Thinking Out Loud

May 19, 2021

Denominations Losing Internal Influence

Saddleback Ordination Service; Screenshot via Baptist Standard; click image for story

In the last several days we’ve witnessed two serious breaches of denominational policies and protocols, both involving large, significant denominations and both involving gender issues.

In one, Saddleback, a California megachurch, which is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) ordained three women earlier this month. Albert Mohler, who just yesterday announced his resignation as President of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberties Committee, was quoted earlier by Religion News Service saying, “Saddleback has taken actions that place itself in direct conflict with the stated doctrines of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

In the other, members of the progressive wing of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) in Germany have defied a Vatican edict forbidding the blessing of same-sex unions. A Jesuit priest there told Associated Press, ““I am convinced that homosexual orientation is not bad, nor is homosexual love a sin.”

As denominations lose influence over their congregations, and an entire generation of Millennials and Gen-Z reject affiliated churches in favor of house fellowships or independent congregations, the open defiance is a serious crack in the denominational fortresses. Though the RCC and SBC are very different on many issues, the RCC is very hierarchical, with The Vatican seen as the supreme authority, even overriding scripture on some points.

By contrast, the SBC has always been a much looser network of congregations, though continuing to use operate under the SBC banner has always required absolute adherence to its statement of faith, which includes the position that women cannot be pastors.

In both cases, there are semantic elements, such as whether the role of pastor implies the title of Senior Pastor or Lead Pastor or whether the blessing of same-sex unions is the same as approving of same-sex marriage. The words marriage and pastor create both theological and emotional responses from people on both sides of the issue in SBC and RCC congregations and leadership.

April 19, 2021

Some Social Media Tension Could Be Lessened

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:06 pm

During the last few months I’ve watched two very longtime relationships erode; people with whom we’ve enjoyed close fellowship since we moved to our small town over 30 years ago.

Not everyone sees everything the same way. I get that. And I enjoy good and healthy debate, provided the basic premises of debate are followed, one of which is logical argument. If the reasons given for a particular position are worthy of consideration — even if I disagree — I’m willing to entertain the conversation.

I’m also willing to listen to someone if they have a portfolio of concerns, but often someone is like a one-issue candidate; the guy running for mayor but really only cares about expanding the baseball diamond in the park, and when asked about road construction or taxes is simply unable to articulate the issues.

But sometimes that’s more subtle. The issues seem varied, but the common theme is preaching to their social media audience. I suppose there is the unlikely chance they might convert someone to their positions, but it’s rarely seen. Often they think the strength of their viewpoint is going to be measured by the volume of their online posts.

I really want to send this to my friend. But I still value the friendship more than anything. However, if I did, it would look like…

Dear ________;

I see you’re once again posting about the _____________ issue. I see it differently, but I also see the frequency of these posts to be concerning.

Your friends and relatives know where you stand. And you know they don’t necessarily agree with you on this subject. Personally, I would think a reminder maybe once every 2-3 months would be sufficient. Not every other day. Especially when a few of them are stretching to make a point.

On a personal level, I do wonder how many people or organizations you are subscribed to that provides you with the vast number of sources from which you gather the various content items. I think about the time this must involve, time that could be spend taking a walk in the fresh air, or doing something different. Your best friend on social media is the button that says, “Log Out,” and you might want to consider using it more often.

I also worry because this rather huge number of social media sources you follow is creating a giant echo chamber which prevents you from hearing from the other side. If we surround ourselves with people who agree with us on everything, we never experience growth.

Last week I had an insight that helped me to see this differently. I’m wondering how much of this is just done for the (predictable) reactions you get. Being deliberately provocative. Poking the bear. Raising peoples’ blood pressure. Being a troublemaker.

I’m reminded of the boy sitting at the back of the middle school classroom making fart noises because it makes the boys laugh and it makes the girls yell at him to knock it off. Either way he gets a reaction. He gets attention.

