Thinking Out Loud

March 26, 2013

Standing With The Homeless and Disadvantaged

Filed under: ethics, philanthropy — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:49 am

It’s so easy to be offended when you’re stopped at a traffic light and a scruffy, unwashed man suddenly leans into your open window and offers to clean your windshield.  Or the guy on the freeway off-ramp who is asking for help buying groceries. I don’t know what it is that makes saying no my default response.

However, when you actually get to know some of the people in that situation — as I have in small measure through the work my wife did co-founding a ministry organization reaching those very people — you tend to be offended in the opposite way when governments would restrict the right of those people to simply stand in an out-of-the-way location with a sign asking for whatever pocket change you can spare.

That’s the position that Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove — and anyone else who lives in community — finds themselves in when laws are passed that makes life even harder for people for whom it’s already hard enough.

On Wednesday he wrote:

Jonathan Wilson-HartgroveIn 2003, my wife Leah and I came to Durham to start the Rutba House, a Christian community of hospitality where the formerly homeless and the formerly housed share life together. Over cups of coffee and around our dinner table, we have learned the difficult stories behind the label “homeless” while also knowing the people who bear that label as friends. We have not ended homelessness in Durham, but we have seen that community is possible despite our fears and deep histories of division. We need not be afraid of those who beg for our help. In fact, our experience has convinced me that we cannot become the Durham we hope to be without them.

Our city’s new anti-panhandling ordinance has highlighted for us the importance of what we’ve learned at Rutba House over the past decade. Passed without public conversation as part of a consensus agenda in December, the new law did not go into effect until mid-January of this year. When it did, those who had purchased permits to beg under the old law were informed that they would be ticketed if they continued to “fly signs” at their usual stations. Within weeks, people who were asking for side jobs or spare change faced $250 fines. To date, at least two of them have gone to jail.

I do not believe City Council passed this new ordinance to send poor people to jail…

continue reading at Everyday Awakening

On Friday, this update:

…Last night, we had our first public meeting on Durham’s new anti-panhandling ordinance. Mel Williams of End Poverty Durham greeted the 200 people who crowded into Duke Memorial UMC’s fellowship hall by saying that we evaluate every public policy by one question: how does it affect the poorest among us?

If we are to know, we must listen to them. So we did.

One after another, men who have been ticketed for begging told their stories. Steve told about how, as he was standing on an exit ramp with a sign that said “Will Work,” his old boss saw him and picked him up last month. Now he has regular work and is able to pay the rent. But he came to speak for his friend Keith who just learned that he has cancer and is no longer able to ask for help because it’s illegal. Steve stood to speak for people like Keith who’ve been pushed further into the shadows.

Country shared his story. He told how he started priming tobacco when he was nine years old–how he worked hard every day for forty-one years before he was injured in a construction accident. On disability now, he gets medical care and a $710 check each month. But when his bills are paid, he’s already five dollars behind. For years, friends in Durham have stopped by Country’s corner and helped him make ends meet. But he got a ticket last week for talking through a car window to someone he’s known for years.

These are the stories that have convinced us that this new law is wrong. They are stories that make us ask, “How could a law like this have come to be?”

Some of us have spent Lent asking this question. When we asked the guys on the streets who’ve been getting tickets, they said, “Nobody asked us before the law was passed.” When we asked folks around town who run our homelessness services, they all said no one had asked them. So we talked to the Homelessness Services Advisory Council–the city/county group that exists to advise City Council on issues that affect the homeless. And they told us no one had asked them either.

How could a law like this have come to be? I think the answer is simple. Durham had not heard these stories.

But now we have…

continue reading at Jonathan’s blog

There was to have been a protest meeting on Sunday night. At this point, Jonathan hadn’t posted what the outcome was of that rally.

This type of thing is repeated in city after city in North America. Smug middle class people in their minivans or sedans weary of being accosted as they are stopped in traffic or walking on an errand downtown. People with the very attitude I confessed to myself in the opening paragraph. (My wife usually jumps in at this point and quickly produces some coins; then we drive away; I ask how much she gave; she tells me; I suggest she was overly generous. It’s a recurring scene.)

