Thinking Out Loud

September 13, 2017

Wednesday Link List

LongBay Adventist Church in Anguilla after the roof blew off and walls were destroyed from Hurricane Irma on Sep. 6. Click image to link to story.

Welcome to Link List #375, and it’s a good one! I promised a tighter number of links, but this post actually runs longer because of the excerpts.

  • Op-Ed Essay of the Week: This is both hard to read and must reading at the same time. How I Became a Heretic (or How the Evangelical, Conservative Church Lost Me).
  • The Justice Department on the gay wedding cake case: “This case happens to arise in the context of expression regarding same-sex marriage. But the First Amendment principles that control here transcend, and will long outlast, the nation’s current dialogue about same-sex marriage.” The case reaches the Supreme Court later this Fall.
  • A Houstonian on what happens when Hurricane Harvey hits:
    ► “When your husband sends you and your kids away from Houston, you will not see him again for two weeks. You will have brought enough clothing for two days…”
    ► “On your unexpected cross-country “Hurrication” (patent pending), you will cry in a Target and a McDonald’s. All in the same day. You will yell-weep at the elderly man ‘in charge’ of the safety mask section at Lowe’s because he doesn’t know if they are mold-proof or not…”
    ► “You will not care what Joel Osteen did or did not do. You will be too tired for that.”
  • Nabeel Qureshi enters the final stages of life.
  • This article on Gateway Church contains many revelations, including that “…[Pastor Robert] Morris has always been clear about his target audience: businessmen and entrepreneurs.” And that, “Gateway Church has been accused of erasing the line between church and state, and there is merit to the charge.”
  • Missional church planting advocate and prolific author Michael Frost:
    • “You don’t seem to read or hear many ministers quoting Jesus’ words about family while trying to defend traditional marriage.”
    • “Jesus completely redefines family. His is a radically new social order, a welcoming, open community not forged by bloodlines or betrothals, but by repentance and discipleship.”
    • “And when he says that, he means it. Not like all those churches you’ve visited that said they were a family but no one talked to you.”
    • “And in a cold and brutish Roman empire where all men had three women at their disposal…where orphans and childless widows were as good as dead, where sojourners and strangers weren’t welcome, the new social order embodied by the Christian community was gold!”
    • Check out “Jesus wasn’t real big on the biological family.”
  • Regular readers here know I’m not a fan of Operation Christmas Child, the “shoebox ministry” of Samaritan’s Purse. (If not see this plus its comments section.) But it’s concern over the politics of Franklin Graham that are leaving some looking elsewhere this Christmas. Baptist News offers, looking a little closer to home this year, Ten Alternatives to Operation Christmas Child.
  • Overcompensating: Citing an Ohio University study, the website Science Alert reports that atheists are nicer than Christians, but for a reason.
  • Retro-Link: Going all the way back to May, Timothy Archer posted this link last week, and I decided it was worth sharing: 3 Quick Ways to Improve Short Term Missions Trips:
    1. Stop calling it a “Short Term Mission Trip”
    2. Put away your wallet.
    3. Think beyond the short term hit and run.
  • Another study reported that while acceptance of evolution is widespread, when you look only at stats from atheists and the non-religious showed that one in five have problems with that science in the UK and that jumps to one in three in Canada.
  • Church History Department: Meet Benjamin Lay, the 18th Century Quaker dwarf abolitionist: “…only four foot seven in height; his head was large in proportion to his body, the features of his face were remarkable … He was hunch-backed, with a projecting chest, below which his body become much contracted. His legs were so slender, as to appear almost unequal to the purpose of supporting him…” He opposed slavery and racism.
  • The times we feel we lost faith: “This can happen at any age in life and when not given enough attention, the phase can last multiple seasons, even several years for many individuals. These periods of time can produce drastic effects on our attitudes and behaviors. They have the ability to change the way we act and respond to both situations and circumstances. A loss of faith can be powerful enough to tear families apart and end life-long friendships. Even worse, they create separation with God.”
  • When Henri Nouwen left his academic job to work for L’Arche, he joined an organization headed by Jean Vanier. Meet the Templeton Prize winning advocate for the value of each person. (Links to a series of seven videos.)…
  • …also at Englewood Review of Books, some cartoons with a difference. Sabbath Wanderings by John Dease.
  • Latest Barna Research: 71% of respondents say sex education should include practical skills reinforcing abstinence.
  • Are some kids too young to make life-altering decisions? “At just 12-years-old, Patrick Mitchell, begged with his mother to begin taking estrogen hormones after doctors diagnosed him with gender dysphoria – a condition where a person experiences distress because there is a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity.” Now, he’s reconsidered and is changing back.
  • Provocative Title of the Week: “Heroin in the Hymnals” a review of the Netflix series, Ozark.
  • ♫ Welcome another church promoting its worship resources a la Hillsong, Bethel, Gateway, etc. The Belonging Co. is a church in Nashville with lead pastors Henry & Alex Seeley. From their debut worship album, All The Earth, this video is titled Peace Be Still featuring Lauren Daigle.
  • Stuck at cocktail parties to describe what you do for a living? Peter Enns doesn’t have that problem, he now tells people he’s a Bibliogian©.
  • A fire at an Assemblies of God church in southwest Arkansas is believed to be arson; an attempt to cover up a burglary.
  • One more about Nashville, asking the musical question, “Can We Stop Making Statements on Sexual Ethics?” 
  • Video of the Week: A full interview with Pastor Lim, held in prison in North Korea for over two years.
  • In Italy, a ten-year old girl is washed out to sea by a rip tide and is rescued by a 17-year old with Down Syndrome.
  • Not Lost in Translation: First year students in theological colleges across the UK will get a glossary to help translate the Book of Common Prayer.
  • ♫ New Music: Real Love by Blanca.
  • ♫ Vintage CCM (from 1974): I’ve Been Wanting To by Pat Terry.
  • They are 104 and 92 respectively. They’ve been married for 75 years. Their names will sound familiar this week: Harvey and Irma
  • I have a friend who regularly frequents the religion and Christianity pages of Reddit. In one forum, the question, “Protestants, if the Catholic and Orthodox Churches were to join back together, would you join the Cathodox church?
  • Finally, rather than link you to this video, we’re embedding it here. Can a robot be a priest? Meet Pepper, the Robo Priest.