I am convinced you’re on the wrong side of history on this subject, but neither of us will be around to see the outcome. We can only estimate based on current trends and statistics. But I wouldn’t want to be known as the _____________ guy. Especially if my position could be construed as simply based on my personal preferences.

I’m not going to block you. Not yet. I still consider you a friend. It is amazing though how out of what I always thoughts were common roots we shared we have diverged along very different paths. We need to strengthen the things that remain instead of working toward division.

Your friend,

Paul.

 

February 21, 2021

My Life in the Twitterverse

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:39 pm

I realize not all my blog subscribers do Twitter, so here’s a few things I’ve been tracking there, since things have been rather quiet here.


In addition to being one of the world’s coolest Christian music stations (mixing Christian and mainstream song) Brisbane, Australia’s “96five” is also a news outlet, so as part of their retaliation against a government decision, Facebook shut down their Facebook page. All their history was lost, it now says “No Posts Yet.” The station reported, “The new laws will require social media companies, such as Google and Facebook, to pay media outlets for using or posting their news… Facebook, however, has argued it should not have to pay anyone.”


@justinsytsma: Stop putting the word Grace in your church if you’re planning to be a people devoid of it.


The power grid in Texas is completely independent of the rest of the US which allowed them to bypass federal standards which include “cold weather safeguards.”  Forgive my Canadian smugness but where I live federal standards are federal standards. That’s what those words mean.


@joshcarlosjosh: Maybe the Billy Graham rule should actually be to never be alone with power, not women.


A Statement from the Board of RZIM Canada: “It is with heaviness of heart and after much prayerful consideration that we are compelled to begin winding down the operations of RZIM Canada.” Click this link for statement.

meanwhile:

The board of the U.K. branch of Ravi Zacharias’s ministry has declared its intention to separate from the organization. “The response of the RZIM US Board does not go nearly far enough in terms of actions relating to leadership and governance.” Click this link for statement.


@LeeGrady: Christian singer Carman Licciardello died [Feb 16th] . He was only 65. He was a legend in the 1980s. I never knew until today that Carman gave his life to Jesus at an Andraé Crouch concert.


When churches want out: Someone put a lot of work into researching this video. 12 ecclesiastically-packed minutes. Click here to watch: Congregations Leaving Denominations: How Hard Can It Be?


Women (especially) and everyone else: Looking for a good podcast, but don’t have time invest in researching what you might hear? Check out The Godly Pod Podcast by Doreen Eager. She does the work for you! 


• The top news story in the Evangelical world this month is the findings of a report concerning the moral life of a celebrated man who is no longer living.
• The top news story in the broader news cycle this month is the result of an impeachment hearing involving a man who is no longer President.


Finally: Listening over the past year to people like @MattWhitmanTMBH
and @SkyeJethani talking about the future of the term “Evangelical” reminded me of this brief comedy routine:

January 20, 2021

Wednesday Connect

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:31 am

Welcome to Wednesday Connect #94, as I continue my aim of at least getting to #100 at some point. The opening graphic was discovered during a weekend perusal of wholesale book listings.

■ After an abortive attempt just a week prior using a .org address, Daniel Jepsen from the former Internet Monk site has re-launched Mystery and Meaning at MysteryAndMeaning.com. Because iMonk (which will remain visible for a short while longer) was as much about a community as it was about the articles themselves, you may see a prompt asking for a log in, but it isn’t necessary to do so to just read things. If you need some encouragement, check out Graceland versus Karmatown.

■ As far as I’m concerned, the hot ticket online last week was for a 97-minute discussion with Canada’s Bruxy Cavey and Atlanta’s Andy Stanley. The good news is, anyone can view it now on YouTube. Check out How Centering on Jesus Changes Everything, sponsored by The Jesus Collective. (Best quote on getting priorities rightly ordered: “The resurrection gave birth to a movement and the movement gave birth to a book.”)

Timely today: The Washington Post notes that “It’s been 152 years since Andrew Johnson decided not to attend the swearing-in of Ulysses S. Grant.” History repeats. Political parties were opposites, though. 152 years later, it’s time to read the article and play the home version of Count the Parallels.