Not wishing to be thus imposed on for money, they urge their city or town councilors to pass legislation that will end the inconvenience once and for all. So the rich get richer and the marginalized get more marginalized.

But it’s different for Jonathan and the people in his community because he knows the people and their stories. And really, they is us. Anyone sitting in front of a PC or Mac right now reading this is conceivably there but for the grace of God.

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January 20, 2012

God, Make it Go Away

Filed under: prayer — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:01 am

This is a re-blog from three years ago this month. Ever had days where your prayer is, “God, just make it go away.” ?


I haven’t been sleeping well lately. I wake up and then have way too much on my mind. Last night I woke up at 2:30 and all I could think of was an accident that had taken place on Tuesday night, which I had just heard about on Wednesday night, where two local elementary school teachers had been killed in a collision with a transport truck. They both left young families behind.

I figured my best response to those thoughts was to pray, but pray for what? We’d already prayed for the peace and comfort of God to reach into those families, but it was 2:30 AM and I wasn’t thinking clearly.

So I prayed, “God, this is too hard. Turn back the hands of time to Tuesday and make it so it never happened.”

Of course, you can see a number of problems in that prayer. First, if anything, it’s probably inspired by the Superman movie where he sets the earth spinning backwards to reverse time. Secondly, of course, it’s just not a prayer that can be answered. Nobody can criticize my lack of faith for a request so big, but it’s very misplaced.

I guess what I was really praying at that hour was, “Make it go away.” Not just the hurt of those two families, but the hurt everywhere; the broken marriages, the people in the U.S. and U.K. getting hit the hardest in the economic slowdown and losing their homes, the hungry and thirsty in the arid parts of Africa, the people dodging the rockets in the middle east.

I refined my prayer to ask that God, in His mercy, would intervene and give protection to those who travel on icy roads this winter; and give a heightened sense of diligence to those who maintain those roads. And peace to the families dealing with such sudden loss.  “In Jesus name, Amen.”

December 6, 2010

Be That Person!

I was in my early 20’s and really struggling with college and relationships and everything in between.   Then a couple from my church asked me over for lunch one day.   They were older than I was, with kids in junior high.   They could see that I was hurting and offered friendship and listened to my story, and then offered some good advice that only a fresh perspective could bring.   They also introduced me to one of the seniors in the church who was this incredible storehouse of the kind of wisdom I really needed.   I am so thankful that both the couple and the older person reached outside their social circle to help me at a point in life where I was feeling very lost.

So many times you hear stories of people coming along side and helping out someone they hardly know or don’t know.   That’s the appeal of books like So You Don’t Want To Go Church Anymore or The Noticer. Here’s the deal:  Each and every person reading this has the potential to be a mentor to someone else.   Not just “an encourager,” but someone who truly invests in someone else’s life.  I can guarantee that there’s somebody out there who you’re older than, who you’ve had more life experiences than.   Your story can intersect with their story.

Everyone reading this has the potential to be a life-changer to someone else, to be the person in the story who makes a difference in someone else’s life.

Someone — three people, actually — in the above story stepped up to meet the need.  Be that person!   Find someone about whom God strongly indicates that because of the nature of your personal story, you have something constructive to speak into that person’s life.

The next time you hear a story about someone who reached into someone else’s life to make a lasting contribution, be the person in the story.

September 15, 2010

Wednesday Link List

This week's links lynx is actually an Iberian Lynx

A special blessing will come your way if you click all these links and then send the list to ten friends.   Seriously.   Would I lie to you?

Actually, it’s just a list of things I found worth reading this week.   This weekly list is now consider the #1 list of links published on a Wednesday by a blog called Thinking Out Loud.   BTW, the Iberian Lynx is making what is only his second appearance here.  The first was in January this year.

