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“Almost Amish”: Cultural and spiritual wisdom in a horse-drawn buggy

June 13, 2012

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Nancy Sleeth has eaten the fish and spat out the bones. She looks beyond the group’s obvious flaws, learns from their attributes and applies their lessons in “Almost Amish: One Woman’s Quest For a Slower, Simpler, and More Sustainable Life.” The result: An entertaining, thought-provoking, refreshing, nuts-and-bolts manual for those of us who feel enslaved to the grid and our gas guzzlers.

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New Evangelicals free a hijacked movement

February 19, 2012

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A telling statistic: In 2009, 35 percent of evangelicals identified themselves as Democrats and 34 percent as Republicans. The rest were independents. In other words, most evangelicals aren’t even voting in this year’s GOP primaries. Another: 64 percent of all white evangelicals don’t believe church officials should endorse political candidates.

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The price of savoring delusion

November 4, 2011

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Legends, fables, and myths crumpled beneath a freak October snow storm in Connecticut this past week. Leaf-laden trees fell and yanked wires and plunged vast numbers into a power outage. Tales are told of families braving cold in dark living rooms; of bundled children beneath mounds of quilts; of schools doubling as shelters; of eight carbon monoxide deaths – all in upscale Connecticut, the home of well-heeled actuaries and drab insurance executives.

Look closely. You’ll see the carcasses of those fables pinned under the dead oaks and maples.

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What is an evangelical?

October 22, 2011

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Lisa Sharon Harper discusses the historic meaning of “evangelical.” Some of this will sound familiar — conversion to Christ within the context of a Bible-centered faith — but some will not. Social action was key to such teachers as Charles Finney. Given her description, one must ask: Are some so-called “evangelical leaders” truly evangelical?

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Spirituality & Occupy Wall Street: Leaders at the scene

October 15, 2011

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Faith leaders have joined the “Occupy Wall Street” throngs and and have given us their thoughts. Some samples …

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Are Christian Zionists Doing Israel any favors?

September 23, 2011

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A question: Does “pro-Israel” equal “anti-Palestinian”? Must we always bow before the blustering Benjamin Netanyahu, bent as he is on “creating facts” by building more Israeli settlements? It seems the answer for one presidential candidate, Rick Perry, is an unequivocal yes: “As a Christian, I have a clear directive to support Israel. So from my perspective, it’s pretty easy. Both as an American, and as a Christian, I am going to stand with Israel.” Israel is always right; the Palestinians are always wrong. It goes without saying that the United States should veto any Palestinian application for statehood in the UN. Perry is echoing the theology of Christian Zionist John Hagee, the head of Christians United for Israel.

How intriguing. One survey suggests that Perry is more “Zionist” than most Israeli’s, 70 percent of whom believe their nation should accept the decision if the UN recognizes a Palestinian state. Perhaps they remember that modern Zionism began as a secular movement and that the United Nations foresaw both Palestinian and Jewish nations in the 1940’s. Perhaps they see the impracticality and immorality of oppressing legitimate Palestinian rights. Perhaps they remember that their own forefather, Abraham, was once a “stranger” in the Promised Land.

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Interrogation verses torture: One is good and necessary; the other is terrible and desctructive

September 14, 2011

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I’ve been in e-mail contact with Jennifer Bryson after she found my obscure internet rants when Terry Jones threatened to burn the Qur’an. I soon discovered that her education makes mine look like glorified day care: she got a BA after studying political science at Stamford, an MA in European intellectual history at Yale, and a PhD in Near Eastern Languages and civilizations — again at Yale. She also did a stint at Karl Marx University during the 1980’s in the old East Germany (I’ve been meaning to ask her what that was like), before they ripped down the wall. She’s worked at the Defense Department and she now directs the Islam and Civil Society Project at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey. And she likes dogs. And cats. And gardening. She’s a veritable advertisement for gentleness.

Imagine my near out-of-body shock when I learned a little detail about her DOD stint: She was a Guantanamo interrogator. Whuh? “Our” Jennifer?

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Denying the deniers

August 20, 2011

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Deniers of climate change, including many Republican Presidential candidates, often cite statistics promoted in The Great Global Warming Swindle, which premiered in Britain in 2007. I’ve encountered them myself in several e-mails. Peter Sinclair’s video illuminates the pseudo-documentary’s distortions. It turns out that sun activity is not spiking current temperatures; the Earth is now hotter than the balmy Middle Ages; and volcanoes do not belch more CO2 than factories and cars.

It’s intriguing: Sean Hannity branded people like me “communist.” Not that facts matter, but I’m an evangelical Christian and a Baptist pastor. I would be among the first bound for the nascent American gulag after the Revolution. But even more relevant, I’m advocating the same concern for climate change as did George H.W. Bush. Was the World War 2 hero a closet communist? And what is “communist” about environmental concern? I don’t want collectivization. I just want green environmental stewardship, which Republicans of previous eras had always championed.

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Video of the month, August 2011: Rich Nathan: A Both/And Church

August 9, 2011

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Rich Nathan, pastor of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Columbus, Ohio, discusses false contradictions and why it is necessary to be both-and Christians.

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An Open Letter To My Progressive Evangelical Kin: Remember Who We Are

July 25, 2011

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We’ve been played.

My inner skeptic roared when HarperOne launched its pre-release publicity campaign this winter for Rob Bell’s Love Wins: “With searing insight, Bell puts hell on trial, and his message is decidedly hopeful – eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts right now. And, ultimately, Love Wins.” That’s raw bait, nurtured and bred for remonstrating bloggers, tweeters, and columnists and their free publicity. And they chomped. John Piper issued his now-famous tweet, “Farewell Rob Bell” with a link to a critical Justin Taylor review, and John MacArthur delivered one of his typical broadsides. All unwittingly read their lines from the marketers’ script. Some progressive evangelicals raced to Bell’s defense and, on cue, cried that many hadn’t read the book. Nor had many of them, but they still snarled at the critics while reciting their buzz words: “dialogue,” “understanding,” and “conversation.” Who can disagree? Except that the snub-like calls for civility reeked of incivility: there was constant second-guessing of motives. Few addressed the merits.

Surely the publicity stunt was a cynical ploy. Of course I liked Bell – especially his innovative NOOMA videos – and anyone needling finicky heresy watchers can’t be all bad. But I refused to buy the book. Don’t we see that script? Doesn’t everyone know how this play ends? We’ll discover harmless shibboleths cloaked in hip, “with-it” lingo. Eggs will drip from the faces of the heresy watchers while HarperOne laughs its way to the bank … Right?

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