Category Archives: Uncategorized

China will create own Christian belief system amid tensions with church, says official

I know some in the west will lose their mind over this but China is creating a version of Christianity that is compatible with Chinese culture.

China will construct a “Chinese Christian theology” suitable for the country, state media reported on Thursday, as both the number of believers and tensions with the authorities are on the rise.

China has between 23 million and 40 million Protestants, accounting for 1.7 to 2.9 per cent of the total population, the state-run China Daily said, citing figures given at a seminar in Shanghai.

About 500,000 people are baptised as Protestants every year, it added.

“Over the past decades, the Protestant churches in China have developed very quickly with the implementation of the country’s religious policy,” the paper quoted Wang Zuoan, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, as saying.

“The construction of Chinese Christian theology should adapt to China’s national condition and integrate with Chinese culture.”

China’s ruling Communist Party is officially atheistic and keeps a tight grip on religion for fear it could challenge its grip on power. It requires believers to worship in places approved by the state and under government supervision.

I am not sure why the Chinese government is going through all of this effort.  A look at church history in the west will show that the church itself will create a Christianity compatible it’s surrounding culture all by itself

Faster Composting

SeptoBacWe have composted for years but this year I started to pour a pouch of SeptoBac into the compost bin a couple of times a month.  Septobac is designed to break down solids in septic tanks but is safe for compost as well.  Basically it is enzymes and bacteria that breaks down garden waste a lot faster than composting alone.

We toss food waste and grass into our compost bin.  Generally it takes about a summer to fully break down, depending on what we put into it.  Because we don’t care that much, we occasionally toss corn cobs, pumpkins, and other things that are really slow to break down.  This year was much of the same but we tossed a pouch of SeptoBac in every week and I was stunned what a difference it has made.  

While the summer has been hot and dry, the compost bin has been devouring and processing waste at an incredible rate and seems to be working really well despite us basically tossing almost anything in there.  While I am conscious of the smell, the door has been less than normal which is a plus as well.  It was surprised at how well this has worked.

You can get SeptoBac at Safeway for any other grocery store.

Someone fetch a dustpan and broom

Sea of rubbish left behind by 90,000 music fans at Reading Festival

Sea of Garbage

A huge clear-up operation began within hours of the annual Bank Holiday event closing on Monday. Despite a ‘Love Your Tent’ campaign imploring people to pack up and remove their camping gear, thousands clearly didn’t.

Last year more than 20 tons of re-useable equipment was salvaged – and this year the figure is expected to be even higher. Some will be offered to local charities but damaged or unplaced equipment will be destined for landfill sites.

If the media covered the United States like it covered foreign countries

Here is the situation,

Let us say that a guy got drunk at a bar outside of Mobile, Alabama, got in a fight with some dudes about University of Alabama versus Ole Miss college football, and ended up shooting them dead in the parking lot.

Terrible, right? Stupid, violent, too many damn guns, shame, right?

Now imagine that some foreigners slapped a crappy pseudo-anthropological analysis on top, full of weird historical references, non-sequitur references to the church, and misguided assumptions about ethnicity.

It would look like this

Yet another massacre has occurred in the historically war-torn region of the Southern United States – and so soon after the religious festival of Easter.

Brian McConkey, 27, a Christian fundamentalist militiaman living in the formerly occupied territory of Alabama, gunned down three men from an opposing tribe in the village square near Montgomery, the capitol, over a discussion that may have involved the rituals of the local football cult. In this region full of heavily-armed local warlords and radical Christian clerics, gun violence is part of the life of many.

Many of the militiamen here are ethnic Scots-Irish tribesmen, a famously indomitable mountain people who have killed civilized men – and each other – for centuries. It appears that the wars that started on the fields of Bannockburn and Stirling have come to America.

As the sun sets over the former Confederate States of America, one wonders – can peace ever come to this land?

Worst Magazine Cover of the Year?