  • If 56 million Bibles are printed annual in China, why would you bother to smuggle any?   Maybe because the number of Bibles produced are often English Bibles and Bible story books for kids which are exported for sale here in the west.   So the need is still there.
  • She was the champion of the use of the arts in church worship.   And still is.   But right now, former Willow Creek creative arts guru Nancy Beach is sitting in a director’s chair in Toronto on the set of a movie.
  • Sometimes you hear about charity fund raising projects and you wonder if anything is actually being accomplished.   18 months ago, I wrote about one involving worship musicians, Compassionart.   (I still enjoy the CD/DVD combo, especially the DVD.)   This past week, Rick Apperson dug up the stats on the projects accomplished by the project so far.
  • You can vote in the comments section whether or not you love this week’s YouTube clip or hate it.   But how can you not like little Mary Margaret’s flawless dramatic narration of the story of Jonah?
  • Back to the heavy stuff.  Here’s a great piece at Think Christian that helps you identify American “civil religion” when you see it. Simple marker: “Any statement that identifies the USA as God’s unique instrument for the salvation of the world is by definition blasphemous and idolatrous for a Christian to make.”
  • Mandy Thompson’s husband discovers that he didn’t actually marry that Mandy Thompson.
  • Thirty seconds of thinking:  Seth Godin on why it matters that there’s a difference to jazz versus bowling.
  • David Fitch wants you think twice about church planting in an auditorium as opposed to church planting in a living room.   Your choice could have repercussions for decades.
  • Here’s a great 5-minute animation of the Casting Crowns song, Praise You In The Storm.
  • Actually, I’ll give you a bonus video this week.   This is by Aaron Niequist, former Mars Hill (Grand Rapids) now doing the same job at Willow Creek.   The song is simply titled Changed.
  • Then again, why not go three-for-three.   This one may not fit your definition of a worship song, but it earn the adjective as much as anything else.   Check out Owl City’s Meteor Shower.
  • It’s one thing to have a more gender-inclusive translation of the Bible, but T.C. Robinson wonders aloud what do you do when “elders” in Titus 1 is gender-neutral as it is in the Common English Bible?
  • Are you a book-review blogger?  Here’s some advice to put what you do in perspective.
  • Skye Jethani is concerned because there are people attending church each week who are just plain bored.   Certainly that shouldn’t be.
  • Personal link:  This is what my oldest son gets up to when we’re not looking.   The musical instrument he’s playing here is called a Sonome.   Elsewhere on his channel you can do a quick tutorial he posted and find out how they work.   (If you’re reading this months later, it’s the Super Mario clip that was upfront when I wrote this.)
  • Our comic this week should be familiar to you.  Here we have Dolly partially deep in prayer at The Family Circus by Bil Keane.   Do you ever pray like that?   I’ll bet Mary Margaret does.

June 2, 2010

Wednesday Link List

Our link list artist this week is David Hayward, better known as Naked Pastor.   He actually gave away the original water color of this  last week, so with blog giveaways like that, you might just want to become a regular reader.

