Community

Sometimes our culture sets us up against God’s will for our lives.

As we continue walking out the Outreach Saga in the local park, we’re learning things all the time. We are meeting next to a low-income housing complex of 100 or so units. In getting to know the people there, I’ve noticed that they have their own little community there.

Since it is an area of low resources, the people have learned to pool together to help each other out. They spend more time interacting. Sometimes they have conflict, but living so close together they live differntly than a lot of suburban Americans.

We’ve been blessed to be accepted by a group of them, and they come on Sunday evenings to fellowship, to talk about the Word, and to encourage one another.

My point in this post is the contrast to how individualistic we are as Americans. We are taught to do things independently. Pull youself up by your own bootstraps. It sometimes is a sign of weakness to need someone’s help.

American Christians play into this. We talk about “our walk with God” as an individual thing. We forget that we are called to be part of a body, a family.

I don’t think this is God’s will for us. Certainly I have to answer to God for my own actions, and I have a relationship with Jesus. The ancient world used to think solely in the concept of the clan or tribe, and the individual didn’t matter. According to Thomas Cahill’s book The Gift Of The Jews, the idea of an individual relationship with God, an independent reckoning was revolutionary.

Western culture has taken this too far. We are built to need one another. I know some people would rather be hermits. My mother could leave work on Friday and not talk to another soul until Monday morning and it would suit her just fine. She said liked it, but I would argue she let herself get into a mindset that she wasn’t really created for.

I would argue that the Western idea of individualism and the Eastern focus on community over a person are extremes, and that the Biblical ideal would foster a strong personal relationship with Jesus in a healthy community of believers that encouraged and exhorted one another.

I’m glad that we’re learning as much in this process as the people that are joining us in the park. When you don’t have a lot, you have to work together with other more. I’m encouraged by their example, and I hope Christians can wake up to the value of having brothers and sisters in Christ that keep us accountable and build us up. Yes, people can hurt you, but the blessings of opening up far outweight the risks in the long-run.

CSFF Tour – Bioethics and The Enclave

There’s a lot of buzz going on about this month’s book, The Enclave. Make sure to check out Becky Miller’s blog, as she tracks all of the confirmed posts for the tour at this page.

I really enjoy the CSFF tour because we get some intelligent, creative people who care about faith discussing the books and issues brought up. We often have interesting discussions going on via various blogs that are quite entertaining.

The nature of The Enclave, dealing with scientists at a secretive genetic research complex, lends itself to some serious discussion of issues that are facing us today.

Regarding cloning a child who died prematurely:

“Actually, I consider the whole idea of trying to replace lost loved ones to be futile and misplaced. It might be the same body, but whatever soul God imputes to the child, should she be born, it would not be the same as your [dead] daughter’s.” (p170).

Another quote on cloning:

“Twenty-five years ago [head of the complex] Parker Swain was obsessed with human cloning, which he saw as a means of attaining eternal life.” (p299).

This book may be considered science fiction, but we are not talking about far-future events here. There will soon be many issues confronting humanity regarding cloning, genetic or biologic enhancement, and the ethical dilemmas raised by these issues. Already we are seeing more and more widespread genetic screening of embryos, genetic manipulation of food sources (both plant and animal), and debates related to assisted reproductive technologies (IVF, surrogacy, PGD, etc).

Christians need to be aware of these issues and should have a basic ability to speak into the public square about them, because even if they’re not already here, they will be soon. Not all of us can be geneticists or experts on bioethics, but we need awareness.

Literature can be a great vehicle for opening our eyes to such concepts. The Enclave does a good job dealing with the issue of cloning, although it loses some fizzle in the end with the introduction of the laser-beam wielding Nephilim (if that’s not a teaser for the book, I don’t know what is!). My favorite philosopher to quote regarding these issues is none other than Dr. Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park: “Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

Another book that hits this broad range of topics is My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult, where a sibling is conceived as a “savior sibling,” selected by preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) with the right match to be a donor. Eventually the sibling has to donate more to the older, sick sibling, but declines being used as a utilitarian tool any more.

The movie The Island was widely panned, but I really enjoyed it, not only for the action, but the intelligence behind the movie. People think they are the last remnants of society being protected underground, and the lucky ones win a lotto sending them to “the island”, the last unspoiled place on Earth-when in reality they are clones being held as insurance for the rich in case they get liver failure from alcohol or are critically injured or ill.

Storytelling has power, as books from Pilgrim’s Progress to Uncle Tom’s Cabin to 1984 show. I applaud Karen Hancock for shining a light on issues that are looming in our future. There’s a lot that can be said about this book, but this is the aspect that really caught my eye.

For more information on Bioethics and these issues, check out these links I’ve found in a little internet digging:

Breakpoint: The New Eugenics.