Parenting Place, Catholic Corner, Canada Corner, Leadership Lessons, et al will return.

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September 12, 2017

When the Color of the Carpet Actually Matters

While touring a church on a recent vacation day, I was taken to this church library where I simply had to take a picture. I love books and am a product of the power of Christian resources.

“The acquisition of Christian books is necessary for those who can use them. The mere sight of these books renders us less inclined to sin and incites us to believe more firmly in righteousness.” – Epiphanius, 4th Century

In Evangelical parlance, the phrase “the color of the carpet” is used as a euphemism for other superficial issues which can serve as a distraction to true worship and fellowship. It functions in the place of a myriad of other topics which can be divisive in the life of a Christian congregation.

I’ve always sworn I would never be a “color of the carpet” type of person. Some things are worth making a fuss over, and others should be consigned to the periphery of church concerns.

And then it happened.

At some point over the course of the summer they removed the church library and gave the contents to a local thrift store.

And I find myself seething.

So in order to justify myself, I have to be convinced that this is more than superficial; this is not about the color of the carpeting. Here’s why I am so strongly persuaded.

This was someone’s ministry in the church. This was a ministry that someone had poured their heart into for the better part of a decade, receiving an annual budgetary commitment, but little else in the way of enthusiasm. The person was away for six weeks visiting family in another part of the country. They did receive an email warning of what was to come, but little could be done at a distance of thousands of miles. This person deserved some opportunity for closure even if it was one last opportunity to view the boxed-up collection. I list this factor first because as a family, we experienced grieving the loss of a ministry, more than once, at the hands of this same church, and so we identify strongly with this particular aspect of the closure.

