Thinking Out Loud

September 7, 2017

Special Report: Barbuda

 

Map makers, amateur and professional alike, disagree as to what is included as part of the Leeward Islands. This map traces back to Pinterest, but wasn’t properly sourced.

As we prepare this, images are just starting to come from Barbuda which are similar to this CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) image of Sint Maarten (the name of the country on the island of Saint Martin) showing damage there. (Click to link.)

In the wake of Hurricane Irma, we’ve learned that up to 95% of the structures on the island of Barbuda have been damaged; but many of us weren’t aware of this island at all until these reports surfaced.

We checked Wikipedia*:

Barbuda (/bɑːrˈbjuːdə/) is an island in the Eastern Caribbean, and forms part of the state of Antigua and Barbuda, which in turn consists of two major inhabited islands, Antigua and Barbuda, and a number of smaller islands — we counted 46 in the list — including Great Bird, Green, Guiana, Long, Maiden and York Islands and further south, the island of Redonda. The larger state has a population of 81,800, out of which Barbuda has a population of about 1,638 (at the 2011 Census), most of whom live in the town of Codrington, which is the 10th largest town overall.

You’ve also heard references to The Leeward Islands, which describes the whole region. In English, the term refers to the northern islands of the Lesser Antilles chain. As a group they start east of Puerto Rico and reach southward to Dominica. They are situated where the northeastern Caribbean Sea meets the western Atlantic Ocean. The more southerly part of the Lesser Antilles chain is called the Windward Islands.

Barbuda alone consists of four (or five) islands and in more normal years, generally experience low humidity and recurrent droughts. The country is a unitary, parliamentary, representative democratic monarchy, in which the Head of State is the Monarch who appoints the Governor General as vice-regal representative. Elizabeth II is the present Queen of Antigua and Barbuda, having served in that position since the islands’ independence from the United Kingdom in 1981. The Queen is represented by a Governor General.

The populace consists of people of West African, British, and Madeiran descent. The ethnic distribution consists of 91% Black & Mulatto, 4.4% mixed race, 1.7% White, and 2.9% other (primarily East Indian and Asian). Most Whites are of Irish or British descent. Christian Levantine Arabs, and a small number of Asians and Sephardic Jews make up the remainder of the population.

Islands of Barbuda (WorldAtlas.com; click to link)

An increasingly large percentage of the population lives abroad, most notably in the United Kingdom (Antiguan Britons), United States and Canada. A minority of Antiguan residents are immigrants from other countries, particularly from Dominica, Guyana and Jamaica, and, increasing, from the Dominican Republic, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Nigeria. English is the official language. The Barbudan accent is slightly different from the Antiguan. About 10,000 people speak Spanish. There is a greater than 90% literacy rate. In 1998, Antigua and Barbuda adopted a national mandate to become the pre-eminent provider of medical services in the Caribbean.

Of special interest to readers here is religion, with a majority of 77% of Antiguans being Christians; Anglicans (17,6%) being the largest single denomination. Other Christian denominations present are Seventh-day Adventist Church (12,4%), Pentecostalism (12,2%), Moravian Church (8,3%), Roman Catholics (8,2%), Methodist Church (5,6%), Wesleyan Holiness Church (4,5%), Church of God (4,1%), Baptists (3,6%) and Mormons (<1,0%). Non-Christian religions practised in the islands include the Rastafari, Islam, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Bahá’í Faith.

With the devastation witnessed after the hurricane, The Los Angeles Times headlined an article, “Once there was an island known as Barbuda. After Hurricane Irma, much of it is gone.” The Prime Minister is quoted as saying, “…on a per capita basis, the extent of the destruction on Barbuda is unprecedented.” 

There are currently three hurricanes in the region including Hurricane Katia and Hurricane Jose.


*We are grateful to Wikipedia, without which we could not bring this report to you as quickly, importing and patching together large sections from the pages linked below. Click on the following pages to learn more:

 

 

 

 

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August 17, 2017

Skye Jethani on News Media; Then, and Later, and Now

Skye Jethani ran this as a series of 20 Twitter posts on Thursday morning. I thought he’d post it to his blog, but in the absence of that wanted to make sure more people got to see it.

by Skye Jethani

Here’s what’s on my mind: Cultural division, the media, and the Civil War. Does 19th century media explain what’s happening today?