Slate thinks so

Time Cancer Cover

A decade ago, when I was on the national desk at Newsweek, a handful of us would spend slow nights competing to see who could come closest to writing the Platonic ideal of a perfect coverline. 

The game only had one real guideline: The headlines had to be vaguely rooted in reality.

That’s a journalistic precept that Time feels free to ignore. Witness the headline emblazoned in all-caps on the cover of the magazine’s April 1 issue: “HOW TO CURE CANCER.” It’s followed by an asterisk that directs you to a subtitle, just to make sure you get the point: “Yes, it’s now possible, thanks to new cancer dream teams that are delivering better results faster.”

Which, of course, is completely, utterly, inarguably false. The roughly 580,000 Americans who will die this year from cancer know the reality all too well. For some context, that’s more people than will die from chronic lower respiratory diseases, strokes, accidents, Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetes combined.

They go on.

What’s particularly egregious about Time’s cover is that it doesn’t even accurately reflect the contents of the magazine’s 4,000-word story, which highlights a 5-year-old organization “started by entertainment-industry figures unhappy with the progress being made against America’s most deadly disease.” The group’s main innovation, as it were, is to give out tens of millions of dollars to research groups willing to work collaboratively and produce results in three years—an “aggressively short time” in the research world.

This is not an insignificant development: The torrents of information being made available through next-generation genetic sequencing require nimble team efforts that are a rarity in medical research. (It’s also not a new idea: Nine years ago, a 9,900-word piece in Fortune titled “Why We’re Losing The War On Cancer” advocated this same approach.)

But I haven’t found a single cancer researcher who believes this means we’re on the verge of curing cancer. “There’s the potential for a real impact [on developing new cancer treatments] if there’s organizational momentum to pick up scientific strands, political strands, and epidemiological strands and weave them together,” says Siddhartha Mukherjee, a Columbia University hematologist and oncologist and the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. “But to what extent were organizational barriers keeping us from having more successful solutions against various cancers? This is not just an organizational problem.”

Instead of jump-starting a conversation about the most effective approach to cancer research, Time distorted it beyond recognition. It’s certainly not the first time that’s happened. It’s been more than four decades since President Nixon signed the National Cancer Act of 1971, promising cancer sufferers that their “hopes will not be disappointed.” In 1998, mortality rates for all types of cancer had actually increased slightly, from 200.73 to 200.82 deaths per 100,000 people. That didn’t stop the New York Times from running Gina Kolata’s embarrassing front-page “special report,” which quoted James Watson as saying a researcher at Children’s Hospital in Boston would “cure cancer in two years.” Watson claimed he said no such thing—“When I read her article, I was horrified,” he told a reporter at the time. Regardless, the prediction, the underpinning of Kolata’s piece, was obviously incorrect.

What does the name Francis mean for the modern church

It appears to be a good first step

So why Bergoglio? He is a first-generation Argentinian, of Italian descent, who has been in Italy and involved in the governance of the Church for many years. He must have excellent relations with his fellow cardinals. He can simultaneously serve as a symbol for Catholicism in the global south and assuage any concerns of the Italian cardinals that they are losing control over the papacy with a third consecutive non-Italian pope. He is relatively old, but now that Benedict has set an example of voluntary retirement, Pope Francis can choose to follow his predecessor’s path as needed. Whatever one thinks of Benedict’s reign as Pope, part of his legacy will be that he enabled his successors to resign without drama.

Second, the choice of name reveals much about a new pope’s state of mind as he steps out onto the balcony to address the world as pontifex. He chose his name, his spokesman revealed, in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, one of the great saints in Catholic history. Francis was the son of a cloth merchant who became a kind of living saint during his lifetime. He preached and practiced radical poverty, founded a new way of living a life in the church, embraced the presence of God in all living things, and left behind a vibrant (if sometimes divided) order named after him. These friars of St. Francis took vows and lived by a set of rules that Francis drew up, but were supposed to travel and preach to all. Cardinal Bergoglio embodied a kind of exemplary simplicity in his own life, riding the bus instead of in a limousine, living in a simple apartment instead of a palace, and cooking for himself. While this is a far cry from Francis’ poverty, Bergoglio never lived as a grand prince of the Church. A pope named after St. Francis of Assisi might well focus on questions of social justice, poverty, and personal piety, as well as environmental justice.

