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Two Heads are Better Than One

By Godsbooklover, Sunday, November 18, 2012                       —————————————————————

If you were paying attention earlier this year, you will recall that Charles Colson –author, speaker, founder of Prison Fellowship (and yes, also former Nixon aide and indicted Watergate co-conspirator)–died on April 21, at the age of 80.

Charles Colson pleaded guilty to the Watergate charges in 1974, and spent seven months in prison.  If you read only the lead paragraphs from the mainstream papers or news magazines, you know that fact…and little else.  However, Colson spent the next 35+ years impacting our culture in profound ways:  founding a ministry, writing books, speaking on the radio and in person on a variety of social issues and worldview issues. Prison Fellowship  is the largest ministry to inmates in the world.

Its official mission statement is:

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Two Heads are Better Than One

Are you familiar with the The Manhattan Declaration?  If you haven’t read it, you can do so now.  It will take you about 15 minutes to read carefully, being a bit longer than the post I would generally have written here.

It is an ecumenical statement by Catholic, Orthodox and Evangelical Christians, first published almost three years ago (on September 28, 2009), which calls individuals–not institutions–to several explicit statements of belief and purpose:

While the whole scope of Christian moral concern, including a special concern for the poor and vulnerable, claims our attention, we are especially troubled that in our nation today

–the lives of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are severely threatened;

–that the institution of marriage, already buffeted by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is in jeopardy of being redefined to accommodate fashionable ideologies;

–that freedom of religion and the rights of…

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I’m reading Socrates in the City.  The book is a compilation of transcripts from events that writer/speaker Eric Metaxas plans and introduces.  (You can read more about Socrates in the City at their website.)  I’ve just finished reading Bishop N.T. Wright’s talk.  Near the beginning of his time, he referenced an editorial by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, in which he uses a striking pair of visual images to look leadership on a large scale.

In the Jewish Scriptures (our “Old Testament”) the people of Israel were being led by God Himself, the pillar of fire and cloud.  Sacks likened this to a GPS system, the kind one has in the car. God would tell them what was going to happen and where they were going. Every time the Israelites would prove to be willful and contrary, saying, “But we don’t want to do that! We don’t want to go there!”  God would in effect sigh and say, “Recalculating.”  He knew the destination He intended for them, but the route they were choosing was much more roundabout and rocky.

The other leadership style Sacks referenced was that of a certain species of ants who, when lost, will simply follow the ant in front on the assumption that somewhere up ahead someone knows the way.  There are cases (he says) of whole colonies starving by walking around in circles, each ant following the ant in front of him.

Bishop Wright was much struck with the question that ended the rabbi’s editorial:

  Which are we more like?  Are we more like the children of Israel, maybe getting it wrong, but  maybe still just about listening for a voice?  Or are we like those ants just merely following the ant in front, everybody hoping that if we follow where the fashion is going intellectually, societally, culturally, or whatever, then we’ll all get somewhere, while in fact all we are doing is going round in circles?

This is a great question, both for Christians today, and for citizens of any free country–certainly for Americans.  To whom are we listening?  Who is our authority?  Most of us are not smart enough, not objective enough, not strong or self-reliant enough to TRULY march to our own drummer…and those who do are often mad or at least eccentric.  We need to ask, “Who am I following?  And WHY?”  What is their credential that makes them trustworthy?  Or am I just walking along assuming that someone somewhere knows what’s best so I don’t need to worry about it?

Socrates famously said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”  And this pair of images suggest that the unexamined path is not worth travelling.  It’s just not safe.

Who are you following?

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you,saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”  Isaiah 30:21

” My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”  John 10:27

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Two Heads are Better Than One

Godsbooklover finally weighing in on this conversation!  Warning:  this is long and has no pictures.  Read at your own risk.

I’ve been pondering the Supreme Court decision for a couple of days now, in my spare minutes not devoted to caring for granddaughter, volunteering at a mercy ministry, and coping with a power outage after a terrific windstorm here on Friday afternoon.  (Some 100,000 households won’t get electricity back until some time Tuesday or Wednesday, but our family is staying with kind friends, so we are now cool and connected.)

As surprised and incensed as I was, JTR was more so, and he was ready with a scathing and articulate response, so I felt it wasn’t really necessary for me to add my two cents right away.  The sentence of my brother’s that resonated most with me was actually in one of his comments:

I answer to…

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Two Heads are Better Than One

180-movie

From the180 Movie Facebook page, this sobering statistic:

Annually Abortions KILL more Children than the entire population of Texas, New York, and Colorado COMBINED.

Almost as disturbing, to me, was this statement:

According to Wikipedia, in the USA an estimated 95% – 98% of Down Syndrome babies are aborted when the condition is detected from a screening.   

