It's a little book by a dead man from the last generation, and it just might be the road-map for the future of American Christianity. I'm referring to the late theologian Carl F. H. Henry's 1947 book "The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism." This slim little paperback's importance might not seem obvious in a digital whirling world of contemporary Christians, but the issues Henry raised over sixty years ago are more relevant than ever.
In light of British Prime Minister David Cameron's actions on Internet pornography, here's why I think we ought to care about digital porn. There's a situation in counseling I come across all too often: a couple will typically tell me first about how stressful their lives are. Maybe he's lost his job. Perhaps she's working two. Maybe their children are rowdy or the house is chaotic. But usually, if we talk long enough about their fracturing marriage, there is a sense that something else is afoot.
I love that picture because it sums up precisely the issue at that time, and at every time. The struggle for civil rights for African-Americans in this country wasn't simply a "political" question. It wasn't merely the question of, as Martin Luther King Jr. puts it from before the Lincoln Memorial, the unfulfilled promises of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution (although it was nothing less than that).
Willie Nelson, the legendary country musician, has framed himself as an "outlaw." He flaunted the conventional norms of the Nashville music industry, and even, legend says, smoked marijuana in the Carter White House. He's less of an outlaw, though, when he talks about the sadness of his failed marriages. There's something in the way he speaks about divorce that I think resonates across culture today, something we need to hear.
With the recent Supreme Court decisions all over the news, some Christian parents wonder how they ought to explain all of this to their small children. I've faced the same question as my children have asked, "What is the Supreme Court doing that's keeping you so busy?" So how does one teach the controversy, without exposing one's children to more than they can handle?
The Supreme Court has now ruled on two monumental marriage cases, and the legal and cultural landscape has changed in this country. The court voted to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act and remand the decision of the Ninth Circuit in the Proposition 8 case, holding that California's Proposition 8 defenders didn't have standing. The Defense of Marriage Act decision used rather sweeping language about equal protection and human dignity as they apply to the recognition of same-sex unions. But what has changed for us, for our churches, and our witness to the gospel?
Next week my denomination will receive the report from a special committee tasked with seeking unity between Calvinists and non-Calvinists in the Southern Baptist Convention. The report concludes what I've long suspected: we have much more uniting us across these questions than dividing us, and most of us are ready to love one another and work together.
The Supreme Court of the United States is set to hand down a set of decisions this summer that could advance a cultural and political shift in the way marriage is defined in this country. Is your church ready for this?
Mother's Day is a particularly sensitive time in many congregations, and pastors and church leaders often don't even know it. This is true even in congregations that don't focus the entire service around the event as if it were a feast day on the church's liturgical calendar. Infertile women, and often their husbands, are still often grieving in the shadows.
I want to live long enough to be a burden to my children.
Yesterday I was typing the name "Kermit Gosnell," and my phone auto-corrected the name to "gospel." I shuddered momentarily. After all, what could be more contradictory than the name of a notorious abortionist on trial for child murder, and the good news of the mercies of God in Christ. My smartphone, it turns out, was smarter than I was.
A respected pro-family organization announced this week a boycott of Starbucks coffee. The group, which supports legal protection for traditional marriage, launched the "Dump Starbucks" campaign after a national board meeting in which the Seattle-based coffee company mentioned support for same-sex marriage as a core value of the company. Some Christians are wondering whether we ought to join in the boycott. I say no.
I have long suspected that many Christians dread not just death but heaven. We won't admit that, of course. Our hymnody, of whatever era, is filled with songs about the joy of the afterlife, and "what a day of rejoicing that will be."
With Pope Benedict XVI's shocking resignation this morning, evangelical Christians might be tempted to see this the way a college football fan might view the departure of his rival team's head coach. But the global stakes are much, much higher. As Pope Benedict steps down, I think it's important for us to recognize the legacy of the last two bishops of Rome that we ought to honor and conserve: an emphasis on human dignity.
As citizens, we ought to insist that the President stand up to his "base" and articulate a vision of a healthy pluralism in the public square. Notice that the problem is not that this evangelical wants to "impose his religion" on the rest of society. The problem is not that he wants to exclude homosexuals or others from the public square or of their civil rights. The problem is that he won't say that they can go to heaven without repentance. That's not a civil issue, but a religious test of orthodoxy.
TIME magazine's recent cover story announces that, forty years after Roe, the pro-life side is winning the abortion debate. I say, "Not so fast." Yes, it's a win just that the concept of "pro-life" is still alive. The abortion rights movement probably assumed that forty years after the Supreme Court legalized abortion that the issue would be as settled as school integration or women's suffrage.
Christians talk a lot about premarital sex. And I think that's a mistake. I don't think it's a mistake because the issue is unimportant but because the grammar is skewed. The word "fornication" is almost gone from contemporary Christian speech. It sounds creepy and antiquated. Instead, we talk about "abstinence" and "premarital sex."
I overheard a man explain why he hated Christmas music. "Christmas is boring because there's no narrative tension," he said. "It's like reading a book with no conflict." Some of the blame is on our sentimentalized Christmas of the American civil religion.
Every year about this time, there's a lot of hubbub about a so-called "war on Christmas." We ought not to get outraged by all that, as though we were some protected class of victims. We ought to instead see the ways that our culture is less and less connected with the roots of basic knowledge about Christianity.
The American people have decided that Barack Obama should have a second term. And, behind them, in the mystery of providence, God has decided that Barack Obama would be re-elected. So how should Christians respond to our once and future President?
The words "evangelical" and "fundamentalist" have very little meaning. "Evangelical" includes, for some people, everyone from J.I. Packer to T.D. Jakes to Brian McLaren. I tried my hand at explaining the spectrum, with tongue in cheek. A conservative evangelical is a fundamentalist whose kids dress up for the church's "Fall Festival."
I have a church member, a devoted Christian, who is an attorney specializing in divorce cases. Our church believes that divorce is (in almost every case) sin. If so, isn't he empowering sin? Should I counsel him to follow Christ by walking away from this job and to do something else?
According to a new study by the Pew Forum, Protestants are, for the first time in history, not a majority in the United States of America. I don't think that's anything for evangelical Protestants, or anyone else, to panic about. Frankly, we should be more concerned about the loss of a Christian majority in the Protestant churches than about the loss of a Protestant majority in the United States.
Law enforcement officials use the term "doctor shopping" to refer to the way those addicted to prescription pain medications seek to avert accountability. I've noticed the same thing going on when it comes to church accountability. The truth is, there's a certain type of personality that doesn't want accountability, but affirmation.
Tim Tebow says he wants a wife with "a servant's heart." Does that make him a misogynist? Jezebel, a feminist website, picked up on comments Tebow made in an interview with Vogue magazine, in which he said he wanted a wife who lived up to the high standards set for him by his mother and sisters.