Off to the links we go…

  • Rick Apperson reviews basketball fundraiser Austin Gutwein’s Take Your Best Shot, at the blog Just a Thought, while the whole genre — including some video clips of Austin — is examined at Christian Book Shop Talk.   Like Zach Hunter, Austin, pictured at right, got into the whole international relief thing at a very, very young age.  If I were still in youth ministry, I think I would build a whole evening around the videos describing what Zach and Austin are doing.
  • The whole Charismatic thing got started in the 1970s, right?   Not exactly.   If you’ve got some time to invest, Brazillian-born Leo Di Siqueira links to a lengthy article that blows apart the “cessationist” view that the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit died off with the first apostles.  Writer Nigel Scotland documents examples of the “miracle” gifts occurring in the first five centures of the church.   The link is approximately a 15-page .pdf file.
  • Garrison Keillor explains the book publishing industry for all the children in the audience who are too young to remember what a book is on the pages of The New York Times.    (Here’s a related piece I wrote at my book industry blog.)
  • John Freeman at Ligoner Ministries suggests a balanced approach to dealing with the issue of homosexuality specifically and sexual sins in general; meanwhile…
  • …”When Ray Boltz and Azariah Southworth perform in concert at Covenant of the Cross in Nashville on June 17, 2010, they will kick off a national tour as well as an affirmation of their status as openly gay Christian music artists.”   Continue reading that story in Out and About a gay community blog.    But wait, there’s more…
  • …At the blog Monday Morning Insight, Todd Rhoades posts a piece about Boltz’ new album and some sample song lyrics which invite the broader Christian community to embrace greater tolerance.
  • For the time being, Raymond Hosier can wear his rosary beads to school, as reports the Washington Post.  Now the school in question faces a lawsuit.
  • Once-disgraced Colorado Pastor Ted Haggard announced today he is starting a new church and “will be happy if only a few people join.”  Read about St. James Church at NBC’s Denver affiliate.
  • They sold their house and named their RV after the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan.  This is actually an October, 2009 YouTube clip from Good Morning America, but someone sent it to me, and it is inspiring.
  • By their CD collection you shall know them:  Brett McCracken thinks true “hipsters” would be nostalgic for these contemporary Christian music classics.
  • Many a college or university began life with solid Christian roots which they would sooner forget in the secularized 21st Century; but sometimes, as Mark Roberts points out, the architecture of their older buildings betrays this history.  (My own alma matter, once proudly part of the now liberal United Church of Canada, is emblazoned with, “The Truth Shall Set You Free.”)
  • Trevin Wax had two great links last week:  First, when the Westboro gang decide to picket your church, if you’re in the deep south you serve them food!  Second, a link to Head Heart Hand, which suggests that bloggers are usually either Creators or Curators.
  • Relatively new blog:  Faith and the Law chronicles those times where Christians run afoul of the law in both the U.S. and around the world.
  • Our cartoon this week are from Doug Michael (upper) and Dennis Daniel (lower) at Baptist Press (we’re going to have to put these guys on the payroll…)  What’s with all the first-name last-names at BP?



May 24, 2010

Your Pastor’s Emotional Rollercoaster Ride

If you’re like most of us, you attended church somewhere yesterday, heard a good sermon, and probably picture your pastor today with his feet up, reading the paper while sipping fruit juice;  relaxing on Monday.   But a pastor’s life isn’t like that; not for a minute.  If physical stress doesn’t weigh heavy, often emotional stress does.

I was going to save this post by Pete Wilson of Nashville’s Crosspoint Church for Wednesday’s link list, but I really want to make sure y’all read it in full.   (Yes, I’m writing from Canada, and I just said “y’all.”  Go figure.)  Besides, it’s a holiday Monday nationally here, and my creative department is shut down for the day!   The picture — which he posted the next day — is Pete Wilson on the golf course with Max Lucado.   I had to retouch it a bit to make sure it wasn’t just a generic guy in a hat!


‘Whiplash’ is a word I’ve used more than once when describing the emotions I often go through as a pastor.

Yesterday was a difficult day.  I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but I need to write this now more than you need to read it, so please bear with me. Let me give you a little back story to help you understand.

Over the course of the past two years Brandi and I have had two sets of friends who have experienced the loss of a baby. Todd and Angie Smith who lost their baby after two hours of life and Mike and Holly Phelps who lost their baby late in their first pregnancy.

I can’t even begin to imagine the heavy heartache and deep loss they went through. And while getting pregnant again doesn’t take a way that pain, you can imagine how excited I was to hear that both couples were once again pregnant.

While each couple faced their own unique challenges, they were both on track to have healthy babies. I couldn’t help but think of what a bitter sweet experience it would be for both of them. A glimmer of hope in the midst of the darkness they’ve been walking through.

In the early hours of yesterday morning, in hospitals just two blocks away from each other, both couples had an pre-term delivery.