The library showed the value the capital-C Church has placed on writings throughout history. Though many weeks less than a dozen resources went out, its presence in the church was iconic in the truest sense of that word. It contained resources for parents, books on basic doctrine and Christian theology, chronicles of the history of the denomination. There were Bibles, videos, CDs, and a host of teaching materials instructive for children.

Donations kept the collection fresh. The people, myself included, who donated resources for this were invested in this particular type of ministry. Some books had been given just weeks before the whole thing was eradicated.

Stewardship was squandered. Because of my vocational role in the community at the local bookstore, I know that several hundred dollars worth of books had been purchased only this year. (But only a few hundred dollars. I have no significant conflict of interest here. My reaction is that of a bibliophile.)

The resources belonged to the congregation. People should have been told about the closure weeks ahead, and had the opportunity to take books of interest and make them part of their home library. They belonged to the people of the church, not the church staff.

They could have helped another church that wanted to have this ministry in their church building. This is a denomination that keeps talking about ‘church planting’ and ‘daughter churches’ and being a ‘network of churches,’ but I doubt any were offered the contents of this already-carefully curated collection. Some would be saddened to know what they missed out on.

They could have sent the resources overseas. Again, as a missionary-minded denomination the idea that the collection wasn’t considered to send to pastors and workers who were unable to take their libraries with them to Third World countries is equally perplexing. On a personal level, as an area volunteer for Christian Salvage Mission, I know the organization would have  embraced this acquisition with open arms and heartfelt gratitude on behalf of North American pastors and English-speaking indigenous workers in Africa and Asia. Instead, I wasn’t given the slightest inkling that this was in the works.

They kept two racks of fiction. This was the most disturbing thing of all; what was kept. These shelves are now located in the church’s new café and someone noted that some were books with exceptionally loud colors on the spines. If you were going to keep fiction, these were some of the worst choices. In other words, these books are props. They are being used solely for decorative purposes, to create atmosphere.

They may be deluded that electronic media has replaced books. This church recently signed a contract with Right Now Media, giving church people free access to a large grouping of video content. This is fraught with issues. Video teaching is not the same as learning off the printed page, nor is long-term absorption of the material as great. Older people in the church won’t bother to sign up for Right Now or figure out how it works. The mix of authors and teachers with online content is totally different than those who work solely in print. The library would have complemented the other service. Now they’ll never know if that would have happened.

The space will not see a higher purpose. Looking at that empty room, I wanted to be optimistic; I wanted to say, “Prove to me that what you’re about to do in this space is better than what you had.” It absolutely won’t happen.

The church bylaws are flawed. Major expenditures require approval in a congregational meeting, but the jettison of a major church asset requires no such approval. Given the number of now out-of-print titles that were displayed alongside more recent titles, I’d put the value of what was effectively trashed at at least $20,000 — books aren’t cheap — and that’s an informed opinion of someone working in the publishing industry. So you need to call a vote to acquire larger things, but you’re free to simply give away previously-acquired larger things? No. Not a good idea. For churches or families. Churches operate on the basis of consensus.

The library was doomed for at least a year. I kept forwarding PowerPoint slides along the lines of “Be sure to visit the church library…” to be used in the on-screen announcement crawl before the service, but never saw them used. Now I know why…

…I’m not sure where I’m going to church this Sunday. I have real issues with this. I’ve become what the church staff may say is a “color of the carpet” curmudgeon.

I don’t care. It was plain wrong. The stakeholders weren’t consulted. A horrible decision.

Now there’s no turning back.

 

September 11, 2017

Two Communities Converge to Rescue Each Other

Sometime after lunch yesterday, I carried the book out to the backyard with the intention of reading, at best, three chapters. By late last night I had devoured all 192 pages in just two sittings.

All Saints: The Surprising True Story of How Refugees From Burma Brought Life to a Dying Church by Michael Spurlock and Jeanette Windle (Bethany House) is not my usual read. But reading a friend’s review and remembering I had been sent a copy spurred me to take another look.

