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July 01, 2009

Pat Nolan on prison rape

Our own Pat Nolan is extensively quoted in this column by National Review's Kathryn Lopez on the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission report.

Churches have played no small role in the disinfecting process already. These dark crimes came out of the shadows when churches got involved, Nolan emphasizes: “Churches made it a moral issue. In a civilized society we cannot allow this to go on.”

June 24, 2009

Daily roundup

June 23, 2009

D.C. Metro accident kills at least seven

Metro accident By the time you read this, that number may have risen. And at least 76 are injured. Please be in prayer for the victims and their families.

(Image © James M. Thresher for the AP)

June 17, 2009

Daily roundup

Hope Sprouts in Britain

BrusselSprouts_1424514c For months, I've been thinking that not only will the sun finally set on the British Empire, it will set on Britain itself. The country seems to be losing its mind: from the Archbishop of Canterbury suggesting that British Muslims be able to live under Sharia Law, to a new law that will force religious organizations--including churches--to hire people who do not share their beliefs.

But now, I see a sprout of hope--and good old common sense. 

(Image © James Fraser for the Telegraph)

Religion in America: The News Isn’t All That Bad

Naysayers are predicting the end of Christianity in America, and since their pessimism is repeated incessantly, many people have come to believe it. Is their prediction true? World magazine editor Marvin Olasky says the predictions don't match reality. Find out why.

June 15, 2009

Stephen Johns memorial funds

2009_0610_stephentyronejohns Speaking of Stephen Johns, three memorial funds have been established for his family. Click here to find out how to contribute.

June 12, 2009

Daily roundup

June 11, 2009

Security guard dies in Holocaust Museum shooting

Stephen Johns As you may have seen in the updated Post article at my original post, security guard Stephen Johns has died after being shot in the chest at the Holocaust Memorial Museum. R.I.P. Please be in prayer for his family.

(Image © AP/U.S. Holocaust Museum)

June 10, 2009

Daily roundup

More Racing for Prisoners’ Kids

Runningshoes I’ve always thought “Wow, these Pointificators are a smart bunch … and fun too!” And with the outpouring of giving toward Prison Fellowship’s Storybook Dads program last month -- I hoped to raise $100 via my race … and you delivered $266!! -- I also realized “Wow, they’re generous too!”

Well, Joe, Zoe, Ron, CreationWaits, Dennis and YouKnowWhoYouAre, you were absolute heroes for my race. Again, thank you SO much.

Now, may I come back to The Point and ask our many dear friends for help again?

Those of you who enjoy reading The Point, first, may I again tell you how much we enjoy conversing with you? And may I also ask you to give to fellow blog contributors Karen Williams and Travis McShirley? They, too, are running to raise funds for Storybook Dads, a Prison Fellowship program that helps build the bonds between incarcerated fathers and their children.

Karen’s site is here. Travis’s site is here.

Continue reading "More Racing for Prisoners’ Kids" »

No Christians Allowed

An evangelical group has been severely restricted in its ministry in a low-income housing area in Tulsa, something it's been doing for more than 20 years. They can come and "play games" with the children and talk about "moral things," but they have been forbidden to mention God or Jesus Christ -- conditions identical to those I experienced as a short-term missionary in Russia and Belarus in the late 1990s.

Is it my imagination, or are these attacks against Christians in America becoming more common?

June 08, 2009

Daily roundup

June 04, 2009

Daily roundup

May 19, 2009

Daily roundup

Foster Care Prayer Vigil

Boy 2 soft This week has been designated Foster Care Prayer Week by several Christian organizations, including our friends at Show Hope. More than half a million kids are in foster care in the U.S. on any given day.  Many are there because their homes were unsafe for them to remain in, while others wind up in foster care because their parents have been arrested and there were no relatives available to care for them.

I do hope you'll pray for kids in foster care this week, but there are other ways you can help these children. Becoming a foster parent is the obvious way. Kids in crisis need a stable, safe place to live, and if they can do this in the presence of a family that loves God and models His love to those children, what an impact that could have.