Yesterday morning I walked into two different hospital rooms. Both scenes could not have been more similar and yet more different.

Both rooms had moms who were laying in hospital beds. Both rooms had dads who were right by the bed holding and rocking a tiny infant.

However, the similarities end there as one baby was breathing and the other was not.

Todd and Angie’s room was full of prayers, crying and pure joy.  There was life.

Mike and Holly’s room was full of prayers and crying, but no joy.  No life.

The whole way to the Phelp’s room I cried. I knew the situation I was walking into. I cried out to God…

How could this happen to them again?

Why God, would you allow this family to endure this pain yet again?

Haven’t they been through enough?

Why God?

I’ve been criticized in certain circles for writing a book called Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn’t Show Up The Way You Thought He Would?, which is about God, crisis and pain.  A book that clearly states I don’t think there are answers to all of life’s questions and complexities.

I dare any one of those critics to stand in the room with this young couple and even try to answer all of the questions they had yesterday as they sit there holding their lifeless child.

I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this as a pastor, but I’m going to anyway… Isn’t it amazing how in a moment like that you so desperately want God near, but at the same time you also feel secretly mad at Him?

  • Reality for Christians often means we have more questions than we do answers.
  • Reality is sometimes lacking the faith that will give us a sustained hope.
  • Reality is even though we know God is with us sometimes we feel completely alone.
  • Reality is even though we believe, we also doubt.

There’s a big difference between trust and understanding. They say trust is what we need when we don’t have understanding. So today I’m praying for trust. A big, huge, helping of trust.

It’s funny but the final paragraph of Plan B says,

I’m asking you to trust that one day faith will win over doubt, that light will win over darkness, love will win over hate, and all things will one day be redeemed. I’m asking you, right in the middle of your Plan B pain, to trust this process that is going on in your life.

I never knew when I wrote those words how much I would need them on a day like today.

~Pete Wilson, pastor and blog-author of Without Wax.

April 22, 2010

Better Than Roberts Rules of Order

You can’t expect to run a society by the rules of parliamentary debate, but it often seems like a little bit of civility and decency might be in order.   So it seems rather timely that George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation should be released by so many publishers over the last few years.

American kids grow up knowing the rules as part of a penmanship exercise, but the title is foreign to Canucks, Brits, Kiwis and Aussies.

Many different publishers have availed themselves of this public domain title with 24 editions printed since 2002 currently available.

One publisher, Applewood, has the lone currently-available pre-2000 edition in print and markets the book with this history:

“Copied out by hand as a young man aspiring to the status of Gentleman, George Washington’s 110 rules were based on a set of rules composed by French Jesuits in 1595. The first English edition of these rules was available in Francis Hawkins’ Youths Behavior, or Decency in Conversation Amongst Men, which appeared in 1640, and it is from work that Washington seems to have copied. The rules as Washington wrote them out are a simplified version of this text. However much he may have simplified them, these precepts had a strong influence on Washington, who aimed to always live by them. The rules focus on self-respect and respect for others through details of etiquette. The rules offer pointers on such issues as how to dress, walk, eat in public, and address one’s superiors.”

Prices vary from $5.99 US for a simple 52-page edition to $37.95 US for a 180-page edition with commentary.

However, you can actually read all 110 rules at this Wikipedia page (#91: Make no Shew of taking great Delight in your Victuals, Feed not with Greediness; cut your Bread with a Knife, lean not on the Table neither find fault with what you Eat) … though it’s in desperate need of a Eugene-Peterson-Message-style update.   Or maybe they can get James Reimann, the guy who updated My Utmost for His Highest.

On the other hand, KJV-only advocates should feel right at home with the language this title presents.

Better yet, here’s a question to end on:  Do they still teach any of this stuff to kids today?   Maybe we need this to be more than a writing exercise.

Related posts in this blog:  Don’t Blame Seniors (Aug. 2009)

Another reason you’ve heard the word civility in the last few days:  The head honcho of the Assemblies of God removes his name from The Covenant of Civility, perhaps rather missing the whole point in the process.   Read that story here.

