Truth, Tattoos, and Transgender Issues

I spent a couple months publishing a single article every weekday, but it seemed that people preferred it when I did one post a week linking multiple articles. So, we’re back.

Speaking Truth in the Midst of Our Messes

By Scott Mehl in Relevant

My entire life I have been surrounded by messy people with messy lives. The only reason it doesn’t bother me is because I’m messy, too.

But it should be familiar to be around messy people. That’s what the church is. …

Whatever the cause of the mess, God has a plan to help each one of us grow. And at the center of his plan he has placed you and me. I am called to speak the truth to you in the midst of your mess. You are called to speak the truth to me in the midst of my mess. This is not just the calling of pastors, missionaries, counselors, or Bible study leaders; if you are a Christian, this is your calling, too. God wants to use you, even in the midst of your mess, to speak loving truth into the lives of other messy people.

Read the rest of this article, The Danger of Love Without Truth and Truth Without Love, here.

Faith and Tattoos

By RHIANNON SAEGERT in the Waco Tribune Herald

A study on Baylor students’ religious tattoos revealed some emotional truths and lingering stigmas. …

He said more than a quarter of the U.S. population now has a tattoo, and 71% of people who get one tattoo get more. Nearly half of millennials, defined as those born between 1981 and 1998, have them. Generation Z, the latest generation of adults, is just as likely to acquire them.

“It’s just become a part, increasingly, of mainstream life in the United States,” Dougherty said.

The study looked at the tattoos themselves, their placement on the body and their size. Dougherty said men were most likely to get larger religious tattoos on their forearms and back and were more likely to have visible tattoos. Women opted for smaller tattoos in places that are easy to conceal, like their wrists or feet. …

“The religious tattoos seem to play a different role for people,” Dougherty said. “Instead of a proclamation of identity, it appears to be a reminder of identity.”

Finish this article, More than skin deep: Baylor prof analyzes religious tattoos, here.

Now, About That Transgender Thing

By James Emery White

In a stunning op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal, Colin Wright, an evolutionary biologist at Penn State, and Emma Hilton, a developmental biologist at the University of Manchester, give a full-throated denunciation of transgender ideology titled “The Dangerous Denial of Sex.” Their position can be summed up in a sentence: “Increasingly we see a dangerous and antiscientific trend toward the outright denial of biological sex.”

They go further and call the denial of the reality of biological sex and supplanting it with subjective “gender identity” as nothing more than an “eccentric academic theory.” They also make a powerful case that current transgender ideology will hurt women who have fought hard for sex-based legal protections.

I’m thinking that may be enough to get your curiosity up, so you can read the full article here.

And finally, want to hear Justin Bieber preach the Good News on Apple Music? Here you go!

‘Doubting’ Thomas Just Had Questions … Just Like You

By Amanda Hurd

I think its fair to say that most people in Christian communities have heard about the disciple Thomas. You know, the guy who wouldn’t believe his friends when they told him Jesus rose from the dead. And consequentially got named “Doubting Thomas” by all the grace filled Christians that came after him. …

But Thomas, poor Thomas, always a doubter right? I mean who wouldn’t believe someone just raised themselves from the dead. That’s normal right? Why would anyone doubt that? Why would anyone look at a group of people who claim they saw it happen and need slightly more evidence to believe.

Well friends, in the spirit of asking questions, let me ask another. Why do you think Jesus appeared to every disciple at once, except Thomas? The man just raised Himself from the dead. He has power over the wind, waves, demons and all. He could’ve orchestrated them all coming together if He wanted. But He didn’t. Why? 

Personally, I think He set Thomas up. I think He intentionally left Thomas out of the first revelation so he would press a little further. So, he would ask questions. 

Jesus is not afraid of our questions. 

I think one of the biggest lies facing the Church today is that to have faith, we must never ask for revelation or wisdom.

I’m not going to ruin the whole article. You’ll have to read it for yourself.

A Worldview Approach to Science and Scripture: A Review

A Worldview Approach to Science and Scripture by Carol Hill

First off, this book is gorgeous! I’m required to tell you I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, but this was not what I was expecting. I expected a little paperback copy that was marked as a review copy and still brimming with typos.