The publisher, Bethany House, is home to some of the best Christian fiction available, and to read the first two paragraphs of their description is to imagine you’re reading about someone’s fictional story. Things like this just don’t usually happen. But if God places the right Episcopal priest in the right parish at the right time, anything is possible. It is the stuff movies are made of.

And a movie was. All Saints (the movie) released at the end of August, and in something you don’t see every day, the original contact with the movie producer is included in the story.

A Karen family wedding at All Saints (from the website of Over My Shoulder Foundation; click image to link)

The books subtitle (above) has conveyed much of what you need to know: Life changes for a young man in his first pastorate — a financially crippled parish which has just endured a painful church split — when three “scouts” from among a group of Burmese refugees living in Tennessee show up only because the church is the same denomination as what they experienced in their homeland, copies of their translation of the Book of Common Prayer in hand; there to check out the orthodoxy of the church. As the story progresses, the groups go through the growing pains of integrating, and then the pastor gets a vision of turning the church’s acreage into a farm. 

The story unfolds switching back and forth between the story of Pastor Michael Spurlock and his wife Aimee in the U.S. and the story of Ye Win (and others) among the Karen [kah-REHN] dealing with a less comfortable life in what is now Myanmar. The manner in which Ye Win’s little band of refugees converge with this Tennessee church is certainly the stuff of fiction, not real life. But remarkably, it happens.

This is a textbook case study on the assimilation of minority groups and refugees into North American churches. Not every story will read as this one, but it’s an excellent example of a pastor, a bishop, and a small group of parishioners being open to the possibility that God is doing something among them. Something worth writing about. Or making a movie.

Read more: Washington Post movie review.


A copy of the book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

All Saints Episcopal Church of Smyrna, Tennessee (image from Over My Shoulder Foundation, click to link)

 

 

September 10, 2017

Charts: Ten Largest Churches in America

In Matthew 18:20, Jesus is quoted as saying, “For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”
But you’d never know that by the American obsession with church size.
Image: Journey Online, Australia (click to link)

The Outreach Magazine list is always considered the most authoritative, but only includes participating churches. Nonetheless, here’s how it looked in 2016:

  1. North Point (Atlanta) 39,056 (Andy Stanley)
  2. Church of the Highlands (Birmingham) 38,346 (Chris Hodges)
  3. NewSpring (Anderson) 33,761 (vacant)
  4. Gateway (South Lake) 28,399 (Robert Morris)
  5. Saddleback (Orange County) 25,612 (Rick Warren)
  6. Willow Creek (NW Chicago) 25,371 (Bill Hybels/Steve Carter)
  7. Christ’s Church of the Valley (Peoria, AZ) 24,108 (Donald J. Wilson)
  8. Christ Fellowship (Palm Beach) 23,845 (Todd Mullins)
  9. Southeast Christian (Louisville) 23,799 (Dave Stone/Kyle Idleman)
  10. Crossroads (Cincinnati) 22,458 (Brian Tome)

So right away many of you noticed that Lakewood (Joel Osteen) and LifeChurch (Craig Groeschel) are missing. That’s the problem with this list. It only lists churches that completed Outreach’s full survey. They charge money for their reports, and that’s disturbing because almost by definition, the lists are incomplete.

Go to The Christian Post and you’ll find what might be a better list, but it doesn’t have the data:

  1. Lakewood
  2. Willow Creek
  3. LifeChurch (North Oklahama City; Craig Groeschel)
  4. North Point
  5. Saddleback
  6. Gateway
  7. Shadow Mountain (San Diego; David Jeremiah)
  8. New Season (Sacramento; Samuel Rodriguez)
  9. Prestonwood Baptist (Plano, TX; Jack Graham)
  10. The Rock (San Diego; Miles McPherson)

Regular readers here will notice that there are many churches I would consider to be presently more influential that don’t make these attendance-based lists.