April 17, 2010

The Tree in the Garden

It was a simple test.   Other than this, you can do anything you want to, just don’t touch that tree over there.   Yeah, that one.

Adam and Eve lived in less complex times.   It was a good time to be alive if you were bad at remembering peoples’ names.   Or not so good at history.   And the only moral law they had was “The One Commandments.”  Thou shalt not touch the fruit of the tree in the middle.

You know the tree.  The one that looks so inviting.  The one thing you can’t have.   The big fluffy tree that’s like a giant “Wet Paint” sign that’s just begging you to touch your finger to it.   Except they didn’t have paint back then.

Anyway, you know how that story ended.

I believe that throughout history there has always been a tree in the middle of the garden.   It’s there in the garden of our world.   In the garden of our society.   In the garden of our nation.   In the garden of our community.   In the garden of our families.   In the garden of our hearts.

There’s always a tree.

The warning not to touch its fruit is given to some by direct command, though others believe that the idea of not tasting of its bounty is written on the hearts of people; they simply know.

Some people say that everyone knows this, some people think people do need to be commanded, to have it spelled out for them; while others spend long hours drinking hot beverages wondering what then of the people who haven’t heard of the command.

In some cases, there is always one large tree to confront.   In other cases there are several trees which must be avoided.    Some reach a point where they simply lose interest in the forbidden fruit, it no longer tempts them, only to find themselves looking squarely at another tree, which holds a similar prohibition.

“Why, when I have lived my whole life never having been tempted to touch the tree in the middle of the garden, do I find myself now, at this stage of life, looking squarely at another tree in another part of the garden which is so very captivating, but apparently so equally off limits?”

Many, therefore, succumb.

Meanwhile others say there are no trees that are verboten.   The time of such restrictions has passed, and one is free to enjoy all the fruit of all the trees.   They entice others to eat, and the penalty for such as trespass doesn’t seem to befall these, though the eating of the fruit does leave a kind of stomach ache that lasts for a long, long, long, time.

At the other extreme are those who manage to transcend all of the temptations and all of the trees.   These people enjoy a kind of regret-free, stomach-ache free existence.   They are above such weaknesses.  They don’t eat the fruit.   They don’t touch the tree.   They stay away from all the trees in all the gardens that might be simply wrong to taste, touch or even look back on.

They are however, rather quick to condemn those who who do succumb.   “We warned them;” they say.   “We put up signs that pointed people to the other trees; the safe, practical trees; the open spaces free of vegetation.”

They do this, not realizing, that their response is their tree.

Their careful analysis of the condition of gardens inhabited by weak people who do in fact stumble, who do in fact fail; their commentary on the nature of human weakness; their lack of compassion for those who have been unable to resist the appeal of the tree and its fruit… somehow… in some way… that became their tree.

They have gazed at it.   They have touched its trunk, its branches and its leaves.   They have tasted its fruit.

They are really no different.

For all have missed it; coming up short in understanding of the true nature of the creator and his expectations.

They forgot to look at the tree they were standing next to all along.

April 15, 2010

Gay and Christian: The Jennifer Knapp Interview

By the time you read this there will probably be over 300 comments.

Christianity Today posted a long, online interview on Tuesday afternoon in which Jennifer Knapp ends a 7-year media silence, announces her new album, and admits to being involved in a gay relationship for several years, though maintaining it was not a factor in her original decision to take a hiatus.

First of all, let me say that I applaud CT’s decision to run this.   Jennifer Knapp was at the top of the “most wanted ” list of “missing in action” Christian singers.   Turns out she was in Australia for five years, but has been Stateside since September.   Interviewer Mark Moring asked all the right questions and wasn’t afraid to ask a few of the harder questions, too.

The magazine has endured some persecution in the comments, but I was more challenged by their decision to link to a GayChurch.org commentary on the “clobber verses” used against Christian gays.  (The hyperlink doesn’t work however, it’s meant to take you to this page.)  Any “reporting” of this kind is often considered “endorsement;” possibly including the very blog post you’re reading now.