■ Ongoing, with more people expected to tell their stories: Religion News Service published on the weekend a look at Dave Ramsey‘s Ramsey Solutions which they believe to be “the best place to work in America.” Instead, we see a leader so insecure he cannot tolerate even a fraction of dissent or critique.

■ Did Pope Francis inch closer to allowing women to be priests? Don’t hold your breath. In a precise, fine-tuning of coverage of the announcement, the site Get Religion notes:

The move — in the wake of a decades-old priest shortage — will grant “non-ordained ministers” the chance to serve as lectors, read scripture, act as eucharistic ministers and, in a crucial symbolic change, wear robes while serving in the sacred space around the altar. The changes, however, will continue to forbid women from being made deacons or ordained priests. continue reading here

■ I don’t track with everything Carey Nieuwhof writes, but this one is worthy of your consideration. 8 Disruptive Church Trends that will Rule 2021: The Rise of the Post Pandemic Church. (Spelled his name correctly first time!)

■ A video podcast discovery: The JXN Cloud is an online church community based out of Jackson, Michigan which does a morning show at 6:30 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays on YouTube that will appeal to younger listeners.

■ Not new: This week Sheila Wray Gregoire linked to a 2019 piece she wrote about how local churches find and hire youth pastors. While the article contains no horror stories — local print and broadcast media do a great job, however — the article contains enough cautionary warnings for churches and Bible colleges to rethink the whole process.

■ Sometimes, like everyone else I use Twitter to just rant. Like this one related to the image above: “I really despise publishers like NavPress who leave no way for consumers to contact them directly. This is the image for a new Bible, ISBN 9781641582544; an image that is widely circulated on the internet. It’s advertised as a teal Bible. That’s not teal. Not even close to teal. Sky blue? Powder blue? Teal is a blue-green combination. Its HTML is #008080. Words are meant to have meaning. Either the description of this Bible is wrong, or the image is wrong, but I would caution people against ordering if they don’t know which is the case.” Thus endeth the commercial art lesson. (Twitter brings out the best in people, right?)

■ This should have been the winner in Matthew Pierce’s weird Christian tweet contest, 2020 edition. At least IMHO.

■ If you’re a Bruxy fan but found the prospect of 97 minutes (above) too daunting, here’s his now famous nesting dolls analogy from a sermon the week before. (Only 5 minutes.)

■ The moral dilemma. Is this an Everest too high for some to climb? How would you respond to him?

■ This should have been more widely seen when it appeared on January 11: Rick Warren speaking with Relevant on the pandemic, racial justice and political unrest. A positive interview with the author and megachurch pastor.

■ ICYMI (from December): Lauren Daigle said she was out for bike ride, saw the police and thereby assumed it was an officially sanctioned event. She offered to sing a song. Then all hell broke loose

■ Finally…

November 11, 2020

Alex Trebek and Donald Trump: A Tale of Two Exits

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 2:41 pm

This was sent to me this morning via email, and to the best of my knowledge, this is its first appearance online. They said they weren’t sure they had the courage to post it themselves, asked me not to attribute it, but then kinda dared me to post it.

I thought about it for several hours. And here it is. Mind you, comments are switched off.

July 29, 2020

Wednesday Things

Filed under: Christianity, links — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:47 am

“Will I ever get my job back?” asked the Wednesday List Lynx.

Most of my attention during the pandemic has been on our companion blog, Christianity 201. But I haven’t forgotten readers here. No this isn’t a Wednesday Link List or a Wednesday Connect, just a few things I’ve posted on Twitter over the last 30 days. But we’ll get there…

Dennis Hanabarger posted this yesterday. The sign above these books doesn’t say Christianity. It says Christian Living. In other words this ain’t no Barnes & Noble. This pic was taken in a Christian bookstore. These were the titles they were featuring on a top shelf. This was the best they had to offer. I find this extremely worrisome. For readers outside the U.S., this is Christianity in America. I’m sure there are some good thoughts in these books. But there are so many other things this store could be recommending.