Some readers here would be able to rattle off a list like this off the top of their heads. What I thought would be really interesting would be to list the Top Ten Catholic Churches in the US by attendance. Such a list proved elusive. At least one branch of Christianity isn’t focused on numbers.  Other churches on similar lists include Woodlands (Kerry Shook),  Potter’s House (T.D. Jakes) and Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale (Bob Coy).

If you want to sort by denomination, or state, this list at the Hartford Institute is a good one to know about. They also have an alphabetical Canadian list, but I’m not sure when it was last updated.

Image: Christianity Today (click to link)

 

September 9, 2017

Charts: The Real Bestselling Christian Books

This is from the list from the Christian Bookseller’s Association’s July bestsellers list, the last one posted online; it’s what you get when you eliminate:

  • all the iterations of Jesus Calling (highest individual rank #5)
  • all the iterations of The Standard Lesson Commentary
  • all the various adult coloring books (Update: turns out there were none in the top 40 this time around)
  • various children’s titles
  • two fiction titles
  • a package of tracts

Titles showing in the image above are unrelated.

Their ranking is placed after each entry in brackets.

  1. Goliath Must Fall – Louie Giglio (1)
  2. Without Rival – Lisa Bevere (2)
  3. Driven by Eternity – John Bevere (4)
  4. Jesus Always – Sarah Young (8)
  5. The Comeback – Louie Giglio (10)
  6. Boundaries – Henry Cloud (14)
  7. Uninvited – Lisa TerKeurst (15)
  8. The Circle Maker – Mark Batterson (17)
  9. Swipe Right – Levi Lusko (20)
  10. No More Faking Fine – Ester Fleece (23)
  11. Steve McQueen – Greg Laurie (24)
  12. The 5 Love Languages – Gary Chapman (25)
  13. When God Doesn’t Fix It – Laura Story (26)
  14. The Mystery – Lacey Sturm (27)
  15. Good or God – John Bevere (28)
  16. The Little Things – Andy Andrews (29)
  17. Simple Pursuit – Passion (31)
  18. Purpose Driven Life – Rick Warren (33)
  19. Magnolia Story – Chip and Joanne Gaines (34)
  20. How’s Your Soul – Judah Smith (36)

The Steve McQueen book is a bit of a curiosity which we mentioned here previously on the link list. Louis Giglio has three titles (two written by him, plus he wrote the intro to the Passion book) and two of the titles (13 and 14) are by Christian musicians. The dominance of John and Lisa Bevere in the list shows charismatic titles are still a driving force in Christian sales. Boundaries, Purpose Driven Life and 5 Love Languages show the enduring strength of those titles after many years. It’s also good to see new writer Levi Lusko doing so sell; I went to his church’s website and listened to a sermon two weeks ago.

 

 

September 8, 2017

A Group Exercise in Transparency

In what will soon be ten years of blogging, I’ve been privileged to meet a number of other online writers, but only on rare occasions have those meetings been in-person. Diane Lindstrom is one of those exceptions. Although my wife and I don’t have grandchildren yet — note to the boys if you’re reading this — Diane’s Nice One, Nana web-page really resonates with me, plus she often finds some great Christian music videos that others have missed.

I was reading this item on my phone on Thursday night and immediately ran down to my desktop to email a request to use it here, which she kindly granted. Clicking the title below will get you there directly.


Thorn, Rose and Bud Exercise

The painting, “Rose of Thorns” by Feyi K. Okwudibonye is available for purchase in multiple media at Fine Art America. Click image to link.

Here’s a wonderful idea.

Recently, my husband and I spent the evening at a friend’s cottage. When dinner was over, my friend announced to everyone at the table, “Time to talk about our thorns and roses. Who wants to go first?” 

And the conversation was fascinating. I had never heard of this mindfulness exercise.

First, the thorn (pain points) – doesn’t have to be anything “bad”. It could be an opportunity you missed taking that day, some mistake you made or an uncomfortable feeling that you experienced. I shared about a big batch of freshly made peanut butter cookies having been burned that morning and I indirectly blamed Chris for it. Someone else shared that he got splashed in the canoe and it wasn’t very comfortable being wet for the remainder of the paddling time.