There's another way. I'm in training right now to be a volunteer Guardian ad Litem for kids in foster care, part of the nationwide effort to have an advocate assigned to every child in foster care in this country. You can read more about this effort at the web site for the National CASA ("Court Appointed Special Advocates") program. 

The web site for this year's Prayer Vigil is loaded with other ideas and resources, including a section on why this issue and these kids matter to God. Go check it out--and while you're praying for kids in foster care, pray about how you might get involved in helping them.

(Image © Cry of the Orphan)

May 18, 2009

Daily roundup

Racing for Prisoners' Kids: Follow-Up

My sincere thanks to all of you who donated to provide Storybook Dads kits to prisoners' children through my race yesterday. I'd hoped to raise enough to cover the costs for 12 Storybook Dads kits, but -- between those who donated at my page and Joe's fabulous pledge at The Point -- you all provided a total of TWENTY-SEVEN kits for TWENTY-SEVEN prisoners' kids! You all are the BEST!

My sincerest thanks to:

  • Joe -- wow, a kit per mile! THANKS!
  • Creation Waits Photography -- $50!! Yowza!
  • Dennis Babish -- thanks so much!
  • Zoe -- thank vous!
  • Ron Humphrey -- you're the best!
  • Anonymous -- (I know who you are, but your identity is safe with me!) Thanks tons!

Race details, for those interested, are below. THANKS all!

Continue reading "Racing for Prisoners' Kids: Follow-Up" »

As We Forgive Sightings (and Soundings)

As We Forgive 2 I thought Point readers might be interested in hearing an interview I did recently with theologian and radio personality, Steve Brown, about my book, As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda. You can download it to your iPod or MP3 player or just listen online. I talk about forgiveness, reconciliation and the Rwandan genocide.

If you haven't heard of Steve Brown or his Key Life Radio program before I hope this will be a good excuse for you to get acquainted with him. He's one of the most authentic yet grounded Christian radio personalities you'll find. And he's always delightfully entertaining to listen to.

Also, if you are interested in seeing the film by Laura Waters Hinson which inspired my book, it will be airing on PBS this month on quite a few stations across the U.S. So if you haven't had a chance to attend a screening or buy a copy yourself, you'll get the opportunity to check it out for free.

Lastly, an interview I did with Ed Gilbreath over at Urban Faith is available. Ed used to work for Christianity Today and is the author of the book Reconciliation Blues: A Black Evangelical's View of White Christianity.

(Image © Zondervan)

May 15, 2009

Helping Prisoners’ Kids: I’m Supplying the Suffering; Can You Supply the Funds?

This weekend, I'm running the Marine Corps Half Marathon. I'm admittedly horribly prepared, and I suspect by mile 10 or so, I'll be a rather pathetic sight, but it's worth it because it's for a great cause: Prison Fellowship's Storybook Dads program.

Quite simply, Storybook Dads records prisoners reading wholesome kids books to their children. The DVD video recording -- complete with special effects to make the story come alive -- is sent to their children for them to enjoy while reading the book along with their parent.

Far from a mere "nice to have" gift, Storybook Dads helps maintain the important parent-child bond that gets so strained while parents are in prison.

Anyhow, there's more at my fundraising page. Will you please consider giving to supply Storybook Dads kits -- just $8 per DVD and book set -- to fill this important need? As the race is this weekend, I'm obviously getting this out to the Pointifficators much later than I'd prefer. But it sure would be great to raise $100 for prisoners' kids who -- so often feeling shunned, humiliated, alienated and unloved -- are among the innocent victims of their parents' crimes. Many thanks to you all!

May 13, 2009

Is ’hate’ a badge of honor?

K of C Is hate a badge of honor, especially for Christians who hold Scripture to be the ultimate source of revelation and inspiration? Not if you go by the traditional understanding of the word “hate.” But apparently the contemporary definition of “hate” is another matter.

An amateur blogger and IT technician with no political experience -- and clearly no understanding of the U.S. Constitution -- recently protested (note: website contains suggestive ads) the Knights of Columbus, the well-respected Catholic men’s group. The Knights were raising money outside of grocery stores for disabled children and other noble causes. 