The death of Texas pastor John Powell is heartbreaking enough, but made more so when you look at online pictures of his wife and four very young children. (I opted not to include those here.) He stopped on I-75 to help a motorist having a car fire and was hit by a transport truck. He was a former student of Russell Moore. More details at Religion News Service. A GoFundMe page is just 4K short of its 350K goal, but of course that won’t bring him back, and while I might have said that better, it’s just reflective of the sadness I feel.


Ross Brotman is a songwriter and musician based in Phoenix, AZ.  He writes, “I have been working professionally as a drummer for 25 years and have been writing songs in many different genres all along. I have been very active in music ministry over the entire course of my playing career in large mega churches and small cafeteria start up churches alike.” Check out this song.


The EFC (Evangelical Fellowship of Canada) is Canada’s equivalent to the NAE. Yesterday at 3:30 they reported their financial management service provider had a data breach (ransomware virus) including names, addresses, emails and contribution records of donors, but thankfully not credit card information. The breach actually happened back in May and donors found out yesterday. Details here.


Also in Canada, probably the biggest faith-based news story last week concerned a Toronto Baptist pastor who was male when hired six years ago, and then in June came out as a transgender woman. She was immediately fired by the church.


Tish Harrison Warren became the unlikely victim of a book counterfeiting scam last year involving her title, Liturgy of the Ordinary. We reported on that almost exactly a year ago. 2021 is looking better. She writes “We have a cover! Prayer in the Night deals with darkness, suffering, vulnerability, theodicy and doubt. It’s framed around one nighttime prayer. ‘Keep watch, dear Lord, w/those who work or watch or weep this night, & give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; & all for your love’s sake. Amen.‘ Releases late January.”


In light of this weekend’s church service, one writer compared John MacArthur to “a petulant teen slamming doors in his parents house.”


I’ll bet you don’t have this topic covered in your library. Often Christian/Religious publishers are tripping over themselves offering similar product. So I gotta say, Acts Against God: A Short History of Blasphemy got my attention. Chapters look at: Ancient Worlds, Medieval Christendom, Reformation, Enlightenment, 19th Century, 20th Century, Contemporary World.


This multi-faceted artist is both writer and musician. She has a book releasing this month with Harvest House Publishers with the provocative title, Getting Naked Later: Making Sense of the Unexpected Single Life. This music video is much different; an excerpt from a live worship album.

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:

 

 

 

 

July 23, 2016

Weekend Link List

  • A 40 year flashback to a 3-part series Sports Illustrated on religion in sports.
  • A must-listen podcast for anyone in business or management: The value of giving value, aka Donald Miller goes to Chick-fil-A.
  • CT visits The Ark Encounter. I loved this quote:

Ark Encounter Review at CT

Flocks by Night

  • There are five ways you can respond to terrorists attacks, and none of them involve hashtags.
  • Reaching the online world: InterVarsity launches Ministry in Digital Spaces.
  • Video of the Week(end): They make choir arrangements of modern worship songs. I already knew that. Just never pictured it included newer bands like Rend Collective:

November 6, 2014

Philip Yancey on the Twilight of Grace

Changing societyIn my single digit years, I collected a box filled with low-tech, low-cost “magic” tricks, one of which consisted of two large die-cut pieces of cardboard in the shape of the letter ‘C.” One was red and one was blue, and as you held them side-by-side, if the red one was on the right it always appeared to be larger; but when you switched them, the blue one then appeared to be larger. The cutout pieces are identical in size, but the mind views the second one as larger when contrasted to the inside curve of the one before.

I always have this picture in my mind whenever I read something that purports to state that society is categorically getting worse. Haven’t people said that in past centuries also? Is the trajectory of society really in what pilots call a “graveyard spiral” or is redemption possible? Or perhaps do things simply go in cycles?

