Kneeling and the Flag, Police and Race, Guns, etc. — Understanding What’s Behind the Controversies

Along the lines of my previous post, I share here my attempt to understand a certain perspective different from my own.

In the U.S., we’ve had quite a series of serious, deep controversies ongoing over the past several years. What has been most concerning about this to me is how it’s not just that different sides have different ideas about how to solve problems. Rather, it seems that the different sides have different beliefs about reality itself—massively different views about what is true about the world.

I always try to understand what is behind controversies. What is it that is motivating people? Why are they so concerned and passionate? I regret that so often all the endless banter only scratches the surface and usually seems Continue reading

More Effectively Engaging Controversial Issues

Perhaps the thing I hate most about controversial issues is this: it seems that most people, when they say something about one, implicitly or explicitly express the view that their way of seeing it is so clear and obvious while the other side is incomprehensible. But it usually goes no farther than this. So long as we continue to hold that those on “the other side” are stupid if not evil, little if any progress will be made. (People tend to think that the solution is for their side to become powerful enough to overcome the other side, but typically this doesn’t happen, rather it only leads to deeper divide.) Instead, the way forward begins with trying to understand why the other side thinks the way they do. This almost certainly involves Continue reading

The Need for the Church to Confess and Repent as Part of Evangelism

There have been some interesting things going on recently. Many people are excited, talking about revival, and reaching “the lost”. When a bunch of Christians gather, it doesn’t seem odd to celebrate and worship God. But it strikes me that when we start interacting with those who aren’t followers of Christ, it would be naive to expect them to share our enthusiasm. In fact, there are many people who will not feel even neutral, but instead have a negative view of Christians and Christianity.

This makes me think, as a group of Christians becomes more outward focused, one of the first things we should probably do is public, corporate confession and repentance. We must be aware that the church has often been known as having a posture of Continue reading

The Shack: Movie Review

The Shack is a movie based on the book of the same name. I have yet to read the book so I am unable to say how closely the movie captures it.

That said, I was disappointed in the movie—though it wasn’t all bad. It was too cheesy and predictable in many places. The extraordinary nature of the premise was over emphasized to the point where I considered categorizing the film as fantasy. In reality, it’s an “inspirational” film. This genre is about emotion with a positive ending, tends to use cliche, and often requires some suspension of disbelief as the endings are wrapped up more neatly than is usually the case in real life. For these reasons, I generally have a strong distaste for the “inspirational” genre.

The movie is certainly Continue reading

The 13th (Movie Review)

I saw the new documentary “The 13th” recently. It is a good and powerful movie. The over-arching framework follows the experience of African Americans from the time of the 13th amendment (which prohibited slavery) to the present. That said, there are several sections of the documentary with respective themes. Not all of these are specifically about race.

The primary theme of the movie is that black Americans, though freed from overt slavery by the 13th amendment in 1865, have continued to experience oppression in until the present. The forms have changed but the experience has continued. Immediately after the Civil War, many blacks were arrested for minor offenses (such as loitering) and pressed into forced labor. Blacks were the Continue reading

If I Were Giving a Speech… (My Response to Recent Shootings)

We in the U.S. recently celebrated the independence of our country. We take pride in our freedoms and the belief that each person has a right to be treated justly. We desire for our nation to be a proponent of freedom and human rights around the world.

We have recently witnessed the tragic loss of human life in several instances here in this country. There has been even greater tragic loss of life in other parts of the world. There are no words which can express our true sorrow regarding these events. However today I want to address my fellow Americans.

When tragedy strikes, we are left with many questions. We want to know the reason behind what happened. We want to know what could have prevented the tragedy. In our grief, we want to Continue reading

“The Cosmic Dance” and Open Theism

“The Cosmic Dance: What Science Can Teach Us about the Nature of Time, Life, God & Humpty Dumpty” is a new book written by Greg Boyd along with help from a number of his friends. This book is somewhat unique in that he attempts to tackle a deep subject through a graphic novel (comic book) format. Essentially, in this book Boyd explains how he believes that new discoveries in science support open theism. In order to do this, he attempts to briefly describe in layman’s terms quantum physics, chaos and complexity theories, the theory of relativity, etc.

Open theism can be understood in a number of ways. One way is that rather than God knowing the one way that the future will turn out (as is commonly believed), he actually knows the range Continue reading

Jesus in Orlando: Compassion or Condemnation?

I wonder how many Christian will struggle to feel compassion for the victims of the shooting in Orlando since it took place in a gay bar?1,2 There are many Christians in the U.S. who believe that it’s most important for Christians to take a stand against sin, to point out and condemn these wrongs. (Never mind that all sins aren’t addressed equally.)

Interestingly, there were people like this in Jesus day. Of course Jesus lauded their efforts and joined them in condemning the prostitutes, drunks, and other sinners. No one could have imagined questioning Jesus’ impeccable moral character and love for God’s word.

Errr… only that’s not how the story goes. The people who stood against sin in Jesus day were the Pharisees and teachers of Continue reading

Book Review: Primal Fire

Neil Cole’s recent book, “Primal Fire – Reigniting the Church with the Five Gifts of Jesus” looks at “APEST” or what is sometimes referred to as the five-fold ministry. This is based on Ephesians 4 where Paul says, “These are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors [or shepherds] and teachers.” (“APEST” is an acrostic of these gifts.)

I can imagine this may sound like a narrow topic, however the book is quite worthwhile. “Primal Fire” touches on how the church as a whole should function. And it especially imparts a vision of Christian leadership, painting an image which might be a paradigm shift for many people. Beyond this, Cole shares how these are gifts which every follower of Continue reading

Book Review: Jesus, Bread, and Chocolate

John J. Thompson recently published what I believe is his first book. Entitled “Jesus, Bread, and Chocolate – Crafting a Handmade Faith in a Mass-Market World”, the book is one part auto-biographical, one part informational (overviews of how beer is made, where chocolate comes from, etc.), one part biography (he shares brief stories of several artisans), and one part analysis. This may make it sound like the book is schizophrenic. While it does cover a lot of ground, it is so well written and organized that it works and is not hard to follow.

In “Jesus, Bread, and Chocolate”, Thompson explores how the mass production of certain products has produced items of little substance. He compares this to Western Christianity, suggesting that Continue reading