But Bergoglio is a Jesuit, and one of the two most important saints in Jesuit history was also named Francis. St. Francis Xavier was a missionary and evangelist. He personally travelled to South and East Asia and died in 1552 just off the coast of China. By taking the same name as Francis Xavier, the epitome of the Catholic global evangelist, the new pope suggests he is ready to push the Vatican from a Eurocentric to a global position.

It is impossible to think that a Jesuit, now Pope Francis, wasn’t thinking of his famous predecessor in the Jesuit Order when he chose his name. Catholic theology embraces the idea that multiple, even contradictory, principles can co-exist within the same object. Jesus can be both God and Man. The Host can be both body and bread. Pope Francis can draw inspiration from both Saints Francis as he enters this new phase of his life. Perhaps even more importantly, he can nod to his Jesuit tradition, while taking as his inspiration both the universality and the message of reform from St. Francis of Assisi. It’s a savvy and meaningful decision.

She looked down and cried

Mark Cherrington writes this about a teen girl he was assigned as a court worker

As a youth court worker, it has never been the high profile cases, pews filled with press and families, but more often the silence that have impacted me dearly.

Last Thursday, Parminder Johal, a lawyer with the Youth Criminal Defence Office asked me to see an eighteen year old girl in custody for breaching her probation. The girl had a minor record and was being held in custody for a warrant going back years. Her crime: Not completing an apology letter and forty hours of community service hours. A Summary Offence, she should not have been held in jail under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. I entered the interview room: a small cubicle with metal tables, a phone and wall of Plexiglas. When she entered; a petite Aboriginal girl, I could see her face was swollen, yellow and black, looking like old fruit. She threw a nervous smile and was missing a tooth. I introduced myself, “I’m here to help you and provide…”

“I’ve been raped,” she interrupted. Her lips quivered, eyes welled up, and finally she just looked down and cried.

I waited a few minutes. “Perhaps,” I finally said, “somebody else…”

She shook her head and wiped her cheeks with her sleeve. “But you said you’re here to help me? Somebody has to listen? Don’t they?”

A lot of people should have been listening!

She told me she had been at a motel room with some friends. There were drinks, “But I didn’t drink much! I think my drink was spiked,” she added and waking up, bruised, bleeding from her vagina, called her mother frantic, who called the Edmonton City Police Service . As first responders, her expectations as a victim of sexual assault were different than what transpired. The Officer/s ran her name, found she had an old warrant and arrested her.

According to the girl, the only acknowledgement by the police about being raped, was once released she could attend any police station and fill out a statement.

It gets worse you read the entire post.

Walter Wink on Homosexuality in the Bible

For those of you who are frustrated already for my post on Saskatoon’s Gay Pride parade, here is a paper by theologian and Biblical scholar Walter Wink on homosexuality and the Bible.

The fact is that there is, behind the legal tenor of Scripture, an even deeper tenor, articulated by Israel out of the experience of the Exodus and brought to sublime embodiment in Jesus’ identification with harlots, tax collectors, the diseased and maimed and outcast and poor. It is that God sides with the powerless, God liberates the oppressed, God suffers with the suffering and groans toward the reconciliation of all things. In the light of that supernal compassion, whatever our position on gays, the gospel’s imperative to love, care for, and be identified with their sufferings is unmistakably clear.