Philip Yancey’s book Vanishing Grace: What Ever Happened to the Good News? (Zondervan) is in many ways a state-of-the-union address on the moral, ethical and spiritual condition of our world in general and the Church of Jesus Christ in particular. Ever the journalist, Yancey tracks down every lead while at the same time maintaining a subjectivity common to most of his other writings. So it’s our world and his pilgrimage; one man’s effort to document where the human race is heading and how it impacts on one writer in the Colorado mountains.

Vanishing GraceYou could easily read Vanishing Grace and conclude that these are the rantings of a writer who has finally reached his curmudgeon years. ‘Back in my day…’ you expect to hear him say; but Yancey is on to you and instead each section is scented with the slight aroma of the hope that no matter how dark, there are still lights and there is still The Light.

The subjectivity means that the book is rooted in an American perspective, but Yancey’s travels have made him very much a citizen of the world, and so the book is one part personal reflection, one part ripped from the pages of the newspaper and its online equivalent, and one part history lesson, borrowing from the best of both actual events and what has been expressed by poets, playwrights and novelists.

Some will find the book a little disjointed. In the introduction he states that he set out to write a book, but really wrote four books. In the afterword, he acknowledges that parts of the book previously appeared in print and online in a variety of forums. This is not a problem, as Vanishing Grace is intended for the thinking Christian who ought to be able to navigate the manner in which the material has been arranged.

Yancey writes,

The church works best as a separate force, a conscience to society that keeps itself at arms length from the state. The closer it gets, the less effectively it can challenge the surrounding culture and the more perilously it risks losing its central message. Jesus left his followers the command to make disciples from all nations. We have no charge to “Christianize” the United States or any other country — an impossible goal in any case.  (p. 253)

Just a few pages later he adds,

Several years ago a Muslim man said to me, “I have read the entire Koran and find in it no guidance on how Muslims should live as a minority in society. I have read the entire New Testament and can find in it no guidance on how Christians should live as a majority.” He pointed out that Islam seeks to unify religion and law, culture and politics. The courts enforce religious (sharia) law, and in a nation like Iran the mullahs, not the politicians, hold the real power. (p. 258)

Both the first and second halves of that excerpt are packed with food for thought, typical of what one finds in the pages of this book.

Is Vanishing Grace truly a sequel to What’s So Amazing About Grace? written nearly two decades earlier? The new book certainly brings a maturity to the subject, but I would contend that the earlier title is well-suited to new believers and house study groups, while this 2014 is more profitable for pastors, leaders, mature Christ-followers or anyone interested in how one Christian views the state of our changing world. One thing that both share however — and this is common to much of Yancey’s writing — is their acceptability to giving to someone outside your faith circle.

An advance copy of the book was provided by the Canadian marketing department of HarperCollins Christian Publishing.


Here’s a longer book excerpt that ran at Christianity 201 a few days ago:

Jesus “came from the Father, full of grace and truth,” wrote John in the preface to his gospel.  The church has worked tirelessly on the truth part of that formula:  witness the church councils, creeds, volumes of theology, and denominational splits over minor points of doctrine.  I yearn for the church to compete just as hard in conveying what Paul calls the “incomparable riches” of God’s grace.  Often, it seems, we’re perceived more as guilt-dispensers than as grace-dispensers.

John records one close-up encounter between Jesus and a Samaritan woman.  Knowing well the antipathy between the two groups, she marveled that a Jewish rabbi would even speak to her.  At one point she brought up one of the disputed points of doctrine:  Who had the proper place of worship, the Jews or the Samaritans?  Jesus deftly sidestepped the question and bore in on a far more important issue:  her unquenched thirst.  He offered her not judgment but a lasting solution to her guilt over an unsettled life.  To her and her alone he openly identified himself as Messiah and chose her as a grace-dispenser.  Her transformation captured the attention of the whole town, and Jesus stayed for two days among the “heretics,” attracting many converts.

