January 31, 2013
This is where high church and high fashion meet.
All this video needs is a soundtrack featuring "I'm Too Sexy for my Vestment."
January 31, 2013
This is where high church and high fashion meet.
All this video needs is a soundtrack featuring "I'm Too Sexy for my Vestment."
January 30, 2013
Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A, models a Christian response to gay activism.
Last summer controversy erupted when Dan Cathy, president and COO of Chick-fil-A, gave an interview expressing his opposition to same sex marriage based on biblical teachings. Gay rights activists also reacted to the fast food company's financial support for organizations that sought to block SSM.
In the weeks that followed, supporters of Chick-fil-A and traditional marriage showed their solidarity by lining up at the restaurants for a fried chicken sandwich, and members of the GLBT community rallied protests to block the restaurants from entering some cities. The entire episode highlighted the widening divide between conservative Christians and the gay community, and few had hope that reconciliation was possible.
What we did not know was that Dan Cathy, rather than fighting this battle in the media, chose to pursue a more Christ-honoring way. He reached out to Shane Windmeyer, the leader of Campus Pride--the pro-LGBT organization that was leading the fight against Chick-fil-A. Cathy developed a friendship with Shane and his husband, and a foundation of mutual respect was created.
Earlier this week Windmeyer "came out" about his friendship with Cathy in a column for Huffington Post. He writes:
Throughout the conversations Dan expressed a sincere interest in my life, wanting to get to know me on a personal level. He wanted to know about where I grew up, my faith, my family, even my husband, Tommy. In return, I learned about his wife and kids and gained an appreciation for his devout belief in Jesus Christ and his commitment to being "a follower of Christ" more than a "Christian." Dan expressed regret and genuine sadness when he heard of people being treated unkindly in the name of Chick-fil-A -- but he offered no apologies for his genuine beliefs about marriage.
January 29, 2013
Childrens ministry, VBS, and learning to really worship.
Phil starts off the podcast by recounting his recent trip to a children’s ministry conference and singing a song he wrote for the occasion. The crew talks about a viral news story featuring Pat Robertson, before bringing in this week’s guest – Phil’s mom! Scottie May has her Ph.D in Christian Education, and teaches in the Christian formation ministry department at Wheaton College where she specializes in children’s ministry. They discuss VBS, how to creatively engage children, attention spans, and how to be more reflective in worship.
Scottie May is an associate professor of Christian Formation and Ministry at Wheaton College. She has her Ph.D in Christian Education from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Scottie’s area of interest and expertise is children’s ministry, and she has co-authored 3 books.
January 25, 2013
Just how “post-racial” is our society?
My wife and I just adopted our first child. We have learned a lot about ourselves and God and the Christian community through this journey. But one lesson that has been driven home time and again is how deeply entrenched racial prejudice is in the United States.
This fact was reinforced in our adoption training. Because we pursued a domestic adoption (i.e., a child from the United States) and were happy to adopt a child of any ethnicity, our licensing and preparation involved learning to be a “conspicuous” family: one that can’t hide the fact that a child is adopted because he or she is ethnically different than the adoptive parents. We’ve taken classes on how to respond to insensitive comments from strangers and family, such as: “Is that your real baby?” or “Does he speak English?” or “She’s so lucky to have you,” which implies that the child would be less fortunate to be raised by parents of her own ethnic background. We’ve even learned to anticipate the question “Is that one of those crack babies?” which implies that the biological parents of a minority child must be drug addicts. Because our son, James, is African American, we are prepared to be on the receiving end of racial prejudice for the first time in our lives.
Perhaps a greater outrage is the dollar amounts that are often affixed to skin color. At our agency, the placement fee is the same for children of all ethnicities. But in many places in the country, adopting a Caucasian child can cost almost twice as much as adopting a non-white or biracial child. This is because ethnic minority children are deemed “hard to place”—fewer families are willing to adopt them—and are thus considered less desirable. Often, the lighter skinned a child is, the more expensive he or she is to adopt. This is true even among Christian adoptive parents and at Christian agencies. The Bible says all humans are created in God’s image. There should be no 50-percent discounts. How, then, can Americans—even American Christians—tolerate a practice that deems some children to be “less desirable” than others?