The Human Future.

The Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies. I liked this statement on “Enhancements”.

The Center for Bioethics and Culture.

Your homework? Check out at least one of these links, and get a little more educated today!

CSFF Tour – Bioethics and The Enclave

There’s a lot of buzz going on about this month’s book, The Enclave. Make sure to check out Becky Miller’s blog, as she tracks all of the confirmed posts for the tour at this page.

I really enjoy the CSFF tour because we get some intelligent, creative people who care about faith discussing the books and issues brought up. We often have interesting discussions going on via various blogs that are quite entertaining.

The nature of The Enclave, dealing with scientists at a secretive genetic research complex, lends itself to some serious discussion of issues that are facing us today.

Regarding cloning a child who died prematurely:

“Actually, I consider the whole idea of trying to replace lost loved ones to be futile and misplaced. It might be the same body, but whatever soul God imputes to the child, should she be born, it would not be the same as your [dead] daughter’s.” (p170).

Another quote on cloning:

“Twenty-five years ago [head of the complex] Parker Swain was obsessed with human cloning, which he saw as a means of attaining eternal life.” (p299).

This book may be considered science fiction, but we are not talking about far-future events here. There will soon be many issues confronting humanity regarding cloning, genetic or biologic enhancement, and the ethical dilemmas raised by these issues. Already we are seeing more and more widespread genetic screening of embryos, genetic manipulation of food sources (both plant and animal), and debates related to assisted reproductive technologies (IVF, surrogacy, PGD, etc).

Christians need to be aware of these issues and should have a basic ability to speak into the public square about them, because even if they’re not already here, they will be soon. Not all of us can be geneticists or experts on bioethics, but we need awareness.

Literature can be a great vehicle for opening our eyes to such concepts. The Enclave does a good job dealing with the issue of cloning, although it loses some fizzle in the end with the introduction of the laser-beam wielding Nephilim (if that’s not a teaser for the book, I don’t know what is!). My favorite philosopher to quote regarding these issues is none other than Dr. Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park: “Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

Another book that hits this broad range of topics is My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult, where a sibling is conceived as a “savior sibling,” selected by preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) with the right match to be a donor. Eventually the sibling has to donate more to the older, sick sibling, but declines being used as a utilitarian tool any more.

The movie The Island was widely panned, but I really enjoyed it, not only for the action, but the intelligence behind the movie. People think they are the last remnants of society being protected underground, and the lucky ones win a lotto sending them to “the island”, the last unspoiled place on Earth-when in reality they are clones being held as insurance for the rich in case they get liver failure from alcohol or are critically injured or ill.

Storytelling has power, as books from Pilgrim’s Progress to Uncle Tom’s Cabin to 1984 show. I applaud Karen Hancock for shining a light on issues that are looming in our future. There’s a lot that can be said about this book, but this is the aspect that really caught my eye.

For more information on Bioethics and these issues, check out these links I’ve found in a little internet digging:

Breakpoint: The New Eugenics.

The Human Future.

The Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies. I liked this statement on “Enhancements”.

The Center for Bioethics and Culture.

Your homework? Check out at least one of these links, and get a little more educated today!

The Kindlings Muse

I’d like to highlight a resource I’ve been turning to for the past few months. The Kindlings Muse is a ministry of Dick Staub, the author of The Culturally Savvy Christian (required reading for followers of this blog).

Dick has been involved with faith and culture for many years now. He’s a radio host, pastor, author, and champion for the arts. The Kindlings Muse is a weekly podcast from Dick, along with various special guests. I finished listening to a series by Os Guinness this morning (an excellent talk on “You Only Live Once-Calling, the ultimate game plan for life”).

Topics generally focus on faith and creativity in some way. When the Oscars rolled around, there is an annual “theology of the Best Picture nominees” show that was very interesting. Other topics I’ve listened to include theology of the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer and an excellent interview with Anne Rice.

You can subscribe to it for free at iTunes, or just see the site regularly for the updated podcasts. As the tagline for the show states, it is “an intelligent, imaginative, hospitable exploration of ideas that matter in contemporary life.”

The Kindlings Muse

I’d like to highlight a resource I’ve been turning to for the past few months. The Kindlings Muse is a ministry of Dick Staub, the author of The Culturally Savvy Christian (required reading for followers of this blog).

Dick has been involved with faith and culture for many years now. He’s a radio host, pastor, author, and champion for the arts. The Kindlings Muse is a weekly podcast from Dick, along with various special guests. I finished listening to a series by Os Guinness this morning (an excellent talk on “You Only Live Once-Calling, the ultimate game plan for life”).

Topics generally focus on faith and creativity in some way. When the Oscars rolled around, there is an annual “theology of the Best Picture nominees” show that was very interesting. Other topics I’ve listened to include theology of the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer and an excellent interview with Anne Rice.