However, because they were for Proposition 8 in California, the proposition that upheld traditional marriage, Brad Allison had to put a stop to their fundraising. In the name of “justice” he petitioned individuals who were approached by the Knights not to donate to a “hate” group that he felt was analogous to the Ku Klux Klan. He went so far as to speak with a manager of his local Giant store, and subsequently the Knights were kicked off the property. However, Allison didn’t have the same influence over the Knights’ work at two Safeway locations. 

Now protesting the Knights of Columbus through online advocacy, Allison wants to keep bringing attention to the Knights' position on same-sex marriage. This is what perplexed me the most. Who doesn’t know that the Knights of Columbus are a part of the Catholic Church, a Church that has long been opposed to same-sex marriage? 

Continue reading "Is ’hate’ a badge of honor?" »

May 08, 2009

Daily roundup

May 05, 2009

2000 Reasons to Celebrate

A friend of mine (who will remain anonymous for security reasons) is currently in India conducting Bible classes for children. Last week, she and her team reached 1400 children; this week, they'll reach 600 more.

Please be in prayer for the salvation and spiritual growth of all these children -- and their parents -- who have had a chance to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed clearly, boldly, and with such obvious love. I've heard much good news coming out of India in the past few years, especially from missionaries who minister to those "lowest" on the social and economic scale in India. How true are Christ's words that the "last will be first" in His kingdom!

The Blog Tour Continues

This week I'm talking with Dan Cruver at Together for Adoption about As We Forgive. Here's a little from their website on what they are all about:

Together for Adoption (T4A) sponsors adoption conferences that focus primarily on vertical adoption (i.e., God adopting us in Christ), with a secondary focus on its implications for orphan care and horizontal adoption (i.e., couples adopting children). In fulfillment of our objectives, we desire to see conference attendees walk away from a T4A event:

  • understanding why it is that vertical adoption is the highest blessing of the gospel
  • rejoicing afresh in the gospel
  • moved to act on James 1:27 both locally and globally

I'm giving special emphasis in this interview to the stories in the book that center on the lives of Rwanda's orphans.

Also, yesterday, the book got a mention at Touchstone's Mere Comments. Thanks to Jordan Ballor of the Acton Institute for the shout out!

April 29, 2009

Daily roundup

April 28, 2009

A Reading for Christian Pandemic Preparedness

Plague_of_rome While I'm skeptical that the swine flu will ever reach truly pandemic proportions, it's still a good time to stop and brush up on Christian emergency preparedness. I dusted off my volume of Eusebius' History of the Church, and give you excerpts here from the time of the reign of Maximin, who ruled between 286 and 305 AD. 

Notice that when pestilence and famine come, Christians do not a) run, nor b) hoard. Instead, they stay and tend the sick and dying. They also give of what they have. I know that if such times ever come to us, there will be a cloud of witnesses cheering for us to act with such self-sacrifice.

Hundreds were dying in the cities, still more in the country villages, so that the rural registers which once contained so many names now suffered almost complete obliteration; for at one stroke food shortage and epidemic disease destroyed nearly all the inhabitants. ... Some people, shrunken like ghosts and at death's door, tottered and slipped about in all directions till, unable to stand, they fell to the ground; and as they lay face down in the middle of the streets, they implored passers-by to hand them a tiny scrap of bread, and with their life at its last gasp they called out that they were hungry--anything else than this anguished cry was beyond their strength. ...No less terrible was the pestilence which consumed every household, particularly those which were so well off for food that famine could not wipe them out. Men of great wealth, rulers, governors and numberless officials, left by the famine to the epidemic disease as if on purpose, met a sudden and very swift end. Lamentations filled the air on every side, and in all the lanes, squares and streets there was nothing to be seen except processions of mourners with the usual flute-playing and beating of breasts.

Such was the reward for Maximin's loud boasts and the cities resolutions against us, while the fruits of the Christians' limitless enthusiasm and devotion became evident to all the heathen. Alone in the midst of this terrible calamity they proved by visible deeds their sympathy and humanity. All day long some continued without rest to tend the dying and bury them--the number was immense, and there was no one to see to them; others rounded up the huge number who had been reduced to scarecrows all over the city and distributed loaves to them all, so that their praises were sung on every side, and all men glorified the God of the Christians and owned that they alone were pious and truly religious; did not their actions speak for themselves? (p. 366-367).