Hitler also killed Down Syndrome children.

Right after I read that Facebook post, I picked upEric MetaxasSocrates in the City (and if you don’t know who he is–check out his website, AND the Socrates in the City website; it’s a treasure trove of thought-provoking material).  This book is a set of transcripts of talks by some of the most important and influential guests to appear at these events held in Manhattan over the past 12 years or so. I’d been reading it, slowly–there is a lot to digest…

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“And now for something completely different…”   A friend told me about the Trifecta blog, which issues twice-weekly writing prompts.  The weekday challenge is to use the THIRD definition of a given word in a piece of writing which is between 33 and 333 words long.  This week’s word is ‘blue’–the 3rd definition is ‘melancholy’.  Here’s my submission.  It’s 33 words exactly:

Becalmed: the brittle azure sky

was cloudless, mirroring ultramarine depths

as still as glass beneath the lifeless navy flag.

Listlessly, the Captain sighed.  “You feelin’ blue, sir?”

“Aye. We’ve run out of tea.”

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This is a follow up to my post from Thursday about an article in Christianity Today.  It’s a very long article about a phenomenon within the Church which Professor Bergler calls “juvenilization”.  I am making the case that this is actually true of our entire culture, secular and sacred.

The more I think about the notion that an entire culture has succumbed to the allure of youth, and trapped itself in immaturity, the more troubled I become. Once upon a time, I thought the cult of youth was just the worship of the body beautiful–lithe, smooth-skinned young flesh–and a corresponding fear of aging and death.  But I fear the truth is far more frightening and insidious.  The more we become a “visual” culture, the more easily we fall into this trap of juvenilization…the hypnotic draw of TV, video, computer, and ‘Droid have sucked us in.  We read less, we react more.  We ponder less, we play more.  We don’t reflect, we just “like” reflexively.

We blame it all on being busy…we don’t have time to read something substantial. Give me the news briefs, please. Give me the short sentences, the pithy paragraphs, the headlines.  Read a book?  Well…maybe on Kindle, where I can keep pausing to play Angry Birds.  But our appetite for sound bites seems to leave us empty of deep thought while forever hungry for more hot air.

This vicious cycle–where did it start?  Bergler claims that within the Church community it was a result of trying to “market” Christianity to youth.  I could spend a lot of time researching and reporting to you what I think is at the root of this cultural phenomenon.

But it doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that we work to regain a society of mature people who aren’t afraid of careful reading carefully and reasoning logically, who don’t flinch away from ideas that are unsettling or demanding.  So I want to talk about solutions.

This morning my pastor put a book in my hands.  It was a ‘thank you’ for a very minor job I volunteered to do awhile back.  I’ll tell you the title in a minute.  But in the introduction, these words are quoted:  “As a man thinketh, so is he.”  This is from Proverbs 23:7, and in context simply means that you can’t judge what someone thinks of you by their words–they may be outwardly polite and inwardly cursing you.  The author, Robert P. Morgan, wants to make a case for this verse meaning that what we think defines who we are.  This has led him to write a book about what we put into our minds, in this specific case, verses of Scripture.

Although I think the verse in Proverbs is weak as a foundation, I have no problem with his premise:  “garbage in/garbage out” is a truism.  And there are other Scriptures which say much the same thing, my favorite being from Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi, chapter 4, verse 8:

Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable,  whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.

So DO we want to be commendable, morally excellent, truthful, honorable, pure?  …Then I suggest that reading, watching, absorbing a steady diet of tripe, gossip, pornography, violence and lies is probably not an effective strategy.   I don’t personally think the majority of Americans want to be trivial, gossipy, thrill-seeking, simplistic and vulgar.  But somewhere along the line, we’ve gotten the idea that we can give lip service to an ideal, then go and do whatever we want, whatever is easy, comfortable, fun, relaxing, low key and unchallenging.

The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer indicted the Church for doing this to faith.  He called it “cheap grace”…the notion that one can say a prayer of commitment to Jesus, and show up in church on Sundays when convenient, and–no worries, never have to really work at a faithful life, never need to change a habit, strive to do better, seek truth ever again.

Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without repentance; it is baptism without the discipline of community; it is the Lord’s Supper without confession of sin; it is absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without the living, incarnate Jesus Christ.

I think this is a real problem within the Church, because we’ve absorbed the attitude of our culture, to do everything the easiest way possible.  Movements like the “Rebelution” Do Hard Things youth conferences were excitingly counter-culture,and I pray that they have ignited a spark of fire in our youth.  Meanwhile, I fear that most of us in this country enjoy “cheap patriotism”: the sense that we’re entitled, as Americans, to all the rights and privileges that pertain thereto, but owe nothing in return…not so much as the duty to be well informed before we enter a voting booth.  