Second, the rose (bright spots) – doesn’t have to be some huge event. The rose can be the simplest pleasure, a moment of delight, a sense of accomplishment or a kindness given or received. I distinctly remember climbing into the motor boat and heading to the cottage that afternoon. It was such a delightful moment that I spread my arms out wide and yelled out loud, “Yahoo!” Definitely a rose moment. For someone else, it was the delicious dinner made that night.

What a wonderful experience for everyone at that dinner table. The two young boys were as captivated by everyone’s comments as the adults. We all listened well and learned much about each other.

Apparently, there’s another part of this experience that could be used either after the evening meal or after breakfast. Everyone can share their “bud” (potential) – that is, their hope for the day ahead.

What a great way to debrief the day, hear from everyone involved and feel connected as a family or group.

By reflecting on the highlights and low points of the day, you start to realize that:

  • there are always things to be grateful for
  • sometimes, things don’t go according to plan and that’s OK.
  • there are events you can and cannot control. The true wisdom lies in knowing the difference and taking action on those things you CAN control.
  • there is always room for improvement.
  • you can model mindfulness and care for others to younger people who participate so that self reflection becomes more natural.
  • you can practice active listening to and empathy for others’ stories.

Try it!


Diane Lindstrom is the author of Sisters in the Son: Reconnecting Older and Younger Women

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:

 

 

 

 

Crowdfunding “Maybes” vs. Supporting “Already Dones”

Crowdfunding

Driving home on a Fall day two years ago, a radio station was discussing crowdfunding as “the new panhandling.” The hosts were skeptical about the projects, the necessity, the ethics and the fact that it has become all too easy to put your request out there and wait for a response.

That got me thinking (but not out loud, as the drivers in the other lanes tend to worry when the guy in the next car is talking to himself.)

What if instead of crowdfunding people for something they say they are going to do, what if there was a site which allowed people to help someone for something they’ve already done?

Something like, “Last week my wife and I got to participate in a great opportunity to help some individual/group/cause in a special way, but now we are unexpectedly out of pocket to the tune of $3,000 and would like to find others who can share in the blessing of what happened that day.”

The obvious benefit here is that instead of wondering if the trip is going to be funded, the charity album is going to get recorded, the business is going to be launched or the medical treatment is going to be deemed necessary; the thing, whatever it is, is already a done deal. There can be pictures, documentation, links.

It’s a way of saying, “I/we believed in this to such a great extent, that before there was an opportunity to create a web page and ask people for help, we stuck our necks out and wrote the check (or bought the ticket, or booked the flight or studio time or concert hall, or registered the trademark, or started filming). But now we want you to help us in something that is already past the half-way mark in development.” Or, “…something that is already a fait accompli.”

That way you could trust that the project is not a pipe dream or a flight of fancy. You would know that the gears are in motion.

If you’ve ever been unemployed you know the adage that it’s easier to get a job when you are already working. There’s a momentum there, which leads to a confidence. Similarly, I would argue that it’s easier to get people on board for something that has already gained traction, or has already proven itself. Some people like to back a winner; as it stands now, most crowdfunding projects are at best a wish.

What we’re really asking here, is what if some of crowdfunding was about events in the past, not conjecture about a possible future.

Let’s take this further:

  • Suppose for a minute that the person seeking the funding was required to show the project had some substance?
  • What if the person seeking help was asked to prove that they have also put some of their own capital into the request in question?

Wouldn’t that encourage others to get on board?

So what’s a good name for such a website?

images for graphic collage: Plan To Start

September 6, 2017

Wednesday Link List

For the superhero fan at your house. Click the image to learn how to order.

Again, some great articles you may have missed in the past 168 hours.

This church serves as an image for a line of Greek foods sold in a British supermarket. Lately, the cross has been airbrushed out of the picture.

September 5, 2017

Who are the Dalits? What Does it Mean to be One?