You can subscribe to it for free at iTunes, or just see the site regularly for the updated podcasts. As the tagline for the show states, it is “an intelligent, imaginative, hospitable exploration of ideas that matter in contemporary life.”

Super-sized Families?

The NY Times recently had an article entitled “And Baby Makes How Many?” that was triggered from the woman with the octuplets and 6 other kids, as well as the popularity of shows featuring The Duggars (17 kids) and Jon and Kate plus eight. The article discussed how family size in the U.S. is shrinking overall, which is making large families an exception that is more and more looked down upon.

Replacement level for a population is 2.1, and that is the current American birth rate, even though it has actually been lower recently and only got back UP to 2.1 in the last year stats were available. The article focuses on megafamilies, with 6+ kids, but it stated that people with more than 3 kids often get “raised eyebrows”.

The article itself is pretty respectful and non-judgmental, although it mentions that people with larger families could be considered “freak show attractions” nowadays. The comments to the article…now that is a different story.

The commenters mostly decried people having more than 2 kids “irresponsible” and “selfish”, trashing Earth’s resources for their own self-fulfillment (or more clinically put, “evolutionary need to replicate”-reminds me of the part in The Matrix when Agent Smith compares humanity to a virus). Some were generous enough to deem it appropriate to have 2 kids, then adopt needy kids/orphans if you HAD to have more than two. Heaven forbid the carbon footprint that is left by a family of 4 kids or more.

The majority of comments were disturbing on many levels. Besides the judgments and disdain for some people’s “choice” when it collides with their own self-interest, there were some issues that no one in the comments noted. I wanted to post there, but the comments were closed by the time I read the article.

First of all, do we want to become like other societies that have effective “family planning?” Countries like Japan, where a demographic crisis is looming because they are getting older without a young workforce to support the elderly? Perhaps Germany, which is rapidly becoming less German, since German families don’t hit the replacement level of 2.1 kids, but immigrant families from Eastern Europe and Turkey are filling the void, keeping their own culture without assimilating to German ways in the process? I know, how about China? Since their one child rule, the percentage of male to females is dangerously imbalanced, which is already causing human trafficking from other Asian countries to provide wives to the men who can’t find the very in-demand Chinese women?

Some in the comments cited the 70’s era Population Boom scare, which has not occurred as doomsayers were predicting back then. Technological advances have continued to allow us to produce enough food, even if political and infrastructure problems still keep way too many people without proper resources.

I am willing to become a better steward of our resources, and I want to see poverty eradicated so people in undeveloped countries have more opportunities other than having many kids so some will have a chance of surviving. However, the crass hypocrisy and judgmentalism from the commenters is pretty remarkable in a country where all sorts of “freedoms” are promoted, unless it goes against the current postmodern, environment-worshipping culture we seem to have at this time. Overall, as a parent of four wonderful children, whom I plan on educating to be the best possible citizens of Earth during their sojourn, even as I hopefully help them reach their potential in the Kingdom of heaven, I want to say as carefully and intelligently as I can to those commenters:

Mind your own business.

(Bonus-I love some of the comebacks from parents of the megafamilies:

How can you afford so many? “Lifestyles are expensive, not kids.”
Don’t you know what causes that? “Oh, yes, I now wash my husband’s underwear separately.”
Do you get any time for yourselves? “Obviously, or we wouldn’t have six kids.”)

Super-sized Families?

The NY Times recently had an article entitled “And Baby Makes How Many?” that was triggered from the woman with the octuplets and 6 other kids, as well as the popularity of shows featuring The Duggars (17 kids) and Jon and Kate plus eight. The article discussed how family size in the U.S. is shrinking overall, which is making large families an exception that is more and more looked down upon.

Replacement level for a population is 2.1, and that is the current American birth rate, even though it has actually been lower recently and only got back UP to 2.1 in the last year stats were available. The article focuses on megafamilies, with 6+ kids, but it stated that people with more than 3 kids often get “raised eyebrows”.

The article itself is pretty respectful and non-judgmental, although it mentions that people with larger families could be considered “freak show attractions” nowadays. The comments to the article…now that is a different story.

The commenters mostly decried people having more than 2 kids “irresponsible” and “selfish”, trashing Earth’s resources for their own self-fulfillment (or more clinically put, “evolutionary need to replicate”-reminds me of the part in The Matrix when Agent Smith compares humanity to a virus). Some were generous enough to deem it appropriate to have 2 kids, then adopt needy kids/orphans if you HAD to have more than two. Heaven forbid the carbon footprint that is left by a family of 4 kids or more.

The majority of comments were disturbing on many levels. Besides the judgments and disdain for some people’s “choice” when it collides with their own self-interest, there were some issues that no one in the comments noted. I wanted to post there, but the comments were closed by the time I read the article.