April 27, 2009

North Korea Freedom Week

RTEmagicC_China_NKentrytoembassy North Korea Freedom Week began yesterday. If you're in the Washington, D.C., area, there are many activities -- prayer vigils, rallies, film screenings, information sessions, and more -- in which you can participate. If not, you can still help spread the word about human rights violations in North Korea, and pray for the oppressed. You can also read this op-ed about why President Obama should make human rights issues a priority when dealing with the North Korean government.

Later this week I'll review the Korean film The Crossing, described by the Wall Street Journal as "a 'Schindler's List' for North Korea." Special thanks to Dr. Katy Oh Hassig for the information about North Korea Freedom Week and also for lending me her copy of the film.

(Image © North Korea Freedom Coalition)

The Soloist

The-soloist To fix or befriend? That is the question that plagues journalist Steve Lopez (played by Robert Downey, Jr., in the poignant true-story film The Soloist, which premiered Friday).

When Lopez, a popular columnist for the L.A. Times, stumbles across Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx), a schizophrenic homeless musician, a story is born. Soon, Lopez finds himself caught in the tension between crafting a brilliant story about a Juillard student turned homeless man, and looking out for a guy who simply needs someone to care.

But for Lopez, that tension is soon overshadowed by a deeper tension: to help Ayers or simply be his friend?

Like any well-intentioned citizen, Lopez tries to help Ayers find housing, medication, and cello lessons. Those good designs end with Lopez lying flat on the floor under Ayers's foot. Here, Lopez must make a choice: to give up on Ayers because he is beyond changing, or to love him unconditionally, schizophrenia, homeless shopping cart, and all.

As the curtain closes on Ayers and Lopez sitting next to each other enjoying the glorious strains filling an L.A. concert hall, it becomes clear that helping and befriending aren't all that distinct. Perhaps, they are even one and the same.

I usually dread paying $10.50 for movie. But this film earned every cent. It's not an armrest-gripper, but rather, a simple story of friendship that transforms. That's one plot that never grows outdated. In short, go see it!

(Image © DreamWorks)

Steven Curtis Chapman Shout-out

On Thursday night, the Dove Awards honored singer/songwriter and longtime friend of Prison Fellowship Steven Curtis Chapman with the Artist of the Year award. Chapman, who lost his daughter Maria Sue in a devastating accident last May, has been a wonderful example to all of us of what standing firm in the face of tragedy looks like. He's wrestled openly with doubts, but continued to see the opportunities this tragedy brought as occasions to share the hope within--and he has done that faithfully. Chapman performed "Cinderella" at the ceremony. It's a beautiful song he dedicated to Maria. He tells the story behind it here:


In related news, the orphans' ministry of Steven and Mary Beth Chapman recently unveiled a new name and new logo. After stumbling over the long name Shaohannah's Hope and misspelling it too many times to count, I like the simpler Show Hope. It keeps the continuity with the original and is a lot easier to say and remember. And the website looks super snazzy--hats off to all our friends over at Show Hope! If you're not familiar with the work of this wonderful nonprofit, take a few minutes to see all that they do and how you can get involved.

April 22, 2009

Bound to Happen: Christians Penalized in Workplace

Mouth_gagged

Frankly, I'm surprised we don't hear more about Christians having their jobs threatened for not going along and getting along with every facet of political correctness. This story from Britain tells the tale.

It goes without saying that we live in a highly pluralistic age and that we must be civil and possessed of a Christ-like demeanor towards all those at work. But what hypocrisy abounds when everyone is taught to honor one group's beliefs while Christian perspectives are viewed with grave suspicion. 

The writer here puts the old saying well: "And yes, it’s quite possible to condemn someone’s actions and behaviors, but love the individual as you love yourself."