Newspapers before and during the Civil War were hopelessly biased in both the North and South. Many twisted facts into “fake news.”  There’s no doubt a steady diet of biased news fueled the divide between North and South and contributed to the profits of a media industry fueled by the new technology of the telegraph allowing for much faster reporting then ever before. Part of the problem was that neither side engaged reporting from the other. Media was highly regional with the opposing point of view rarely presented fairly. It was a fragmented and siloed media landscape that made generative dialogue difficult if not impossible.

The media landscape changed dramatically in the 20th century again due to tech. Radio and then TV created for the first time a national media that could speak to the whole country instantly. It was also an age of external threats where the country rallied together to fight WWI and WWII. The focus on external enemies continued with the Cold War. For much of 20th century regional media differences were overshadowed by a united national media. A handful of outlets spoke to all of us. Remember when Cronkite was the most trusted man in America?

A new wave of tech, this time digital, has erased the unifying media landscape of the 20th century and my childhood. Instead, we’re returning to the pre-Civil War fragmentation where we only hear the voices that agree with us, and where opposition voices are silenced or mis-characterized. The divide is not geographic this time but socio-graphic as social media curates our ‘friends’ and ‘networks’ into like-minded bundled for marketing purposes.

Many look at what’s happening today and the divisions splintering the country as an abnormal, new development. I worry the relative media unity of the 20th century may have been the abnormality, and America is simply returning to the fractured existence that has plagued us since 1776. Without a serious external threat (King George III, Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, USSR), and without a common national and trusted media, we may be returning to the unsustainable conditions of the 19th century that ultimately led to civil war.

When we’ve faced such existential threats in the past it was the virtue of great leaders that has kept us united. Washington galvanized thirteen colonies into a single nation. Lincoln preserved the Union with deft leadership and uncommon wisdom. We need that kind of executive vision, virtue, and resolve no less in these times. God help us, we have none.

God help us.


Skye Jethani is an author, speaker, consultant and ordained pastor. He also serves as the co-host of the popular Phil Vischer Podcast and writes the With God daily devotional, emailed to subscribers worldwide. Skye is a former editor for Christianity Today and Leadership Journal magazines. skyejethani.com  @SkyeJethani

May 23, 2017

One Word: Manchester

Filed under: current events — Tags: — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:26 am

And so, another city joins the list of places which, in a single word signifies another location where terrorism has taken place. For the foreseeable future, one will simply say “Manchester” and that’s all they’ll need to say.

This is what we knew at 11:00 PM (New York Time) when we were starting to put together tomorrow’s article here. I decided to just forego that plan…

Here are some Tweets from last night:

  • Terrorists are targeting music concerts now.What a shame!! What’s the problem with these horrendous creatures?
  • No one should have to worry about a terrorist attack when going to a concert or even just in everyday life.
  • Absolutely heartbreaking reading tweets of parents looking for their children
  • There is a woman on CNN hysterical crying and trying to find her missing 15 year old daughter. As a mother of two children I can’t imagine what she’s going through.
  • I just woke up & got the news. I’m crying right now, why does something like this need to happen in our world!
  • Thank you for the concern and love, I am fine. 19 people can not say the same though, sick and twisted act, prayers to everyone
  • Concerts are supposed to be a safe space. So saddened and terrified by the attack
  • Sad, not only have they lost lives in Manchester. Ariana doing something she loves, name will be forever linked now!
  • Not only is the Manchester show a horrific tragedy but it also takes away the peace of mind that people will have at concerts in the future.
  • Cowards bombing concerts with little girls and teenagers. Zero tolerance from now on!
  • I have been to so many concerts already this year, which makes Manchester even more difficult to hear about
  • I feel ill, sick and ill. I can’t mentally deal with this. This can’t go on. It’s already been the norm for years.
  • Bewildered by the reports that there was no security at a concert filled with CHILDREN and YOUNG KIDS
  • Our hearts are breaking. Prayers for all who attended, their families, Ari and her whole crew.
  • Manchester attack eyewitness Chris Pawley: there was no security whatsoever.
  • “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~MLK 
  • Music halls are the purest non-denominational churches where we all can congregate to share magic. My heart is with Manchester tonight.

 

 

 

March 23, 2017

Attack in London: Longing for a Place of Safety

Filed under: Christianity, current events — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:00 am

Yesterday’s attack in London, England was a reminder that such things can happen anytime, any place, without warning. To avoid such an event, you would need to avoid all public places, which would mean pretty much locking yourself in your own house. Even there, nothing is guaranteed.