January 24, 2013
Why are Catholics welcomed & Evangelicals pushed from the public square?
Two weeks ago Louie Giglio was invited to pray at President Obama’s second inauguration. The inaugural committee praised his efforts to end modern slavery and human trafficking. The day after the announcement, however, ThinkProgress discovered a sermon Giglio preached in the 1990s in which he identified homosexual activity as “sin in the eyes of God.” (The full sermon can he heardhere.) Less than 24-hours later the inaugural committee announced a new, gay-affirming, faith leader would be found to pray at the event and Louie Giglio withdrew.
The reaction by some evangelical leaders was swift and severe. Many said Giglio’s removal was a violation of his religious liberty.Russel Moore said, “When it is now impossible for one who holds to the catholic Christian view of marriage and the gospel to pray at a public event, we now have a de facto established state church.”Tony Perkins called it a new “moral McCarthyism,” and Gabe Lyons wrote that the White House had “bullied” Giglio.
The entire episode was poorly handled, and I sympathize for Louie Giglio. I absolutely disagree with the characterization of him in the media as “hateful” or a “bigot.” And while there is some reason to view his removal from the inauguration as a turning point for evangelical participation in the public square, it also provides the opportunity to reflect on how evangelicals themselves may be at fault. In other words, before we point out the speck in the eye of the LGBT activists who pushed Giglio out, perhaps we ought to see the log in our own.
In the LA Times, Michael McGough identified a fact overlooked by many of those condemning the Obama administration for religious intolerance. At the last significant gathering of Obama’s supporters, the Democratic National Convention in August, the President invited Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, to pray. Dolan’s views on sexuality are just as conservative as Giglio’s, and unlike Giglio Dolan has been an outspoken critic of numerous Obama policies. McGough asks, “Is President Obama guilty of a double standard when it comes to clergymen who condemn homosexuality?” Why are Roman Catholic leaders acceptable while evangelicals are not?
We may find an explanation by looking at evangelicalism and Catholicism through the lens of branding.
January 23, 2013
Plus stomach pumps, Belgian twins, and the gay rights movement.
Phil announces the launch of the all new JellyTelly, and the crew discusses the Golden Globes, euthanasia and gun control. They talk about Louie Giglio’s invitation to pray at President Obama’s inauguration, why he withdrew from the event, and then the gay rights movement. Are Christians really becoming an oppressed minority?
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January 22, 2013
While we celebrate the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr., the church in the U.S. remains horribly divided.
A couple of years ago, I took a road trip across the country with my best friend. We took our sweet time, rolled the windows down, and let our hair whip into tangles. We wandered off the beaten path a few times: the largest Catholic church in Kansas, the Precious Moments museum in Missouri. When we were in Memphis, we just happened to remember that this was the place where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. On a whim, we stopped by the memorial, complete with a tour of the museum erected at the hotel where the tragedy happened.
The sun beat down on us as we looked at the balcony where he once stood and saw the wreath hanging on the door of the infamous hotel room. We stayed for a moment or two, the sweat running down our backs as we thought our uncomfortable thoughts. And then we prepared to go on our way, off to the next adventure on our road trip.
But we were stopped by a large crowd gathering in the parking lot, everyone milling about and dressed in matching white clothes. Was this some sort of family reunion, or a tour group with a dress code? We watched as the crowd assembled in front of the place where MLK was taken from us, and we watched as everyone grew silent and still. Even the little children were sober-faced, heartbreakingly spotless in their white sweater vests and dresses.
The solemnity of the moment became very clear at once. While we were sight-seers in the land of oppression, for many this place was something akin to a pilgrimage. We watched as people paid their respects, tears in their eyes. And as we drove off, my friend and I suddenly felt like the outsiders we were. We tried to push away the uneasiness we felt, the words we couldn’t then begin to articulate. We had just wanted to pay our respects, to see a historical site. But instead we had witnessed collective grieving, had gotten a glimpse into what Dr. King had lived and died for. Even now, looking back, I have to wonder: were the pilgrims that day crying over his death? Or were they crying for our country, and how few of MLK’s dreams had come true?