The truth is that sincere Christians oftentimes care more than the average person for gay people, whom we know to be made in God's image, even if they, like we, engage in behaviors that do not glorify their Creator. There is no hierarchy of sins in Christianity. Only sin. And while many gay people may honestly not know how it is that they arrived at their orientation, Christianity simply and consistently asserts that it is not something God intended for them.

Sincere Christians should not be homophobic, nor should they feel the need to sacrifice their understanding of God and human sexuality just to fit in. Rather, they should try, when possible, to show any gay co-worker that they see in them a fellow human being and rejoice in all the true gifts God has given them. A person is far more than his or her sexual orientation, important though it is, and on that basis there is much common ground to be found.

If only our workplaces would allow such candid, healing conversations to take place. But instead, we all tiptoe around one another, solving little.

(Image courtesy of LaVrai.com)

April 21, 2009

What Social Conditions Promote Reconciliation?

As We Forgive 2 Jordan Ballor over at Acton's Power Blog turns his attention to As We Forgive in week two of my fourteen-week blog tour. (Aren't familiar with a blog tour? It's the poor man's--er woman's book tour.) I'm hoping to use these 100 days to raise awareness and support for reconciliation in Rwanda. As the week unfolds, look for a review of the book on Acton's site, some personal reflections, and some Acton Institute folks weighing in on a recent trip to Rwanda.

Ballor introduces the Power Blog's question of the week: What social conditions promote reconciliation? I'd be interested in hearing our Point readers weigh in on that one as well.

By the way, I just heard that As We Forgive has already gone into its second printing!

April 20, 2009

Daily roundup

April 17, 2009

Journalists Suffer Too

Journalists Soldiers, 9/11 victims, Katrina survivors are no stranger to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but what about the tellers of their tales, the unseen participants in any tragic story?

Breaking News, Breaking Down is a documentary on the silent sufferers behind every story: journalists. In the film, veteran news anchor Mike Walter explores the trauma he experienced after covering 9/11 and the similar anguish faced by other on-the-ground journalists.

The film premieres this Saturday at Filmfest DC.

(Image courtesy of the Washington Times)

April 15, 2009

Our Own Easter Day

With Easter just past, it's a good time to reflect on these hope-filled words that C.S. Lewis wrote for his wife's memorial plaque: 

Here the whole world (stars, water, air,
And field, and forest, as they were
Reflected in a single mind)
Like cast off clothes was left behind
In ashes, yet with hope that she,
Re-born from holy poverty,
In Lenten lands, hereafter may
Resume them on her Easter Day.

(And don't miss the sobering but inspiring reflections at the link I provided above.)

April 14, 2009

’As We Forgive’: Glimpsing the face of Jesus

Speaking of As We Forgive, Mary DeMuth has the sixth and last part of her interview with Catherine up at the My Family Secrets blog.

Resurrection Hope in the Valley of Dry Bones

Ezekiel Speaks to the Dry Bone

The hand of the Lord was upon me and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley, it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, "Son of man, can these bones live?"

I said, "O, Sovereign Lord, you alone know." (Ezekiel 37:1-3)

I had an email yesterday morning from one of the Rwandans I interviewed in my book, As We Forgive. As you may or may not know, this is an especially hard time in Rwanda, as this April marks the 15th anniversary of the genocide. My friend was particularly asking for prayer amidst this season of remembrance, and shared with me that they've just unearthed some more bones and will be able to finally bury his fiancée's father.

In Rwanda, so many bodies were dumped into mass graves. When I read a passage like Ezekiel 37, I can't help but think of these piles of bones bleached by the African sun in open graves. Here's the thing that gets me: The hope of the resurrection amidst a picture like this. 

Continue reading "Resurrection Hope in the Valley of Dry Bones" »

April 09, 2009

Daily roundup

Posting will be light tomorrow because of Good Friday. Have a blessed Easter weekend!

April 08, 2009

Daily roundup

Principles mean more than favorability to the Pope? Heaven forbid!

200px-BentoXVI-30-10052007 Pope Benedict XVI has sparked international outrage with his statements regarding his rejection of using condoms to fight the AIDS epidemic. From time to time I see this happen, and I never understand why people suddenly act outraged at teachings the Catholic Church has always held.