That scene of Jesus and the Samaritan woman came up during a day I spent with the author Henri Nouwen at his home in Toronto.  He had just returned from San Francisco, where he spent a week in an AIDS clinic visiting patients who, in the days before antiretroviral drugs, faced a certain and agonizing death.  “I’m a priest, and as part of my job I listen to people’s stories,”  he told me.  “So I went up and down the ward asking the patients, most of them young men, if they wanted to talk.”

Nouwen went on to say that his prayers changed after that week.  As he listened to accounts of promiscuity and addiction and self-destructive behavior, he heard hints of a thirst for love that had never been quenched.  From then on he prayed, “God, help me to see others not as my enemies or as ungodly but rather as thirsty people.  And give me the courage and compassion to offer your Living Water, which alone quenches deep thirst.”

That day with the gentle priest has stayed with me.  Now, whenever I encounter strident skeptics who mock my beliefs or people whose behavior I find offensive, I remind myself of Henri Nouwen’s prayer.  I ask God to keep me from rushing to judgment or bristling with self-defense.  Let me see them as thirsty people, I pray,  and teach me how best to present the Living Water.

(pp 27-29)


For an interview with the author, check out all six pages at this link to Leadership Journal

April 19, 2013

We Sure Could Use A Little Good News Today

Filed under: current events, media — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:18 am

” When sorrows come – they come not single spies – but in battalions ”
~ William Shakespeare, Hamlet Act IV, Scene V

Brian Williams NBC Nightly NewsEvery night at 6:30 PM I watch the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. I became a convert about five years ago after decades of watching ABC World News Tonight starting in the days Peter Jennings anchored.

You’re just as likely to catch Brian Williams guesting on The Office or SNL as you are to see him hosting the news. While he delivers the hard news with total professionalism, he’s also at his best doing the soft news stories, especially if they involve dogs, or better, puppies. He knows that television news is largely infotainment, but lately, the headlines he’s forced to read haven’t exactly been kind.

The United States has been taking a beating lately. Even in the wake of the tragedy in Boston, you see a disastrous day for airline travel as a major carrier’s computer software crashes. You see extreme weather in Illinois including floods and sinkholes. You see the devastating explosion in a fertilizer factory in Texas. You see enough sorrow and sadness that for several days, both North Africa and North Korea are forced off the broadcast schedule.

In weeks like this I’m always drawn back to the lyrics of A Little Good News, a classic song by Anne Murray.  Here’s the second half of the lyrics:

I’ll come home this evenin’
I’ll bet that the news will be the same
Somebody takes a hostage, somebody steals a plane
How I wanna hear the anchor man talk about a county fair
And how we cleaned up the air,
How everybody learned to care.

Tell me
Nobody was assassinated in the whole Third World today
And in the streets of Ireland, all the children had to do was play
And everybody loves everybody in the good old USA
We sure could use a little good news today

Whoa, tell me
Nobody robbed a liquor store on the lower part of town
Nobody OD’ed, nobody burned a single building down
Nobody fired a shot in anger, nobody had to die in vain
We sure could use a little good news today

But then I’m reminded of another classic song, by The Chi-Lites (also covered by Christian group The Imperials) There Will Never Be Any Peace Until God is Seated at the Conference Table. (How did they get all that on the record label?) The song begins:

Men are runnin’ from land to land
Tryin’ to make things alright
Holding meeting after meeting, constantly reaching
For what they maybe thinking is right

Everybody has a plan
Ain’t that just a man
People can’t you understand?
We gotta tell ‘em

There will never be any peace
Until God is seated at the conference table

I can’t promise Brian Williams puppy-filled scripts. I think we see the trend; we see where the world is going. But I do sincerely, earnestly wish my American brothers and sisters a little good news. Soon.

Matthew 24:7 (NLT)

Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world.

Mark 13:8 (CEB)

Nations and kingdoms will fight against each other, and there will be earthquakes and famines in all sorts of places. These things are just the beginning of the sufferings associated with the end.

Luke 21:10  (MSG)

10-11 He went on, “Nation will fight nation and ruler fight ruler, over and over. Huge earthquakes will occur in various places. There will be famines. You’ll think at times that the very sky is falling.

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