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August 24, 2014

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“The Ocean Is Dying”

A new Netflix documentary portrays the the life of Dr. Sylvia Earle, who broke through the gender barrier fifty years ago and has been studying the ocean ever since.  Mission Blue sees the ocean through her eyes.  She’s seen coral reefs die and the water acidify, and she warns us that we’re “in trouble” unless leap into problem-solving mode. Find more information here, then watch the trailer:

 

 

 

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August 20, 2014

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Praying for Iraq

ISIL bombingLeith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, e-mailed some thoughts August 8 on praying for embattled Iraq, displayed in italics at this column’s end. His “prayer points” spurred my empathy for President Obama, who must have struggled over his decision to order recent bombings — a decision made no less distressing by a journalists’s beheading. Obama wanted out of Iraq from Day One, yet it’s here again, the war that won’t go away. Strict pacifists, for whom I have deep respect, would disagree with his decision. Some might hoist signs: “War is not the answer” … “Peace, not war” … “No More War!”
           But it’s not so simple. Organizations like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) remind us that pacifism, while erring in the right direction, does not necessarily bring peace. ISIL rows in a foreign logical stream, which begins with the premise that their holy war is intrinsically moral: “we” are good and “they” are evil; “we” are sincere and “they” are Satan’s insincere minions, worthy of decapitation; “we” are righteous and strong; “they” are immoral and weak — so distrust their olive branches of peace and view them as signs of weakness.
          How do we make peace with a group that actually wants war?  Strict pacifism has no answer.
          The traditional answer to pacifism is the so-called “Just War” theory. It’s a classic case of bad branding: Advocates sound like they’re pro-war when they’re really puzzling over the moral response to the Hitler’s and Stalins among us — or rogue organizations like ISIL: Do we drop bombs on the guilty to save the innocent or do we fold our arms and watch the slaughter? Remember Rwanda. It doesn’t help that militarists have hijacked the theory and dispatched their armies at will. The theory itself — especially as it has evolved in modern Roman Catholic circles — seeks to limit the use of the sword and snatch it from the king’s hand before he wields it everywhere. It has much more affinity with pacifism than war-mongering, which is why I argue for re-branding: The “Just War” theory should be called “Modified Pacifism,” and the respective advocates should usually sit at the same side of the table. I make the case for that here.  Drew Christiansen, S.J., described the theory’s evolution here.
           But I must beware: Christian theologians of the first three centuries unanimously agreed that killing people — in the form of abortion, homicide, war, and the death penalty — is always wrong. Ronald Sider, a humble pacifist, established that in The Early Church on Killing.  I must admit it: I bear the burden of proof and I’m more at risk of heresy vis-a-vis this teaching.
          With that sober thought in mind, here is Anderson’s e-mail:
Dear fellow Christian,
In the last few weeks, thousands of Christians have been forced by militant rule to flee their homes in northern Iraq. The United States has authorized air strikes and humanitarian aid airdrops in Iraq. The United Nations has condemned militant actions and is urging a coordinated response. Stories of the persecution of Christians and other minorities in Iraq, Egypt, Syria and other areas in the Middle East continue to fill the media. Please join me and other Christians around the world in praying for peaceful resolution and relief for those caught in the violence and persecution.
Prayer Points
  • Pray for President Obama and his advisors as they consider where and how to provide humanitarian assistance and military intervention in Iraq.
  • Pray for safety for Christians and other minorities in Iraq who are fleeing violence and persecution. Pray that they would find safe harbor.
  • Pray for comfort for those across the Middle East who have lost loved ones and have suffered traumatic violence.
  • Pray for missionaries and humanitarian aid workers who serve in difficult and violent corners of the world, that they will be kept safe, and that their efforts will contribute to a fuller realization of the peace and prosperity that God intends for all.
For a few more resources, visit www.nae.net/prayforiraq.
Thank you,
Leith Anderson
President
National Association of Evangelicals
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August 2, 2014

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Why pastors look like twisted pretzels

It’s a verified fact: Anyone signing up for the professional ministry is nuts. Don’t waste time on those psychological tests. If they apply, they’re cracked. That would be me. I’ve been throwing myself into the kind of work that lands people on the operating table for 25 years. It’s American Anxiety Employment on steroids. I’m loopy.

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July 14, 2014

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How Democrats Snatch Defeat From The Jaws of Victory

Let’s ask the real election-year question: Why isn’t the Democratic Party poised with forks and knives, ready for November’s sizzling elephant steak? Republican popularity spirals amid denials of verified science, yet there’s genuine fear of a GOP Senate takeover. We should be dreaming of 1964, when Democrats held two-thirds majorities in both houses after routing Goldwater.

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May 28, 2014

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Solar Freakin’ Roadways

Since two independent teams of scientists independently concluded that ice sheets in West Antarctica are past the tipping point — behaving independently from ostrich-in-the-sand dreams — maybe it’s time we get independent in our thinking. A possible path toward such independence (play the video) …

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May 10, 2014

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Nuns pray: #bringbackourgirls

The US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking have written a prayer for the Nigerian schoolgirls who were abducted on April 14 and invite all to pray each day until their rescue …

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May 7, 2014

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Clinging to our right to be shocked

But there comes the moment when I hope I will never lose my ability to be stunned and horrified. If I flip to the next page at the news of such evil, then I have lost something essential to being human. We are, indeed, a “spoiled species,” in the words of CS Lewis — but not so spoiled that we cannot feel sickened.

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May 6, 2014

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Video of the month: Alister McGrath and the confessions of a lapsed atheist

Pick up a book by Alister McGrath and read it at some time. You’ll discover that the theologian and Oxford University professor violates one of academia’s unwritten but cardinal rules: Not only does he think well, he writes well.

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May 5, 2014

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A daughter’s plea to her influencial father-pastor: climate change is real

Anna Jayne Joyner, daughter of well-known pastor Rick Joyner, has been one of those evangelical Christians spear-heading the battle against climate change. Unfortunately, her father is a denier. Here are the first two paragraphs along with a link to the rest of her open letter:

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April 25, 2014

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Katharine Hayhoe named as one of the world’s 100 top influencers — and we’re pleased

We’re blowing the party whistles at the latest news: TIME magazine selected Climate Scientist Katharine Hayhoe, a bonafide evangelical Christian, as one of the world’s one hundred most influential people. Her honest awe-shucks demeanor comes as a relief in our shrill world, and she defies Lynn White’s 1967 essay that portrayed Christianity as the source of environmental evil

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