This is the tough issue for the (capital C) Church.   If it hasn’t hit your church yet, it will at some point in the future when you least expect it.   My personal view is that it raises two issues:

  1. Can a person be following Christ and be gay at the same time?  Notice I didn’t say “struggling” with being gay.   Those very same “clobber passages” will yield one answer, but I challenge you to get to know people in this situation and then tell them that they are not moving toward the cross.    It’s complicated I know, and many will mis-read the statement I just made.   Which brings us to the next question…
  2. What is the measure of our compassion and what kind of face does our version of “grace” wear?    Many, if honest, “Hate the sin and hate the sinner.”   That’s just sin of another kind.   I’m not saying that if someone is caught in what we view as sin we should do anything other than what scripture says, “restore them gently,” but when and how we do this is going to say a lot more about us as local church or as the (capital C) Church in general than it’s going to say about the gay person.

In the meantime, the new album, Letting Go releases May 11, though she says. “The Christian bookstore thing is probably not going to happen; this isn’t a Christian record, and it’s not going to be marketed to Christian radio.”  Jennifer is back on tour, describing her audience in these words:

My concerts right now include the ultra-conservative hand raisers that are going to make this bar their worship zone. And there’s a guy over on the left having one too many, and there’s a gay couple over on the right. That’s my dream scenario. I love each and every one of them. At the end of the day, it’s music.

Her Wikipedia article claims that she recently announced tour dates with Derek Webb.    This blog mentioned Webb’s appearance at the Gay Christian Network conference early in the year.    Chris, a gay blogger writing about Webb drew this comment from Jon:

I was at said gay christian conference in Nashville this year, when Derek Webb said “If the church were to force me to pick sides [about where he stands on homosexuality], I’d be on y’all [gay people] side”. We also have very popular Christian speakers coming there. This year we had Tony Campolo as our keynote, next year, we have Philip Yancey as the keynote. Those names mean nothing to people who aren’t a part of evangelical subculture, but in the evangelical world, those are big names coming to talk at the Gay Christian Network conference.

(Sometimes these blog posts evolve as I’m writing — suddenly we find Philip Yancey’s name invoked in connection with next year’s conference.)

Another Gay blogger posts the lyrics to Webb’s What Matters More along with the music video.    I recall Webb saying at the time — but cannot locate it for you here — that he had a friend who was gay, possibly referring to Knapp.

I recognize that I’ve probably given more space to this issue than some feel it deserves, and there will be blog readers who think I’m being soft on the moral issues of homosexuality.  I’m just trying to take the focus off item #1 above and focus on item #2.

The point I want to make is that there are a number — a growing number — of people out there who are truly striving to understand what it means to be a follower of Christ but are also involved in a gay relationship, are dealing with the issue of friends who have come out, or are dealing with latent gay feelings.   Some of these were gay before they investigated Christianity, others were Christians before they confronted with the gay issue.

This issue matters.   How we interpret scripture is one thing.   Most people reading this blog would agree that scripture is very clear on this issue.   How we respond to gay and gay-inclined people in the Church at large is a very, very different issue altogether.   In fact, a poor, wrong or ill-chosen response could leave us in as sinful a state as those we would condemn.

And remember, you can’t obsess about Paul said about homosexuality and ignore what Jesus said about materialism.  And gluttony.  And hypocrisy.  And worry.  And so on…

Here’s the CT link again to the Knapp interview that started all this.

Two really good blog posts at Mere Orthodoxy on this topic:  The Objectification of Jennifer Knapp (April 13) and Why Jennifer Knapp Matters (April 14). Also Justin Wise’s post at BeDeviant, Unfriending Jennifer Knapp.   As of 10 PM last night, these were the only mentions in Alltop Church and Christianity pages, but you’ll find dozens of blog posts at this WordPress link.