At dinner last night we spoke about travel. You could go to Europe and try to avoid the major cities, but those are the cities that have the airports, and could you really go to France and skip Paris? I suppose your plane could land there and then you could quickly aim for a smaller destination. But the last terrorist activity there happened in Nice, not Paris. Nowhere is there a guarantee of peace and quiet.

Could you go to England, but skip Tower Bridge, Big Ben and the Parliament Buildings? It would be difficult, especially if you’ve never been there before. My friend Lorne Anderson wrote on his blog this morning,

When the images flashed into the TV screen, minutes after it happened, my initial reaction was “I was just there a month ago!” I was in London on business and while there had a private tour of Parliament…

…As soon as I heard the news, I sent an email to the staffer who showed me around Westminster last month. No rely, but news reports said those in the building had been grouped into a central location while police secured the area. I presume he didn’t have access…

Lorne was just there. He has a personal contact there. It’s that close. One degree of separation.

England’s Prime Minister Theresa May assured her people that today (Thursday) would be ‘business as usual.’ We visited Washington, DC not once but twice after 9/11, walking around by the White House and Capitol Building and taking their underground transit system many times. The first time, I naively asked someone in charge of the Metro if we would be safe.

“Right now;” he said, “This is the safest place in the world.”

The idea behind that is that the days, weeks, months after a terrorist attack, everyone is on high alert.

Reports this morning say the attacker was born in England. The Guardian reported,

The attacker behind the terrorist rampage at the gates of the Houses of Parliament was a British-born man previously known to MI5 due to concerns over violent extremism, the prime minister has said.

Not a refugee, in case you’re wondering.

The article continues,

The police and security services monitor about 3,000 Britons, mainly Islamists, whom they regard as potentially capable of domestic terrorism. Of these, about 500 are the subject of active investigations and only a limited number become the targets of physical surveillance. The Guardian understands the attacker was not one of them. He was regarded as posing so little threat that he did not even make the list of 3,000.

Lorne, who works in Canada’s Parliament Buildings concludes:

We live in uncertain times. Those of us who work in government know about the risks involved in our work, but you cannot live in fear. You go about your day to day activities expecting them to be normal. When the exceptional does happen, you deal with it. Dull and boring is what you hope for – you don’t want to wind up on the TV news.

So where is it safe? The sacred texts of Christianity constantly remind us that our place of rest is found in God alone; in Christ alone. It’s not a specific physical location, but our security and hope are found in proximity to Him.

Otherwise, we’re never going to find it anywhere on this planet. Especially not now.

 

February 6, 2017

What it Means to be a “Christian Country”

Canadian and U.S. dollar coins

Greg Boyd’s book The Myth of a Christian Nation notwithstanding, many people believe that the nation whose currency proclaims ‘In God We Trust’ is indeed “a Christian Nation.”

Canada has no such illusions. Religious pluralism is normative across most provinces. We refer to ourselves as “a cultural mosaic.”

However this past week we saw an interesting inversion of national stereotypes. In a front page article Saturday in Canada’s largest circulation newspaper, The Star, Robert Benzie writes:

Ontario is flinging open its operating-room doors to provide health care for foreign children whose life-saving surgeries stateside have been cancelled due to U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban.

In the wake of Trump’s temporary immigration ban against citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries, which has affected thousands of families, Health Minister Eric Hoskins offered a prescription to help.

“This is a particular subset of children who require life-saving surgery, so, absent that surgery, they will certainly die,” Hoskins told reporters Friday afternoon at Queen’s Park…

…“What we’re saying is that Canada is a country that has always looked to ways that it could reach out and support vulnerable people around the world.”

Hoskins, a former aid worker in the Middle East and Africa and co-founder of War Child Canada, a non-governmental organization that helps kids from war zones, said Toronto’s world-renowned Hospital for Sick Children is on the case.

“SickKids has been approached by a number of hospitals in the United States with regard to a number of cases,” he said, noting most are for “highly specialized cardiac care” for infants as young as 4 months old…

…continue reading the full article at TheStar.com

Obviously this is a developing story and the United States is making concessions in many cases, but in the meantime, the Canadian province is acting consistent with the federal government’s posture of an open door as indicated in the Prime Minister’s tweets:

This at the same time as a prominent Christian author, familiar to readers here, Ann Voskamp shows up in Washington, DC:

Back to the children needing charity, it does appear that the not-so-Christian nation is espousing Jesus-like charity, while the Christian nation is simply sending a confusing message to the rest of the world as to its commitment to compassion.

