state representatives met with Craigslist attorneys Wednesday, the site agreed to remove its “erotic services” section and replace it with an “adult services” section, in which posts will cost $5-10 and be manually reviewed by staff before going up.

The interview is eye-opening.  It begins:

What was your response to yesterday’s announcement?
I’m grateful that Craigslist is trying to monitor what’s happening, because their erotic services [section] was clearly a place where young girls were being prostituted. I have mixed feelings as to whether this is going to work. I’d want to know what they mean when they say they’re going to “monitor” it. And without training staff, for instance, the research that we’ve been doing since August 2007 says that people were not accurate when they’d make estimates as to whether somebody is young or not. I’d like to think Craigslist would be open to having training so that staff can screen more effectively.

I realize that all of this makes it harder for the perpetrators, but . . . the reality is that even if Craigslist had totally taken it down, that wouldn’t stop the problem of the prostitution of children — it would just spring up somewhere else.

Why has Craigslist become a hotbed of prostitution?
Craigslist is so easy, and so accessible, and so large. In other words, when we first started our research, we looked at other places, but it happened to such a greater extent on Craigslist that there was no point in taking the time to monitor the other websites, because the amount that was happening on Craigslist so dwarfed everything else . . .

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Death By Deism

One of the most widely held worldviews in the U. S. now may be the newly described Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. Collin Hansen at Christianity Today does a good job of describing it.  Does this sound familiar?

Though they aren’t journalists, Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton broke one of the biggest stories in contemporary religion with their 2005 book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. Conducting the most comprehensive study of religion and teenagers to date, the sociologists discovered a newly dominant creed that they dubbed Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). Rather than transformative revelation from God, religion has become a utility for enhancing a teenager’s life. Smith and Denton lay out the five points of MTD:

1. A God exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

Surely American teenagers did not invent this new religion. A quick scan of bestseller lists, television guides, or public school curricula will reveal MTD’s appeal. Indeed, the God of MTD sounds like the “cool parent” teenagers adore.

“God is something like a combination Divine Butler and Cosmic Therapist: he is always on call, takes care of any problems that arise, professionally helps his people to feel better about themselves, and does not become too personally involved in the process,” Smith and Denton write.

I’m pretty sure, though, this view isn’t limited to teenagers.  Seems pretty common among adults too – and in a lot of media.


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Brown Univ. Student Goes Undercover at Liberty Univ.

Liberty University
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Brown University student Kevin Roose decided to spend a semester at Liberty University and then wrote a book about his experience, The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University. Christianity Today interviewed Roose, who said his experience was surprisingly positive.

How does a self-professed “liberal” from Brown end up at Liberty?

I was fascinated by the idea of a school where every student has to follow this 46-page code of conduct called the Liberty Way, with no smoking, no drinking, no R-rated movies, no cursing. For me, this was more foreign than any European capital. And it struck me as sort of sad when I met the Liberty students. They looked like me, they talked like me, they acted like me, but they led totally different lives from me and I didn’t know what that entailed. I wanted to see if I could build a bridge there and find any common ground between my experience at Brown as a blue-state liberal, and the experience of a Liberty student.

What most fascinated you about evangelicals and evangelical culture?

My social circle was pretty much empty when it came to evangelical Christians, so my impression was that these students were just interesting and smart and personable. They were not at all like the caricatures I had adopted in the secular world: the placard-waving, backwoods evangelical. They were just nothing like that, so I was heartened by that. But it also made me intensely curious; they seemed like people I would get along with. What would actually happen if I tried? So I think it was their humanity that came through to me . . .

In a more recent interview, Roose says about his future plans,

“My first project is to graduate, and then I’ll pray about what to do next,” Roose said, acknowledging the follow-up question that regular prayer was one of the legacies of his semester at Liberty. “I’m comfortable calling myself a Christian now,” he elaborated. “I can reclaim that term. It means something to me now, even if it doesn’t mean the same thing to my friends at Liberty.” But the prayer, he continued, wasn’t about filing requests with God: “It’s not so much that prayer changes things,” he explained, citing the theologian Oswald Chambers, “but that prayer changes me, and then I can change things.”

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