Weekend Reading: March

Welcome to the weekend everyone!  There are some interesting stories out there to check out…ready? Here we go…

Society: The NYTimes has a story about the ‘Decline of Men’ and its significance that is worth skimming. It’s sort of a cultural and educational gut check.  One of the things that seems to be a significant takeaway is the importance of the family:

Among children raised in single-parent households, however, boys performed significantly less well than their sisters in school, and their employment rate as young adults was lower. “Relative to their sisters,” Autor and his collaborators wrote, “boys born to disadvantaged families” — with disadvantage measured here by mother’s marital status and education — “have higher rates of disciplinary problems, lower achievement scores, and fewer high-school completions.”

It’s not surprising to me that what shows up in the studies is what most folks held as common sense for years: family (traditional family with a man and a woman as the parents) is a good thing for kids.

Society Con’t………The Boston Globe as interesting article, Paltering,’ a New Way to Not Tell the Truth, in which fellow weekend reader David Clementson is quoted using the word “diabolically”, so it must be good!

Should we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?  Stephen Nichols has a great little article about the day and its origins.  Of course the Babylon Bee reports Nation Celebrates Devout Christian Missionary by Getting Totally Hammered.  

This was really good……from R.C. Sproul ‘What is Free Will’?  Dr. Sproul has a talent for taking complex issues and sorting through them winsomely and helpfully.

Spies and Such: The Graveyard of Empires and Big Data.  I am not sure what the takeaway on this one is. It ended in a sort of odd way, but its pretty fascinating nonetheless. Speaking with my brother about it afterwards, he pointed out that it brings up the familiar dilemma between data, its maintenance, and our freedoms.

Along similar lines, former Congressman Pete Hoekstra had an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal that is worth scanning:  Can Americans Trust Their Spies? “If intelligence agencies can’t keep their secrets, they can’t credibly assure us they follow other rules.”

Culture and Religion: So there’s a guy named Rod Dreher and he’s got a new book out called ‘The Benedict Option’ and its causing a lot of buzz, some good and some bad (I guess).  The book is less important than the discussion it brings to the fore, namely the changing society we live in, and how its becoming less and less Christian. Some have put it this way: cultural Christianity is going away (others have tacked on “good riddance” – and I tack onto their tack on “amen”!).  The election of Donald Trump was a flash point I think, not really because of who he is or the political dynamic, but for what it revealed about the culture as a whole and its pastors. When I say “revealed”, I’m not talking about an analysis of the ballot box results or who people ended up voting for, but rather the things they were saying about their choice, and the reasons we were given by leading pastors and Christian advocates for supporting Trump.  It opened up the hood on the thought process of Christians in America. That thought process, the morals that govern the country, are said to be on the decline. I think that’s a fair statement, with some caveats. First, we haven’t acted like a “christian nation” in several decades at least…and 2. even when we did act like a Christian nation (scratching around for examples here…maybe the nuclear family and values pre-television era?) those were inherited social mores created by a tradition of christian foundation, not personal christian morals sprung from a heart changed by God. 

There are a few articles to tease this out a bit that deal with the Dreher book, but also take on the topic of christianity and morality in America and where we’re going.

Moral Minority – Patrick Deneen, a prof. at Notre Dame takes an extensive look at this and contrasts the Jerry Falwell ‘Moral Majority’ from the 80’s with the situation we have now. I think this is an insightful article, and I agree with most of his assessment of the culture, BUT he is Catholic, and though I agree with much of what he has to say in analysis, when it comes to solutions he’s all bandaids. This is where the rubber meets the road, and if you have no gospel-based solution you will never have any hope to change lives. This shows up in places where Deneen seems to think it odd another Catholic author would advance the notion of the Bible and the church actually having the power to change the culture. This is typical of a tradition that doesn’t read their Bible, and doesn’t hold to Sola Scriptura. True Christians believe that the Word of God actually changes people and institutions, because its a living and powerful and inspired truth that God’s Spirit uses to change the minds and hearts of men. So keep all that in mind as you read this article.

Jamie Smith over at Cardus has a pretty good response to the book called ‘The Benedict Option or the Augustinian Call?’ the sum of which is a call to be in the culture and not of it.  On of his summary graphs:

Dreher’s Benedict is one option the church could take in the twenty-first century. As I argue in Awaiting the King, my hope is that instead we’ll answer an Augustinian call: centring ourselves in the life-giving practices of the body of Christ, but from there leaning out boldly and hopefully into the world for the sake of our neighbours.

Andy Crouch breaks down the book by percentages

D.A. Carson did an interview with Desiring God guys on this Benedict Option.  “Scripture stands over against all parties.” More:

There is a sense in which instead of having a Judeo-Christian heritage all around us in which we’re playing a slightly more righteous part and preaching the gospel, we’re increasingly dealing with, especially in the most secular parts of the country, an essentially alien society. Then, it’s important for not just the individual Christian, but for the Christian church, the Christian community to live differently. That needs to be thought through and worked out much more systematically than it has been.

This is getting soooooo old: Could Southern Baptist Russell Moore lose his job? Churches threaten to pull funds after months of Trump controversy.  But again, its another outgrowth of the stuff above and how some mega church baptist pastors would rather have their guy in DC go along to get along so he can have “influence” with the White House, rather than helping the church fulfill its prophetic role in society.

I know many people saw the McDonalds tweet bashing the President. The tweet said that Trump was ‘actually a disgusting excuse of a President and we would love to have Barak Obama back, also you have tiny hands’……what?!   They claim their account was hacked, but then didn’t really feel like removing the tweet – maybe its finally down now? Who knows…all I know is that its pretty ironic for McDonalds to call anything “disgusting”.

Tim Challies wrote this week on Suburban Sprawl and the Dying Dream of Community Churches.  I’m not entirely sure he’s correct on this, that is to say that I think his assessment is probably correct, but I’m still pondering his conclusions. He admits at the end that he has much more to say on the matter.  So its worth pondering and thinking about how and why it is that we choose our churches.

Fascinating stuff here: ‘Don’t be so quick to laugh at Trump’s wiretap claims’ – maybe “wiretap” is the wrong vocab, but the right idea. How our government works with other governments to illegally spy on our own citizens is scary stuff. (h/t Alex W.)

Oh WAIT! What?  ——- Putin Spokesman: Russian Ambassador Met With Clinton’s Aides During The Presidential Campaign

Books….

This week I finished a few books, you can find my complete list here.  This week’s books were ‘Einstein’ by Walter Isaacson (interesting insight into his personal life here), Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church, by Michael Lawrence (very helpful book for preachers and teachers), Tempted and Tried, by Russell Moore (definitely worth reading for anyone going through difficulties or wanting to learn more about Jesus’ temptation in Matthew 4), The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde (a creepy, cynical, and dark classic that is instructive in several ways, if accidentally), The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, by Joseph Ellis (an invaluable book on the formation of the country’s constitution and bill of rights and government structure etc.). I also read a few Sherlock Holmes adventures, which was enjoyable. I’ve been making my way through these when I have time, and find them a nice distraction from the norm.

That’s it!  I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

PJW

 

 

 

 

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