The Catholic Church rejects the use of condoms because they create a barrier to life within the marriage that is contrary to the natural order. But condoms distract us from the real problem. The Catholic Church doesn’t say an unmarried couple shouldn’t use condoms. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, because the Church teaches abstinence as the only legitimate way of protecting the physical and spiritual life of the persons in question.

Just like the economic crisis, the AIDS epidemic materialized from a moral problem. Whether a lack of control in spending, or a lack of control in sexual behavior, eventually the consequences of our actions surface.

Rebecca Hodes, head of policy, communication and research for the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa, doesn’t understand the problem. In a recent statement made to the Huffington Post she demonstrated the very ignorance that brought about this problem and the weight it bears, when she separated our actions from their moral consequences. Her misplaced frustrations were exposed when she said, “[Pope Benedict’s] opposition to condoms conveys that religious dogma is more important to him than the lives of Africans.”

The Pope holds so firmly to religious dogma BECAUSE of his love for the lives, both physical and spiritual, of those in Africa.

Continue reading "Principles mean more than favorability to the Pope? Heaven forbid!" »

The Economics of Reconciliation

Rsz_coffeeshop__017 The other night I had the privilege to speak on a panel at the Center for American Progress. The event, titled "15 Years Later: The State of Rwandan Reconciliation," was sponsored by Indego Africa and the Rwanda International Network Association, a group of Rwandans living in the United States. Its intent was to mark the 15th anniversary of the genocide and to present an in-depth look at the state of political and ethnic reconciliation in Rwanda. 

Jackson Mvunganyi, co-host of Up Front on Voice of America radio moderated the panel, which aside from me included:

  • Matthew Mitro, Founder and CEO of Indego Africa
  • Karol Boudreaux, Professor of Law at George Mason University; Lead Researcher at Enterprise Africa! a project of the Mercatus Center
  • Augustin Mutemberize, International Trade Specialist, Africa Trade Office; formerly of the Rwandan Ministry of Finance
  • Andrew Jones, Director of Policy Analysis, CARE USA; former Program Director, CARE Rwanda.

When I wasn't speaking, I was listening intently! There's a lot of fascinating research happening today in the intersection of social entrepreneurship, economics and reconciliation.

Continue reading "The Economics of Reconciliation" »

April 06, 2009

Hope amidst the Bones

Rwanda_slah This week's Newsweek features the Chairman of Prison Fellowship Rwanda, Bishop John Rucyahana, who returned to his Rwandan homeland after the genocide to help rebuild the broken nation. Ellis Cose documents some of his experiences in this week's piece:

When Rucyahana got back to Uganda in mid-July, he rented a minibus, hired a driver and took to the road with 10 other pastors. They crossed into Rwanda and made their way to Nyamata, near Kigali, the capital. The violence had died down but death was everywhere: "We saw mass graves; we saw dead bodies. In one home, we found 27 dead bodies. . . ."

Rucyahana had to act. Initially, he ran seminars, urging people to repent and rebuild. But that wasn't enough. So in 1996, he packed up his family and returned to the land of his birth to preach hope standing on "a pile of bones," as he puts it. One of his first tasks was to build a boarding school for orphans: "Having lost a million people, lots of babies were left behind." The school in Musanze, near the Volcanoes National Park, opened in 2001. It is now one of the best schools in the country. It is called Sonrise, which, Rucyahana explains, "means the Son of God rises into the misery, into our darkness."

I share part of Bishop John's story, and one of the stories of a student at the Sonrise School/Orphanage, in As We Forgive. To read his full memoir, take a look at his own The Bishop of Rwanda. I'm so glad that the wider world is being introduced to Bishop John, the recipient of BreakPoint's 2009 Wilberforce Award, and to the amazing things God has been doing in the aftermath of this tragedy.

By the way, on this day, 15 years ago, Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana's plane plummeted from the sky after being hit by a missile. It became the albatross around the neck of the Tutsi people when Hutu claimed that the RPF shot it down. The sudden streak of a missile and the fiery light of a falling plane were a diabolical kind of fireworks that night--evil's unseemly opening ceremonies to a hundred days of slaughter that would consume the country.