Many of us have a powerful personal revulsion against homosexuality — a revulsion that goes far beyond reason to what almost seems to us an instinctual level. Homosexuality seems “unnatural” — and it would be for most of us. I myself have had to struggle against feelings of superiority and prejudice in regard to gays. Yet for some persons it appears to be the only natural form their sexuality takes. This feeling of revulsion or alienness, or simply of indifference, is no basis, however, for ethical decisions regarding our attitudes toward homosexuality. It seems to me that we simply need to acknowledge that for the majority of us who are heterosexual by nature this deep feeling amounts to nothing more than prejudice when applied to others. It has no sure biblical warrant, no ethical justification. It is just the way we feel about those who are different. And if we can acknowledge that profound prejudice, perhaps we can begin to allow others their preferences as well.

I want to close by quoting a paragraph from a 1977 address by C. Kilmer Myers, bishop of California, before the Episcopal House of Bishops:

The model for humanness is Jesus. I know many homosexuals who are radically human. To desert them would be a desertion, I believe, of our Master, Jesus Christ. And that I will not do no matter what the cost. I could not possibly return to my diocese and face them, these homosexual persons, many of whom look upon me as their father in God, their brother in Christ, their friend, were I to say to them, “You stand outside the hedge of the New Israel, you are rejected by God. Your love and care and tenderness, yes, your faltering, your reaching out, your tears, your search for love, your violent deaths mean nothing! You are damned! You have no place in the household of God. You are so despicable that there is no room for you in the priesthood or anywhere else.” There are voices in this country now raised proclaiming this total ostracism in the name of Jesus of Nazareth. What will be the nature of the response to this in the House of Bishops?

Now that this issue has become one that none of us can dodge, what will be the nature of our response?

The Gospel According to Your Own Best Interests

Two friends in Todd Littleton and Bill Kinnon take on THE Gospel Coalition.

First from Todd

What problematizes the Lifeway/SBC sponsorship and support is C.J Mahaney. Mahaney is also a co-founder of the event. Others have noted the curious timing of his re-instatement. The suggestion is that it came so he could participate in this event. An inside investigation into his admittedly poor leadership ethics did not prompt a change in leadership. For others this raises questions about an independent investigation report that may be released.

That Mahaney admitted to behavior that would get most of us removed from the pastorate does not rise to the level where the SBC entity has an ethical position to preserve. Bill Kinnon is aghast at the developments – not Lifeway. Even a member of the SGM network is flummoxed. But, the sorts of practices Mahaney acknowledged were, and who knows if they remain, normal fair in the pragmatic antics pre- and post- CR in the SBC. It is very difficult the pot calling the kettle black. And, since Mohler defended Mahaney when the story broke it would be hard now, I guess, to suggest either Mahaney withdraw participation until the independent investigation is complete or that the SBC /Lifeway would rescind its support, sponsorship, and participation. But wait, what about Baptist autonomy. We do have our trump cards, even when ethics are in question.

The point is not about the “togetherness” of a group of Christians for the Gospel. I am for a much wider vision for “togethering” for the Gospel. I have no issue with Mahaney personally. I am as frail and prone to hubris as the next pastor. What interests me is the way decisions are framed. Lifeway rightly positions itself against abortion – it is an ethical position. But, so is leadership ethics. On the one hand we defend the “not yet born.” What about those lives littering the byways of this world suffering at the hands of powerful religious leaders? Are they less valuable? Surely Ed Stetzer has written something about the reasons there are “de-churched” people in our Country. Clergy abuse fits that bill.

Now from Bill Kinnon

This video of Mahaney with his three T4G co-founders made me sick to my stomach, when I viewed it this morning. These men should be ashamed of themselves. But they apparently don’t know what “shame” means… or “research” for that matter. When the CJ-Stepping-Down scandal first erupted last summer they chose to believe Mahaney over the hundreds hurt by his ministry. Isn’t that typical for the celebrity-driven church.

So back to Carson and Keller. Perhaps they can help me with my confusion; if a poor understanding of Trinitarian theology and the preaching of prosperity are cause for concern (and I don’t disagree that they are), should not one be concerned about a significant leader in your movement who uses blackmail to get his own way. (Trust me, there are many, many more reasons to question Mahaney’s fitness for church leadership, but this one will suffice for the moment.)