When I opened the box, my jaw dropped. This is a coffee-table book. A keepsake. The book is large, the cover is beautiful, and the drawings and charts it contains are colorful and well-done. I will display this book for years, both for its cover and its content.

Because, make no mistake, the content is amazing, too. Carol Hill teaches geology at the University of New Mexico, where she can easily study one of her passions, the Grand Canyon. She has a Ph.D. in geology and has been featured on NOVA and National Geographic Naked Science. She is also a committed Christian who loves the Bible.

And her approach to balancing the Bible and science is one I’ve been waiting for. She distances herself from the Christians who come thisclose to rejecting the Bible to accommodate the findings of science, but also those who (to be honest) disregard almost every major finding from almost every branch of science in order to stick to their interpretation of Genesis One.

The idea? The worldview of the writers and original hearers impacted how they viewed creation. Our understanding of their world should strongly impact how we interpret the Bible, especially the parts that potentially intersect with modern science. It’s a subtle distinction from the view of many who appreciate science at (it sometimes seems) the expense of the authority of Scripture.

She establishes her idea in the beginning of the book, then shows how it impacts the way we could/should read the Creation narratives, the Fall, the Flood, and more. The writing is solid. The full-color pictures and charts make it come alive.

One section I especially appreciate is her work on Adam and Eve. It’s always seemed to me that many Christians who appreciate science are a little to quick to jettison the idea of a literal Adam and Eve. I’m glad she thinks it is possible to reconcile Adam and science.

Like I said at the beginning, I will be keeping this book in easy reach for the foreseeable future, both for its beauty, but even more so for its content.

Unfortunately, one of the book’s greatest strengths can also be a weakness. This is a beautiful coffee-table book. It’s not a take-it-to-the-bathroom book, or stick-it-in-your-backpack-to-read-at-the-coffee-shop-or-on-a-plane-book. It’s too big and beautiful for those things. That means it is a difficult book to read cover-to-cover, though I think that would be highly valuable to do so. I personally read the introductory material, then paged through it, picking articles almost at random, enjoying the pictures and graphs. I kind of wish it came with a Kindle version so I could read it where I normally read and finish books–coffee shops, airplanes, my bed, and my bathroom.

It also suffers from an ailment I see in many books by people who were raised in Young-Earth Creationism who are writing for people who are still in the YEC camp. The author no longer understands where she came from.

A major example of this is the way she refers to the “author(s)” of Genesis. She doesn’t say Moses, or even author. It’s “author(s)”. Her reason for doing so is solid. Genesis shows many marks of being a compiled work (like Chronicles and Luke and John admit to being) rather than a book like Galatians which is a one-author, one-writing session composition. Genesis even comes close to admitting such when it both records Moses’ death and calls him the most humble person who ever lived.

But as someone still closely associated with good, sincere YEC Christians, I know that “author(s)” is a strong trigger. Heck, it triggers me. I think it would be much more productive to give a reason for admitting that many of the stories of Genesis were compiled more than composed, then also admit it’s very possible Moses was the primary compiler, then follow Jesus’ lead and just refer to the author as Moses. That would make it much easier to read for people who currently disagree with her but are willing to read dissenting opinions.

All that aside, this is a great book. I am so glad I have it in my library, or rather, on prominent display on a coffee table.

Ash Wednesday for Evangelicals

As a multi-denominational church, we have people who grew up with Ash Wednesday and Lent as central to their celebration of Easter, and people who make jokes about giving up cleaning out their bellybuttons for Lent. I grew up in the latter camp, but I am learning to appreciate the former.

For those of us who find Ash Wednesday and Lent a little strange, here’s an article to fill in the blanks, followed by an article that balances why people may or may not want to take up the practice.

What Is Ash Wednesday?

Each year, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. Often called the Day of Ashes, Ash Wednesday starts Lent by focusing the Christian’s heart on repentance and prayer, usually through personal and communal confession. Here’s what you need to know about this significant holiday.