(Image © Newsweek)

April 01, 2009

Going green for God

Go Green Yesterday I spoke on the phone with Nancy Sleeth, author of the new book Go Green, Save Green. Sleeth and her husband, Matthew, are the founders of Blessed Earth, "an educational nonprofit that inspires and equips faith communities to become better stewards of the earth." Her husband and daughter have also written books on the subject. (We don't yet have the books here, but review copies have been shipped to our office, so you'll be hearing more about them in the future.)

Matthew Sleeth was an emergency room physician who was becoming concerned about what he saw as an increased incidence of environmentally caused diseases (in one week on the job, he saw three women in their thirties with breast cancer), as well as what he heard scientists saying about the decreasing of living material on the earth. He left his job and the Sleeths became what Nancy calls the "poster family for the downwardly mobile." Once they had made drastic reductions in their own energy usage, they set out to help others do the same.

At the same time, the Sleeths were starting a new "faith journey." Nancy had been raised Jewish and Matthew Protestant, but aside from celebrating holidays, the family had little interest in religion. Nancy quips that in their house "the Fiddler on the Roof slipped down the chimney and laid Easter eggs." But her husband had discovered a Gideon Bible one day in the hospital during a slow day, and "he picked it up and read the Gospel of Matthew and his life changed." Nancy and the children soon followed suit. Thus, Nancy says, "Our stewardship journey and our faith journey were parallel."

The Sleeths believe that helping save the creation is a way to honor the Creator, and that the Bible makes a solid case for taking care of the environment. "It's old theology; it's nothing new," Nancy explains. "We're just reminding people." The response they're getting from churches around the country has been "amazing," especially now that Christians, like the larger population, are trying to save money as well as natural resources. That's fine with Nancy: "I don't care if it's motivated by economics, it's doing the right thing." 

Continue reading "Going green for God" »

March 31, 2009

Daily roundup

Wilson vs. Loury

Recently we ran Glenn Loury's "A Nation of Jailers" in the Daily Roundup. James Q. Wilson of the American Enterprise Institute has now written a rebuttal. An excerpt:

Glenn Loury rightly directs our attention to the troubling fact that we have put into prison a large fraction of our citizens, especially African American men. No one can be happy with this state of affairs. It is difficult to create and sustain a decent society when many of its members are former convicts.

Worrisome as this may be, Loury says little about why this happened other than to say we are a nation of "racist jailers" who operate a "greed-driven economy" and have created a "so-called underclass" that reflects the "moral deviance" of all of us. He looks askance at those who speak about the "purported net benefits to 'society' of greater incarceration."

I am one of those, and I do not feel inclined to apologize. Loury does not refer to the scholarly work of those social scientists who have worked hard to understand why we imprison so many people and with what results. Let me summarize what Daniel Nagin, David Farrington, Patrick Langan, Steven Levitt, and William Spelman have shown. Other things being equal, a higher risk of punishment reduces crime rates.

Read more. Which writer do you think has a better grasp of the problem and the solutions?

March 25, 2009

Does He Think We’re That Stupid?

I caught part of Barack Obama's press conference last night--the part about how it's only fair to reduce the charitable gift tax deduction for well-heeled Americans. The reporter, bless his heart, followed up by asking if all those charities that are going ballistic over this proposal are wrong in thinking they'll be badly damaged by Obama's plans. Not at all, the messiah responded.

Maybe the people who run America's homeless shelters and AIDS clinics read a report by the Tax Policy Center, which found that Obama's proposal would reduce charitable giving by nine billion dollars a year.

Obama later told a reporter from Ebony magazine that his heart "breaks" over the thought of any American child being homeless. Well, if you feel that badly about it, Mr. President, it might be a good idea to listen to the people who RUN America's homeless shelters--shelters that survive only because "the rich" support them. Nine billion dollars will provide food and shelter for a lot of homeless kids.  But no--the government knows best how to spend that money....