UPDATE – JANUARY 2011 — At the end of 2010, I was asked to be part of a blog tour for a definitive book on this subject, Turning Controversy into Church Ministry by W. P. Campbell.  You can find my review of a small section of the book, and links to the rest of the blog tour here.

October 29, 2009

Link Here to Another World

Link Day2It’s the internet; a place where you just have to think of it and it exists.  Here — in no particular order —  are some places I’ve been since our last linkfest ten days ago:

  • Jonathan at ReThink Mission gets his friend Aaron — a non believer — talking about how Christians could better share their faith.   Insight number one:  “Don’t come with an agenda.”   Hear more here.
  • At the blog, Solar Crash, Lon points out that, “Sponsoring a Child is Not Loving a Child.”  Good thoughts.   But then — and whatever you do, don’t miss this — he includes a video of a sponsored child who is now an adult who is speaking to the Catalyst conference on behalf of Compassion.  Then, something amazing happens!
  • Fasten your seat belts for this one.   What if the message of creation was packaged in scientific-sounding language and the message of evolution was phrased in religious-sounding words?   How might this change your appreciation of both messages?   Especially when both of them are talking at once?  Check out the 3 1/2 minute animation Duelity on Vimeo.
  • The evening news bring images of suffering and disaster into vivid focus, but increasingly, people spend more time at the small (computer) screen than the large (broadcast) screen, thereby avoiding media discomfort.  So here, courtesy of The Big Picture, are some rather striking images of Typhoon Ketsana which struck The Phillipines during the last week of September.
  • As a one-time philosophy major at university — the same year Time magazine said, “Philosophy is the prerequisite to unemployment” — I’ve been very much drawn to the rather engaging Justice series airing on the PBS Think Bright digital network.   At least 24 Harvard University lectures by Michael Sandel have been condensed into twelve 55-minute portions; the first time Harvard has posted courses online.    Grab your notebook and join the class here.
  • The blog Higher Ground reposts a series of statements by Charles Finney under the title, “How To Preach Without Converting Anyone.”   Warning:  Finney pulls no punches.  For example: “Avoid preaching doctrines that are offensive to the carnal mind, so that no one should say to you, as they did of Christ, ‘This is a hard saying, who can hear it?’”  Check it out here.
  • You’ll notice the previous link is actually lifted from something called Dead Guy Blog.  (Tag line: ” Learning from the giants of the faith that have gone before us to strengthen our faith and stir our affections toward God.”)  I wanted to include this blog as a separate link highlight and I want to encourage you to check out the entire blog, not just the permalink to one entry.
  • David Fitch’s “A Warning List for Those Who Would Join a Missional Church Gathering” at his blog, Reclaiming The Mission, has a lot more substance to be limited to just the missional conversation.   What do you look for in a church?   Maybe it’s all the wrong things!    I like number ten.  The last sentence.   Read all ten warnings here.
  • My favorite Nashville pastor, Pete Wilson, quotes John Ortberg: “It has never been easier to obtain the scriptures and never harder to absorb.”  Profound stuff, eh?   Sendin’ Pete some link love here.
  • Kathy at the blog, The Well has a gripping item from David Yonggi Cho telling the story of a pastor who prepares his family for the martyrdom they are about to experience.   That very night.   Read it here.
  • Jesus Christ preached the good news of The Kingdom.   He didn’t just offer “Get out of Hell” cards.   Sometimes that message gets lost on even seasoned churchgoers.   Christian musician Shaun Groves gets caught in the middle of such a situation at one of his recent concerts.
  • Finally, to make it an even dozen, here’s a link from this blog just a few days ago that I thought would generate more comments.   Hidden between the lines is the answer to the question, Why Evangelicals Don’t Have Crucifixes.   Or maybe not so hidden.

Thanks to Steve McCoy at Reformissionary for the link to Re Think Mission.

Here’s a link to our last link list,  and also the one before that.

If you got this far and still haven’t linked to anything, consider just the first three items on today’s list.

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