By Kelly Givens

Each year, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent and is always 46 days before Easter Sunday. Lent is a 40-day season (not counting Sundays) marked by repentance, fasting, reflection, and ultimately celebration. The 40-day period represents Christ’s time of temptation in the wilderness, where he fasted and where Satan tempted him. Lent asks believers to set aside a time each year for similar fasting, marking an intentional season of focus on Christ’s life, ministry, sacrifice, and resurrection.

Read the rest of the article here.

Evangelicals Embracing (and Rejecting) Lent

By Trevin Wax

Some younger evangelicals appreciate Lent as an opportunity to implement a spiritual discipline that has a long history within the various wings of Christianity (Catholic, Orthodox, and many Protestants observe this time of reflection).

Other evangelicals believe Lent has the potential of leading us back into the bondage of perpetual penitence and rituals common to Catholicism, to which the Reformers rightly reacted.

You can read this article here.

Words Matter

Here are the notes in case you want to follow along.

“I Have a Dream”

As I mentioned in my sermon, Martin Luther King’s most famous speech can be divided into two sections. If you watch the video below, up until the 10:45 mark or so, you can see him frequently looking down at his notes.

Just after that mark, the cameras spend over a minute panning the enormous crowd. Most of that time you can tell he is still following his notes. But when the camera returns to Dr. King, at about 12:14, there is a shift. He starts a sentence, possibly from his notes, but after an interruption for applause, he abandons that sentence and starts a new one.

“So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.”

And with the camera clearly on him, he never looks down at his notes for the rest of the speech.

Gives me chills every time I watch it.

Here is the article that started me down the path to the story I shared. It’s a pretty good read.

Innovation and Winging the “I Have a Dream” Speech

by Doug Paul

Two hours before standing at the steps of Lincoln to deliver one of the most important speeches ever given, in the literal shadow of monument to rhetorical greatness from one hundred years before, Martin Luther King, Jr. couldn’t land the speech. Minutes before it was time, he was still furiously working on it, knowing it wasn’t there yet. “Just before King spoke, politician Drew Hensen writes, he was “crossing out lines and scribbling new ones as he awaited his turn. And it looked like he was still editing the speech until he walked to the podium to deliver it.”

He stood at the podium and delivered the opening pages of the speech, staying mostly on course, but ad libbing a few extras here and there. But about mid way through, the voice of King’s favorite gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson, came ringing through the audience behind him:

“Tell ’em about the dream, Martin!”

Read the rest of the article here.

Down Syndrome and the Image of God

My little brother Kerry had Down Syndrome, so articles like this one always strike a chord with me.

By Samuel L. Caraballo

In 2008, my daughter Natalia was born with 47 chromosomes, a condition is usually known as trisomy 21 or Down syndrome. Before her birth, all I knew about Down syndrome came from my high school and college courses. Sad to say, most of the scientific literature I had consulted throughout my academic training treated “trisomy 21” as a “chromosomal aberration” that can be detected and even prevented through medical advances in prenatal screening. Other than the extensive list of medical complications, I never read anything positive or encouraging about individuals affected by such conditions. …

Although trisomy 21 causes intellectual and physical challenges, it is also true that with appropriate support and treatment, many people with Down syndrome lead happy and productive lives. My wife and I often joke that the hardest part of raising a child with Down syndrome is having to deal with people that do not have Down syndrome.

Raising Natalia has helped me understand the danger of reducing a person’s potential to her genetic profile. Although it has been unquestionably a lonely road for our family, Natalia’s humor and perseverance through adversity have brought us joy and a sense of purpose.

This is not to say that my faith in Christ was automatically strengthened by my daughter’s arrival. On the contrary, a serious theological crisis ensued the moment that beautiful, but not “typical,” girl came to this world. Ironically, my faith crisis was accentuated by my “faithful adherence” to a particular biblical understanding of what constitutes the image of God in humans.

… in the course of loving and caring for my daughter, I have come to realize that the image of God does not need to be thought of as an “inventory” or a “checklist” of desirable human traits. Despite her evident challenges, God’s image is displayed all over Natalia’s life, not by means of her specific skills or talents, but by virtue of the one who endowed her with such capabilities. Her contagious belly laugh and her dancing abilities are a reflection of her purpose rather than a justification of her worth. I have come to understand God’s image upon individuals with and without congenital impairments as a “divine seal” that denotes our intrinsic worth despite the presence or absence of any given feature.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Is the Rise of the Nones Slowing?