The fellows of TGC and T4G are more than willing to call out anyone they believe to be doing harm to their understanding of The Gospel.

Except, it would seem, if it’s one of their co-council members. (And I haven’t even mentioned a certain West Coast church leader, also on said council… well, not in this post, anyway.)

So you have a church leader engaged in large spread emotional abuse and blackmail and that is okay as long as he has the right friends and has enough influence and pull.  A pastor I know had huge integrity issues with money and how he dealt with people yet friends would tell me, “he has the gift of evangelism” or “the church keeps on growing”.   It happens all over yet of all of the places it should never happen is in the church.  The church is supposed to demand better yet it rarely does.  That is what saddens me.

Kinnon on things he is rather tired of

I don’t post a lot on theology and the church anymore but if you are wondering what I am thinking on any topic, head to Bill Kinnon’s blog.  Bill just posted on things he is rather tired of and he has posted what I have been thinking of but have been too disgusted to write about.

I just spent the last hour working on a post called Power, Authority and Control. And I just don’t have the energy to finish it. As you might imagine, it references the recent nonsense from John Piper on Christianity being masculine, more Mark Driscoll than I care to think about and the latest missive from 9Marks on church discipline — as if it’s a line from Hotel California, “you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”

The post references the upcoming T4G conference where the recently reinstated CJ Mahaney, he of blackmailing-his-church-cofounder-fame, will share the platform with men who will teach young males about the importance of exerting proper control of their sheep. If there was truth in advertising, or a at least Christian advertising, the conference would be called Men Together for the Patriarchal Gospel.

So here are some of the things that I’m tired of:

1) People who deny that they believe that patriarchy is a first-order issue, but then do everything in their power to make it such.

2) The people who insist that they have the answers for the church simply because of the size of their audience. Would they please spend some time in 20th century history. Assuming they are literate, that study should defeat the argument for them.

3) The supposedly Christian publishers who promote anything as long as they think there’s a market for it — I’m getting more convinced every day that I should only read Christian writings from authors who’d been dead for at least 40 years.

4) Celebrity-Driven Conferences that could fill almost every waking moment, if one were so inclined, but in the end have limited to no impact – other than on the bank accounts of attendees.

I like his fourth point because he is both right and I think church leaders actually use conferences as an escape from their own problems.   Like I have said before, I have never understood why one profession (which really isn’t that difficult) needs to go to so many conferences.

Submission to physical abuse?

I know many of you are John Piper fan boys but this is appalling. Piper is telling women to "submit" to abuse for a season and then go to the church. Really? What about an abuse shelter? What about pressing criminal charges? What about leaving him? Abuse can never be tolerated.

Piper talks about abuse being sin and the answer is in the church.  Of course it is sin but violence against women and children (and anyone) is illegal and the answer is first to get the women to safety and then the courts.  Yes the church is a part of the solution as it can be in any restorative process but there are laws in this land that say that no one needs to tolerate physical violence and abuse, not even for a “season” as Piper suggests.

The idea that this needs to be done in the context of the church and community is wrong.  If I hit Wendy or abuse my kids, I have crossed a line that as a society we say that we won’t tolerate, it’s why there are laws that prohibit family violence.  The actions of the abuser have taken the consequences out of the realm and authority of the church and into the realm of the police and judges.  This isn’t an issue of submission, this is a criminal issue now.

I have no idea why some of you believe in the submissive crap that guys like Piper keep preaching. I have listened on the phone to women being beaten by husbands and parents while they were trying to protect their children and have listened to friends tell me they thought they were going to die from the abuse they were enduring.  No one should ever deal with that ever. People knew that they were being abused (and yes they were in the church) and didn’t take a stand because they women were submissive.

That "doctrine" drives me crazy. It’s based on bad theology and a bad translation of the Hebrew.