January 28, 2017

What Americans Wanted

“These presidential orders are what many Christians voted for. This is the fruit of their political labor, but it’s not the Fruit of the Spirit.”

face-of-refugee-crisis

“For the last few years Christians have been singing worship songs that include lyrics like “keep my eyes above the waves, when oceans rise …” and yet have rejected refugees who’ve seen loved ones die beneath waves, who themselves have literally struggled to keep from drowning in oceans. Those American Christians — particularly white evangelicals — continue to sing the words: “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders …” but fail to realize the shameful irony that they’re largely responsible for refusing shelter and opportunity to some of the world’s most helpless and oppressed people…”

…Continue reading Stephen Mattson’s article American Christianity Has Failed at Sojourners.


January 24, 2017

Hot Button Issues

Filed under: Christianity, current events — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:10 am

In 1990, the name George Barna was less familiar to us than it is today. That year he published the landmark book, The Frog in the Kettle, which was a sort of Future Shock for Christians. Yesterday I came across a publication which had been given permission to excerpt some of the data from the book and found this comparison, under the header “Causes that Stimulate Action” rather interesting.

the-frog-in-the-kettleIn the 1960s

  • Racial equality
  • Women’s liberation
  • Industrial pollution
  • Rent control
  • World peace
  • Police brutality
  • Urban development
  • Cold war
  • Government regulation
  • Poverty
  • International imperialism
  • Cancer
  • Birth control
  • Sexual immorality

Then, 30 years later:

In the 1990s

  • Environmental protection
  • Substance abuse
  • Neighborhood crime
  • Global economic stability
  • Nuclear disarmament
  • Foreign investment
  • Corporate ethics
  • Abortion
  • Garbage
  • Heath care costs
  • AIDS
  • Poverty
  • Illiteracy
  • Public transportation
  • Information management
  • Water conservation
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Medical ethics
  • Elder care

Now we’re just three years away from a future header, “In the 2020s.” Would our list in three years be as different from the ’90s as the ’90s was different from the ’60s? How many of our concerns then will reflect the great technical revolution that has taken place since the ’90s in general and the Internet in particular? (Though there is a concern regarding artificial intelligence.)

And what would return from previous lists? I look at police brutality in that ’60s list and it seems like we’re still dealing with that. The word pollution in the first list resurfaces as water conservation and garbage in the second list. Cold war as a phrase is replaced by nuclear disarmament.

The criterion, causes that stimulate action is also interesting. Maybe in 2020 it will be causes that stimulate hashtags. I wonder if action now looks a little different than action then.

Any suggestions as to what might be on a 2020 list, if George Barna decides to revisit this?

November 12, 2016

When the Meaning of Evangelical Changes

About two miles down the road from me is a church whose denomination has the word “Evangelical” in its name. Therefore the church had the word very prominently displayed in very large letters on the side of the building.

About two years back, some very wise people at that church deemed that the word was losing the value it had once held and those large letters were removed. (Actually, along with another word in the church name; the sign was shortened from four words to two.)  We call this pejoration.1

pejoration-definition

Over the last 15 months in the United States, the word has become politicized to the point where any implicit sense of sharing the euangelion [εὐαγγέλιον] from which the word derives (meaning good news; gospel) has been lost.2

So while others have bid goodbye to the term (not necessarily the movement) I wasn’t surprised this week when Skye Jethani joined those who wish to abandon association with the label3:

Skye JethaniTo the label “Evangelical”:

There is so much to admire about you, your history, and the theology you represent. You mean “good news,” and came to identify a movement birthed by a commitment to the gospel, the euangelion, of Jesus Christ. Seventy years ago, those called “evangelicals” rejected the angry, condemning rhetoric of the fundamentalists, and they saw the error of theological liberalism that abandoned orthodoxy. They sought a third way that was culturally engaged and biblically faithful. I love that heritage.