January 18, 2013
It’s a big deal, but not for the reasons you might think.
On January 10th, Louie Giglio declined the invitation to pray the benediction at the Presidential Inauguration over pressure relating to an "anti-gay” sermon that he preached almost twenty years ago. Depending on who you’re talking with, Giglio’s move was either a cultural victory because of his secret “hatred” of LGBT people; or it marks a definitive end to evangelicalism as we know it. But are these the only two ways to think about this? I don’t think so. Here’s my take:
1) The evangelical voice is still being heard.
Many opinionated evangelicals have little personal experience with those who advise and surround the President. I’m not talking about Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Jay Carney, or even Joshua Dubois. I’m talking about the people who are never in front of the camera but play significant roles in shaping public policy. As someone who has had occasion to know and work with them, I can say with confidence that there are more professing and practicing evangelicals throughout our government than most people suspect.
Regardless of what you think of the President, he does surround himself with a variety of worldviews, opinions, and experiences. Just because he “comes out” with definitive statements supporting the topics that matter most to LGBTs, doesn’t mean he is not genuinely listening to people behind the scenes from many different viewpoints. Intentionally included in these inner-circle conversations are conservative evangelicals.
January 16, 2013
Can someone say "yes" to Jesus and "no" to the church?
A recent Christianity Today article by Timothy Tennant profiles the growing number of “insider Christians” in Hindu and Muslim nations. These disciples worship Jesus while remaining engaged with their religious communities.
The piece joins an ongoing debate regarding these believers… and, tangentially, others who for one reason or another practice a form of “churchless Christianity.” At one point in the article, Tennant touches the heart of the argument by asking, “Can someone say ‘yes’ to Jesus and ‘no’ to the existing local expressions of the church?”
In tandem with Tennant’s piece, CT published a 2011 interview with “Abu Jaz,” a leader among a significant insider movement in eastern Africa that calls itself People of the Gospel. His testimony includes a powerful personal encounter with Christ, and is a compelling story of finding and following Jesus among the mosques and minarets of his culture.
These believers are understandably hesitant to call themselves “Christians”—a term often associated with cultural imperialism and historical conflict. Many would risk persecution if outed as “Christian,” and are reluctant to give up cultural and relational identities that are deeply enmeshed with their dominant culture’s faith.
Much of this seems to be only a matter of words. To butcher Shakespeare, a rose by any other name is still a rose, right? But there’s more than semantics involved here. Our theological and relational posture toward such insider movements will profoundly impact our thoughts and practice related to mission and the church, both globally and at home.
January 15, 2013
Does the health care mandate call for civil disobedience, and the problem with "safe" Christian media.
In this week's Phil Vischer Podcast, Skye introduces his new book Futureville. They discuss the current conflict between Hobby Lobby and the new contraception mandate, which leads to a conversation about the role of government and civil disobedience. They talk about the "controversy" around the Neil Patrick Harris ad for the Super Bowl, and then a petition to designate the Roman Catholic Church a hate group. The podcast ends with a discussion about whether or not our churches, Christian radio, and Christian entertainment have become too "family friendly" and paint an unrealistic portrait of faith.
January 11, 2013
2012 was nearly a flatline year for the religiously unaffiliated.
Out of Ur has long been part of the conversation about the growing population of religiously unaffiliated “nones” in America. If you're new to the term, "nones" do not identify as religious when polled, and have been a steadily growing demographic in the US, drawing particular attention from analysts and the media over the past few years. (Read two of our past posts covering this trend here and here.)
But last year at least, the steady climb slowed to a crawl. According to a recent Gallup report,
The percentage of American adults who have no explicit religious identification averaged 17.8% in 2012, up from 14.6% in 2008—but only slightly higher than the 17.5% in 2011. The 2011 to 2012 uptick in religious "nones" is the smallest such year-to-year increase over the past five years of Gallup Daily tracking of religion in America.