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:27 am

A Thinking Out Loud Exclusive

Note: Today’s article is the product of two face-to-face meetings with the author, who is not being named for security reasons. That it appears here on the date of the 20th anniversary of the death of Mother Teresa was not planned but is certainly an interesting coincidence. For more information visit the website under the title below.

(Image: J. Lee Grady for Charisma News)

Who are Dalits, and What Does it Mean to be One?

www.dalitfreedom.ca

www.dalitnetwork.org

Who Are The Dalits?

The Dalits are the most exploited people in the world and represent a people group in India formerly known as the “untouchables”. They are considered totally impure and unworthy to be considered a part of the caste system. The word “Dalit” means downtrodden, broken, or crushed.

Strictly speaking, they have been born outside the caste system and are considered soulless, outcast people with no connection to Brahma, the Hindu god who created the caste system from his body. One out of every four Indians is a Dalit.

They are considered so impure that their mere touch severely pollutes members of all other castes. According to Hindu belief, their sub-human position is the consequence of their karma and sinful behaviour in a previous life.

Caste System in India (sourced at Quora)

What Does Untouchability Mean?

Untouchability is a distinct Indian social institution. It legitimizes and enforces practices of discrimination against people born into particular castes, and legitimizes practices that are humiliating, exclusionary, and exploitive.

The Father of modern day Dalits, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar stated in the New York Times on November 29, 1930, “Untouchability is far worse than slavery, for the latter may be abolished by statute. It will take more than a law to remove this stigma from the people of India. Nothing less than the aroused opinion of the world can do it.”

The institution of “untouchability” refers not just to the avoidance of physical contact but to a much broader set of social sanctions. Dalits have been deprived of all religious privileges such as temple worship, access to the Vedas (Scriptures), and the priesthood. They have also been denied participation in social ceremonies and festivals and denied access to public parks, services, and utilities, including water sources and wells.

The Dalits also have the least access to education and health care, and experience dehumanization at the hands of the “higher” castes.

In December 2006, the Prime Minister of India openly acknowledged the parallel between the practice of untouchability in India and Apartheid in South Africa. He described untouchability as “a blot on humanity.

English Education – the Pathway to Dalit Empowerment

For Dalits, an English education is the only way forward. Without it they cannot qualify for the benefits and privileges of government reservation and affirmative-action programs. Without an English-based education Dalit students can never advance to higher-level English schools or gain entrance to a Central Government university. All the Central Government-run higher educational institutions use English as their medium of instruction. Central universities and medical schools also instruct in English and only admit students through English language examination papers.

The dilemma facing the Dalit school children is the result of the government’s policy of requiring all educational curricula taught in primary and public schools to be taught in the regional languages. This makes it virtually impossible for Dalit children to advance in English education.

Dalits also need an English-based education so they can compete in a global economy. In the new Indian economy, globalization and information technology are communicated in English. Dalit leaders believe that knowledge creates all other avenues of freedom and that education is the primary key to any advancement the Dalits hope to have in this world. This is why Dalit Freedom Network Canada and partners in the USA, United Kingdom, and several other countries are committed to establishing English education centers for Dalit children in India.

Dalits See Religious Exodus as the Ultimate Solution

In 1956, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, the Moses of the Dalits, spearheaded the first major socio-spiritual movement of the Dalits. He concluded that if Hinduism was not able to reform itself and annihilate the caste system, then conversion was the ultimate solution for the Dalits.

Ambedkar championed religious freedom for the Dalits, thereby leading hundreds of thousands of Dalits into Buddhism. As a result of his courageous stand, Dalits have been embracing other faiths in various individual states of India. This ongoing exodus from Hinduism is because the Dalits continue to endure centuries-long oppression, struggling for human rights, equality, personal dignity, and spiritual freedom.

Now, more than sixty years later, these same spiritual aspirations have ignited a renewed “Freedom Movement” that has mobilized Dalits from every part of the country. On November 4, 2001, Ram Raj, chairman of All India Confederation of Scheduled Castes/Tribes, gave a national call to “quit Hinduism.”