What frustrates me most about listening to Obama speak is his assumption that we are too stupid to realize he's conning us (see above)--or flat out lying to us. Embryonic stem cell research will lead to cures for diabetes and Parkinsons? Please. This research has yet to yield a single cure, or even hope, for any disease. Obama knows this, of course. Anybody who pays attention to the debate knows this. But Obama lies about it anyway.

Serving Our Own

Last Sunday my church in Silver Spring, Maryland, announced a new ministry of support for people who have lost their jobs, seen their work hours reduced, or seen a reduction in demand for their services. 

"Our Lord exhorts us to be encourages to one another, to uplift each other in prayer, & to provide practical support to those in need," noted our church bulletin. "During this time of economic uncertainty and job insecurity, Atonement is commencing a ministry of support as a comfort and encouragement to those experiencing career challenges."

"If you own a company, provide a service, sell a product, tutor, consult, or have a skill that you would like to employ," the bulletin went on, "we are preparing a referral list for internal distribution." The list will then be made available to church members and regular attenders.

This is a wonderful way of serving our own people in need. I hope other churches will pick up on the idea.

March 24, 2009

As a man sows

Garden With the economy forcing people to, well, economize, Americans are rolling up their sleeves and rediscovering vegetable gardens. According to the AP, we're supposed to call them "recession gardens," although the 1940s name of "victory gardens" sounds a whole lot cheerier. 

Those gardens, modeled after a White House patch planted by Eleanor Roosevelt in 1943, were intended to inspire self-sufficiency, and at their peak supplied 40 percent of the nation's fresh produce, said Roger Doiron, founding director of Kitchen Gardeners International.

Wow--can you imagine if 40 percent of our fresh produce came from our backyards? What would that look like? Maybe we could stop popping so many vitamin pills and get the healthy glow that comes from fresh vegetables and sunshine. Maybe the Global Food Crisis would disappear as American farmers were able to meet international need. Maybe people in our own communities wouldn't go hungry if we were each able to plant one extra row for a local food bank. Maybe we would one day hear Jesus say, "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat." Sounds like victory to me.

(Image © AP)

March 16, 2009

Daily roundup

March 12, 2009

Putting his money where his mouth was

A new book details a Victorian-era attempt at what we today might call "restorative justice," conducted by -- guess who?

Re: Imminent Catastrophe?

The_seventh_seal Diane asks,

What -- if anything -- are we to make of [David] Wilkerson's warning?

It is, to borrow (and rip out of their original context) words from Jeremy Bentham, "simple nonsense . . . rhetorical nonsense -- nonsense upon stilts."

Or as the Scroll of Pythia puts it, "All of this has happened before. All of this will happen again."

"This," of course, being the Christian attraction to crackpot apocalyptic scenarios. Three words: Y-2-K. Nine years ago, people were scared that at the stroke of midnight (midnight where was never entirely clear), civilization would collapse and all of our young men would eventually be forced to either work for Aunty Entity or enter a cage with a 50-50 chance of never leaving. 

The nadir of this was a then (I don't know about now) well-known radio broadcast about the family (not that one, another one). The host, instead of dispensing his usually solid advice about marriage and kids, got on a Y2K kick that culminated with the following scenario (I'm quoting from memory): "It's January 15, 2000, two weeks into the Y2K crisis. A family knocks at your door -- a man, woman and their two children -- and they say 'We're hungry, can you spare some food?' What do you do?"

My answer then, as now, is "check your thorazine, because you're probably hallucinating." At the time, I wrote about this and other absurd fantasies and the terrible witness they represented. (Apparently, the host learned about it and tried to defend himself, saying that his words weren't alarmist. Yeah, right.)  Nothing says "Jesus Shall Reign" like stockpiling water, ammo and Spam by the kilo, doesn't it? I acknowledged that after the "crisis" passed, at least the Spam would make lovely housewarming gifts, as in "I'm here to tell you about the peace, love and joy a relationship with Christ can bring. By the way, would you like a 5 kilo tin of Spam?"

A decade later and the band is getting back together for a reunion tour. The recession/depression has them dusting off the old songs and adding a few new ones. However, their music still -- well, you get the point. 

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