January 10, 2013
What the controversy following Obama’s selection of the pastor to pray at the second inaugural says about the gap between gays and evangelicals.
This week the White House announced that Louie Giglio would offer the benediction at President Obama’s second inauguration. Giglio isn’t a stranger to Obama or official White House events. Last year he prayed with the President at the White House Easter Prayer Breakfast which I attended. At the time no one raised any objection to Giglio’s participation either in the media, or at the event which included those with more progressive views on the issue of gay rights.
That is no longer the case. It seems that after the inauguration committee announced Giglio’s role, the Center for American Progress Action Fund discovered a sermon by Giglio from the 1990s titled “In Search of a Standard--Christian Response to Homosexuality.” In the message Giglio identifies homosexual activity as “sin in the eyes of God, and it is sin in the word of God.” He warned that the movement to normalize homosexuality “is not a benevolent movement,” and added, “It is a movement to seize by any means necessary the feeling and the mood of the day, to point where the homosexual lifestyle become accepted as a norm in our society.” (The full sermon can he heard here.)
If you recall, President Obama provoked the anger of some gay rights advocates by selecting Rick Warren to pray at his first inaugural. Warren had supported Proposition 8 in California which sought to ban same-sex marriage in the state. By selecting Louie Giglio this time, some in Obama’s coalition of supports are saying he failed to learn from the backlash four years ago.
January 8, 2013
Is the world getting better or worse? The crew discusses the end of days...and Indian accents.
In this week’s Phil Vischer Podcast, Phil, Skye and Christian discuss the fiscal cliff and the current political environment in the US. This leads to a conversation about the end of the world and interpreting Scripture based on our cultural context. Everyone gives their predictions for what will happen in 2013 – some are more serious than others!
January 4, 2013
The potent dangers of ambition, anger, and ego exist for everyone in ministry.
Recently I tweeted these words:
3 signs you’re NOT a leader in the Kingdom: you take things TOO personally, you hold onto grudges, and you want leadership TOO much.
I’ve seen it time and again in my own leadership. Any time I am doing one of these three things I am undercutting the Spirit’s work in the midst of a group, I am making it about me, and I am subverting the Kingdom.
As a result, I have come to the conclusion that I must consistently test myself and allow others to test me in these 3 areas. Because when I start to indulge in these behaviors (which is inevitable) and let them linger, I not only will be messing myself up royally, I’ll be undercutting the reign of Christ – the work of God in our midst – in and through my mis-motivated leadership. So here’s some comments on each of these three.
January 2, 2013
Another explanation for the "Crazy Uncle" Christians in the media.
Following the terrible elementary shooting last month in Connecticut, Michael Cheshire wrote a blog post that attracted a lot of attention. He was incensed by the comments of a number of Christian leaders in the media. He wrote:
After watching an interview by a person speaking for our Christian religion, I was less than blessed. He subtly blamed the gays, iPods, computers, evolution, and the fact that God is not in our schools for the shooting in Connecticut. I was compelled to distance myself from him as quickly as possible. It’s a feeling I have had many times over the years when our so-called “religious leaders” make accusatory remarks about entire people groups.
Cheshire was not alone in his outrage and embarrassment. I often feel the same way about those who speak for our faith in the media. It seems that after any calamity, whether human or natural, there are Christian leaders on cable news offering an overly-simplistic, overly-spiritual, and overly-self-righteous explanation for the carnage. Cheshire compared these leaders with a “crazy uncle who makes ignorant comments.” They are often wrong and offensive, but they’re family.
Michael Cheshire’s critique expanded beyond the horror at Sandy Hook Elementary, however. He lamented that American Christianity has become “tainted with a lot of hate and politics.” In fact he titled his post, “They Think We’re a Hate Group, & They Might Be Right.” (This title was written by Cheshire himself and not the editors of Out of Ur.) Again, I resonate a great deal with what he wrote, particularly the general sentiment of frustration over the culture’s perception of Christian faith and the Church. So I do not wish for what follows to be interpreted as a counterpoint to Cheshire’s post, but rather as another angle from which to perceive what’s happening in the American Church.