Hundreds of thousands of Dalits throughout India responded and converged on the Capital in spite of government opposition and intervention. By mid-morning over 100,000 Dalits had gained access to New Delhi and were ready to begin the historic ceremony of conversion to Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity.

One Dalit leader expressed the sentiments of them all when he quoted Dr. Ambedkar’s famous words: “I was born a Hindu, but I will not die a Hindu.”

State Governments Enact Anti-Conversion Laws

In view of the historic developments among the Dalits, it is not surprising that a number of State Governments enacted anti-conversion laws in an attempt to stop the exodus of Dalits from Hinduism to other religions. As of 2017, six states have passed “anti-conversion” laws and a seventh is in the process of passing legislation.

Upper caste Hindu leaders, together with right-wing fundamentalists known as Hindutva and other political factions, see the empowerment of the Dalits as a threat to their religious and political power base. They have portrayed religious conversions as illegitimate and subversive. Every attempt is made to maintain the power structure of the upper castes. Without the slavery of the caste system, the whole edifice of the upper caste power structure comes apart, religiously, socially, and politically.

The right-wing fundamentalist groups are determined to prevent any changes of the Dalit status by enacting these “anti-conversion” laws.

Languages with Official Status in India (Wikpedia)

Indian Christian Leaders Declare Support for the Dalit Struggle

When Dr. Ambedkar led the Dalit exodus from Hinduism in 1956, the Christian Church of India was unprepared for such a historic development. Having been influenced by British colonialism and riddled with caste-based politics, the Church had no appeal whatsoever to Dr. Ambedkar, who sought a religion that would unite his people and bring cohesion and equality to all the sub-castes and untouchables.

Fifty years later, Dr. Joseph D’Souza and leaders of All India Christian Council determined that they would never let this kind of lost opportunity happen again. In their historic meeting in Hyderabad in early 2001, Christian leaders representing over 5,000 church denominations and Christian organizations unanimously declared their solidarity for the Dalit people and committed to help free the Dalits and their children from centuries-old enslavement.

This action was followed by total support of the second Dalit exodus from Hinduism in New Delhi on November 4, 2001. On this historic occasion many hundreds of Christian leaders and observers from the West were present to witness and express solidarity for the Dalits as they sought liberation.

Three Christian leaders were given opportunity to speak and express public support of the Indian Christian Church. One speaker declared: “The whole Church of India is with you, we are your friends.” He declared that they were there because Jesus loved the Dalits and Christians were committed to bringing the love of Jesus to the Dalits in word and in deed.

The speakers assured the Dalits that the Christian Church of India supports the Dalits’ freedom of choice to choose their own destiny.

Dr. Joseph D’Souza believes that the Church’s open stand with the Dalits and their movement for liberation has put the Indian Church on the right side of history.

A New Day Dawns for the Dalits

Even though the attacks against the Indian Christian community and Dalits continue, the pursuit of freedom for Dalit families and their children also continues, unabated. Dalit leaders believe that with the support of Christians and compassionate people worldwide, a new day of hope has dawned for them and their children. They have asked that we help educate their children and give them dignity and hope for the future through a Christian worldview. We invite you to stand with the Dalits in their quest for freedom.

You Can Change Their Lives and Give Them Hope for the Future

  • Sponsor a Dalit child’s education
  • Contribute to the building of schools for Dalit children
  • Empower Dalit women through vocational training and small business grants
  • Pray for India
  • Share this ministry with friends

For more information on the Dalits, or to sponsor a Dalit child’s education, contact:

DALIT FREEDOM NETWORK (US)
1062 Laskin Road, #21A
Virginia Beach, VA  23451
dalitnetwork.org

DALIT FREEDOM NETWORK CANADA
P.O. Box 45645,
Surrey, BC V4A 9N3
Telephone: 604-535-4240
Toll Free: 1-888-592-2238
dalitfreedom.ca

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