Of course young people want to do what’s quick and easy…it’s human nature.  That doesn’t make it right, wise or best.  That’s why God gave them parents…to model for them that doing what takes more time, energy and thought is not only better in the long run, it brings even short-term satisfaction, and builds character in ways that no short cut ever can.

That book title?  100 Bible Verses everyone should know by heart.  In the interest of countering creeping juvenility, I’m going to start here and now, with this book.   My hope is that the more I fill my mind with God’s truth, the more that Truth will come out in my conversations with those in my circle of influence, including unsaved friends and neighbors…and a precious granddaughter.  That is certainly incentive to avoid cheap grace and cheap patriotism, too.

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Two Heads are Better Than One

Thanks to a Facebook friend for providing the link to an excellent and sobering article in this month’s Christianity Today.

It’s not just that our youthcentric culture ignores the fact that youth are stupid (as JTR wrote yesterday), and seems oblivious that pandering to youth’s massive ego is ultimately self-destructive.  The ugly truth is that we have ALL, by and large, been “juvenilized.”  Huntington University professor Thomas Bergler’s lengthy, excellent article (adapted from his book, The Juvenilization of American Christianity) diagnoses the state of the Church in America in four words–and I believe that those same four words describe a huge problem in America at large:  “We’re all adolescents now.”

Here’s a bit of background on how Bergler sees the changing face of evangelicalism:

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Two Heads are Better Than One

In the midst of our pastor’s sermon yesterday morning, entitled “The Normal Christian Life Includes Persecution,” he made a statement that I had to check out.  I found this at The National Catholic Reporter (you’ll have to scroll down quite a bit to read all of this part of that article.  Here’s the salient statistic):

Aid to the Church in Need, a German-based Catholic aid agency, produces a widely trusted annual report on global threats to religious freedom. It estimates that somewhere between 75 percent and 85 percent of all acts of religious persecution are directed against Christians. In a report to the European Parliament last month, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life said that while Muslims and Jews face significant persecution, “Christians faced some sort of harassment in two-thirds of all countries,” or 133 states.

Most of the persecution, according to a map of restricted countries at

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Reblogging my own post from this morning over at Two Heads Are Better Than One.

[My thanks to Indiana Right to Life‘s Lifeline Report for pointing me to this story!]

Well, somehow this slipped under MY radar.  Apparently, on May 8 Ellie Shafer, Director of the White House Visitor’s office, distributed an email newsletter to members of Congress and others, detailing the correct way to register an unborn child  into the security system used for arranging White House tours.

Read that again.  Our virulently “pro-choice” (read:  in favor of killing your baby for any reason whatsoever right up until the moment before it’s born) President wants every unborn baby included in the overall count of guests on a tour.  Here is the full text of the email (courtesy of LifeNews.com)

We have received a number of calls regarding how to enter security information for a baby that has not yet been born.

Crazy as it may sound, you MUST include the baby in the overall count of guests in the tour. It’s an easy process.

  • LAST NAME: The family’s last name
  • FIRST NAME: “Baby” as a first name
  • MIDDLE NAME: NMN as in No Middle Name
  • DOB: Use the date you are submitting the request to us as their birthday
  • GENDER: if the parents know put that gender down if not, you can enter either M or F as we’ll ask you to update it at the time of birth
  • SOCIAL: As they will not have a SSN and are under 18, you will not need to enter this field. Again if the spreadsheet asked for a social enter 9 zero’s (not the word nine zeros but 000000000 and yes it happens!)
  • CITIZEN/CITY/STATE: The citizen, city and state should be entered the same as the parents

My mind is boggled…what is the purpose for this?  I assume that the unborn baby is not a security threat?  Unless, taking a page from the TSA handbook, White House security wants to make sure that an apparently pregnant woman isn’t smuggling explosive watermelons.  If instead the concern is for the security of the guests, and the unborn child is being treated as one of the guests to be protected, that is laudable but ironic, to say the least.

Douglas Johnson, National Right to Life’s legislative director, commented on the juxtaposition between the White House visitor log policy and its abortion policy.

“It is ironic that President Obama’s staff recognizes the existence of unborn babies for purposes of providing security within the White House — yet, there is no indication that President Obama has any problem with the fact that throughout the District of Columbia, abortion is now legal for any reason up to the moment of birth,” he told LifeNews.

Still trying to figure out what this has to do with security.  I would assume that President Paranoid and his staff would be very worried about potential crazies (other than themselves) in the Oval Office.  Not convinced that it has the security of its visitors primarily in mind.  Which leads me right back to my first question:  how is an unborn baby a threat?

Oh.  Right.  Just by being an unborn BABY, rather than a faceless blob of tissue.  As if the baby had a choice. 

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