First of all, do we want to become like other societies that have effective “family planning?” Countries like Japan, where a demographic crisis is looming because they are getting older without a young workforce to support the elderly? Perhaps Germany, which is rapidly becoming less German, since German families don’t hit the replacement level of 2.1 kids, but immigrant families from Eastern Europe and Turkey are filling the void, keeping their own culture without assimilating to German ways in the process? I know, how about China? Since their one child rule, the percentage of male to females is dangerously imbalanced, which is already causing human trafficking from other Asian countries to provide wives to the men who can’t find the very in-demand Chinese women?

Some in the comments cited the 70’s era Population Boom scare, which has not occurred as doomsayers were predicting back then. Technological advances have continued to allow us to produce enough food, even if political and infrastructure problems still keep way too many people without proper resources.

I am willing to become a better steward of our resources, and I want to see poverty eradicated so people in undeveloped countries have more opportunities other than having many kids so some will have a chance of surviving. However, the crass hypocrisy and judgmentalism from the commenters is pretty remarkable in a country where all sorts of “freedoms” are promoted, unless it goes against the current postmodern, environment-worshipping culture we seem to have at this time. Overall, as a parent of four wonderful children, whom I plan on educating to be the best possible citizens of Earth during their sojourn, even as I hopefully help them reach their potential in the Kingdom of heaven, I want to say as carefully and intelligently as I can to those commenters:

Mind your own business.

(Bonus-I love some of the comebacks from parents of the megafamilies:

How can you afford so many? “Lifestyles are expensive, not kids.”
Don’t you know what causes that? “Oh, yes, I now wash my husband’s underwear separately.”
Do you get any time for yourselves? “Obviously, or we wouldn’t have six kids.”)

Faith and Culture Devotional

I’ve been enjoying a new devotional that I recently picked up: A Faith and Culture Devotional: Daily Readings in Art, Science, and Life. I saw it mentioned on The Point blog, and so far I haven’t been disappointed. I’m not very far into it, but it has already had articles from or quoting from Francis Collins of the Human Genome Project and Francis Schaeffer, with future articles from Erwin McManus, Chuck Colson, Scot McKnight, Dallas Willard, Lee Strobel, and J. P. Moreland.

The subjects are collected under Bible and Theology, History, Philosophy, Science, Literature, Arts, and Contemporary Culture. Quite a diversity, but the reading I’ve done so far is quite thought-provoking.

As a teaser, here’s a quote from “Art-A Response to God’s Beauty” by Lael Arrington, with an extensive quote from one of my favorites, Francis Schaeffer.

Schaeffer concludes, “What a Christian portrays in his art is the totality of life. Art is not to be solely a vehicle for some self-conscious evangelism…Christians ought not to be threatened by fantasy and imagination…The Christian is the really free man-he is free to have imagination. This is our heritage. The Christian is the one whose imagination should fly beyond the stars.

Faith and Culture Devotional

I’ve been enjoying a new devotional that I recently picked up: A Faith and Culture Devotional: Daily Readings in Art, Science, and Life. I saw it mentioned on The Point blog, and so far I haven’t been disappointed. I’m not very far into it, but it has already had articles from or quoting from Francis Collins of the Human Genome Project and Francis Schaeffer, with future articles from Erwin McManus, Chuck Colson, Scot McKnight, Dallas Willard, Lee Strobel, and J. P. Moreland.

The subjects are collected under Bible and Theology, History, Philosophy, Science, Literature, Arts, and Contemporary Culture. Quite a diversity, but the reading I’ve done so far is quite thought-provoking.

As a teaser, here’s a quote from “Art-A Response to God’s Beauty” by Lael Arrington, with an extensive quote from one of my favorites, Francis Schaeffer.

Schaeffer concludes, “What a Christian portrays in his art is the totality of life. Art is not to be solely a vehicle for some self-conscious evangelism…Christians ought not to be threatened by fantasy and imagination…The Christian is the really free man-he is free to have imagination. This is our heritage. The Christian is the one whose imagination should fly beyond the stars.

The Culturally Savvy Christian, Day 1

My discussion of Dick Staub’s book, The Culturally Savvy Christian, was interrupted for a sudden blog tour. The forecast is tour free for the next few days, so I can predict a return to the previous topic. Here’s the first post, to refresh things.

The book is broken into three sections based off of this statement:

The culturally savvy Christian is serious about faith, savvy about faith and culture, and skilled in relating the two.

First, under “savvy,” Staub makes the case for both popular culture and Christianity being generally shallow and vacuous. Pop culture is described as being superficial and soulless, spiritually deluded, but it has a powerful influence (p5). Yet he doesn’t pull punches with modern American Christianity