But look at what you have become—little more than a political identity with a pinch of impotent cultural Christianity. You’ve become a category for pollsters rather than pastors, a word of exclusion rather than embrace. Yes, there are still godly, admirable leaders under your banner, but many are fleeing your camp to find a more Christ-honoring tribe. When more people associate you with a politics of hate than a gospel of love something is terribly wrong. I take no joy in saying it, but like Esau you have sold your birthright for a bowl of soup. You have exchanged the eternal riches of Christ to satisfy a carnal appetite for power.

In the past I willingly accepted your name as my own. I even worked for your flagship magazine. More recently I have avoided you because of your political and cultural baggage, but I’ve not objected when others identified me with you because your heritage was worth retaining. That passive acceptance is over now. What was admirable about your name has been buried, crushed under the weight of 60 million votes. I am no less committed to Christ, his gospel, and his church, but I can no longer be called an evangelical. Farewell, evangelicalism.

With regret,

Skye

What do you think? Can you blame him? Is “Christ-follower” going to be the next identifier?


1 We looked at pejoration 3 years ago here in reference to possible overuse of the term radical in light of the more recent term radicalization.

2 I’ve always wanted to include some Greek text here. Though I’ve not formally studied the language, I’m a huge fan of feta cheese.

3 This was actually one of four open letters (see the link above) with the others being, “To my children,” “To my Muslim neighbors,” and “To Christians who did not vote for Trump.”

August 29, 2016

Pushed Off the News Cycle

Filed under: Christianity, current events, media — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:56 am

Eyewitness News

Growing up in Toronto, television consumption was often dominated by the three network stations from Buffalo, New York. On the half hour, programs were punctuated by bumpers for the local newscast, and stereotypically the lead item on Channel 7’s Eyewitness News involved a fire in Lackawanna, Cheektowaga, or West Seneca. This provided great fodder for standup comics on the Canadian side; with some of the humor having to do with the unique names of the city’s suburbs.

Lately, I’ve noticed that the U.S. network newscasts at 6:30 have also been adopting more of a local news approach. The “If it bleeds it leads” idea was not as common in earlier decades, with the networks taking more of a big picture view of the news. A remnant of that can be seen on PBS, which still steers away from fires or plane crashes.

Some of the reason for this has to do with the number of weather related stories which have been relentless over the past three years. I’ve written about that subject here and here, albeit more devotionally.

There can be no doubt however that the U.S. federal election is also pushing a large number of stories and reports off the news cycle. What business mergers, medical advances, environmental initiatives or social trends are we not hearing about because every significant quotation from Donald or Hillary needs to be included?

Someone once said if you want to know what happened the previous day, but if you want a broader perspective on what those happenings mean and why they matter you purchase a weekly news magazine. Unfortunately, both are falling victim to the need to use sensationalism to sell more copies. Occasionally, even the latter will be accused of tabloid journalism.

What are we to do? I would say look more deeply to find the stories that are getting pushed off. Blogs and Twitter help fill in the gaps, as do those one-paragraph state-by-state reports in USAToday.

And try to find the good news stories that we often don’t hear in a season of primaries, caucuses and campaigning.

 

July 15, 2016

North Point Community Church on Race Relations in America

North Point July 10 2016

Sometimes it seems like we’ve gone back to the 1960s. The state of the relationship between black and white seems to be at a low that the present generations have not witnessed since the race riots of the ’50s and ’60s. Furthermore, it seems to be getting worse.

Has this — police violence against black people — been going on longer than we know? All I can say is that in this case, I’m thankful that phones now have cameras, and that we have social media to spread the word. (See also the book review here a few days ago for Shane Claiborne’s new book, where he also covers the history of black lynching in America.) Media holds us to a higher level accountability. (I’m reminded of Luke 8:17, Luke 12:2, and even the unique wording of Acts 26:26… You can run but you can’t hide.)

Last weekend, Andy Stanley at North Point Community Church in Atlanta preempted his schedule sermon to have a discussion about the subject with Sam Collier & Joseph Sojourner. The day before he Tweeted: “When you decide to rewrite your message on your day off… Don’t miss church tomorrow!” This church service was rather spontaneous.

I had hoped to embed the message here somehow, but I’ll point you to the link and trust you to click through. This will involve about 45 minutes of your time. (They sing only two songs, have one baptism, and go straight into the interview.) If you have any interest at all on this topic, I assure you that once you start, you’ll want to stay with most of what follows. It’s worth at least watching about 20 minutes of this.

A large percentage of the U.S. population should not have to live in fear from the very people sworn to serve and protect.

Here’s the link to North Point Online.

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