One of the biggest shifts in the past few years has been the increase in people who classify themselves as “None of the Above” when asked about their religious affiliation. While most experts expected the trend to continue into the near future (at least), preliminary data suggests the trend may actually be slowing.

Is the rise of the nones slowing? Scholars say maybe

(RNS) — For the past 25 years, the number of Americans claiming no religion has steadily ballooned as more and more people quit church, synagogue or mosque and openly acknowledged being a  “none.”

The reality is particularly stark when looked at from a generational perspective. If 10% of people from the silent generation (born 1928-1945) consider themselves religiously unaffiliated, a whopping 40% of millennials (born 1981-1996) say they have no religion, according to Pew Research.

But this week, three political scientists who study religion have raised the possibility that the number of nones may be leveling off. Looking at a set of recent surveys, they suggest Generation Z, broadly defined as the 68 million Americans born after 1996, don’t look any less religious than the millennial generation that came before.

Americans once embraced their religious identities. They are now more willing to admit they don’t have one because it’s no longer socially desirable to declare an affiliation.

“A lot of marginally attached Protestants and Catholics who went once a year used to say they were Catholic or Protestant,” said Burge, a political scientist at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois. “But now it’s easier to say you’re a ‘none.’ So they say, ‘I’m not religious at all.’”

Because this social desirability bias waned considerably over the past decade, it became more acceptable for those marginally religious to report being unaffiliated, which likely contributed to the sharp uptick in nones over such a short time. Now, that group has largely already claimed that status, and those who remain affiliated are committed to their faiths and likely to remain more stable.

[Read the entire article here. It’s not very long and has a cool graph.]

Is it Anti-Jesus to be Anti-Refugee?

To be a Christian means to model you positions on the Christ. This author believes that to stand with Jesus we have to stand for refugees. I’m with him and Jesus on this one.

Why Anti-Refugee Sentiment Within Christian Circles Is Anti-Jesus

When U.S. Christians promote the message that the comfort and traditions of Americans come before the very life of vulnerable human beings because they are strangers, we are in direct opposition to what Jesus taught: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

When a person cites wanting to keep our nation’s Judeo-Christian values intact as an argument for limiting refugee resettlement, let us remember this: Cultural, racial, and ethnic diversity do not erase Christian values; they strengthen them. Religious freedom and the ability to worship as we choose does not endanger our nation; they solidify the principles we were founded on. New languages, perspectives, stories, and experiences do not lessen the American spirit; they invigorate it. Refugees make our nation stronger and kinder; they bring new life, new ambition, and new perspectives, and as followers of Christ, we are called to be the first in line to welcome and love our new neighbors.

Read the whole article here. (Short article, easy to read.)

More Than 3 in 5 Americans Are Lonely

Loneliness is almost an epidemic in our culture, which should provide a door for us to reach out to people where they are hurting. And it looks like where we work could be a great place to make connections.

Most Americans Are Lonely, And Our Workplace Culture May Not Be Helping

More than three in five Americans are lonely, with more and more people reporting feeling like they are left out, poorly understood and lacking companionship, according to a new article. Workplace culture and conditions may contribute to Americans’ loneliness.

And loneliness may be on the rise. The report, led by the health insurer Cigna, found a nearly 13% rise in loneliness since 2018, when the survey was first conducted. …

Pervasive loneliness “has widespread effects,” says Bert Uchino, a professor at the University of Utah who studies relationships and health. It’s strongly linked to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. …

The report found several factors that were linked to increased feelings of isolation in 2019. Loneliness appeared to be more common among men. The survey found 63% of men to be lonely, compared with 58% of women.

Social media use was tied to loneliness as well, with 73% of very heavy social media users considered lonely, as compared with 52% of light users. …

“In-person connections are what really matters,” says Doug Nemecek, chief medical officer for behavioral health at Cigna. “Sharing that time to have a meaningful interaction and a meaningful conversation, to share our lives with others, is important to help us mitigate and minimize loneliness.”

Read the whole article here. And if you were thinking about joining a Connection Group or signing up for a Triad, it might be a good idea.