Daily Archives

March 7, 2018

Moms Have Always ‘Worked.’ Just Ask the Puritans.

5 things I've learned from an early American vision of the household. In the context of 21st-century motherhood, the language of the “mommy wars” often seems outdated. Women today bend over backward to avoid moral judgments concerning women who work and those who don’t. We use cautious, subjective phrasing about “personal choices” and “best options” for our particular families. And yet in more candid conversations, the mommy wars are alive and well, even if the rhetoric has changed. Both working mothers and so-called stay-at-home mothers (SAHMs) harbor angst about money, attachment, the judgment of others, and a host of other issues. We still want to know: Are working women ruining their children? Are SAHMs missing out on personal fulfillment? And, common to both sides, are our families going to make it financially? These questions, shaped by unique racial, cultural, and theological contexts, dominate not only women’s thought lives (and men’s, too) but also the broader social and spiritual conversations of our churches and neighborhoods. As a young mother wading through the first year of my daughter’s life, I have found guidance in a surprising place: Puritan women. I first started studying Puritan womanhood while taking a class on Jonathan Edwards…

Continue Reading

The Legacy of a Leader

All of us as leaders will leave behind our legacy someday Death is not the final chapter of our life, is it? A key understanding of faith for a believer is that life lasts an eternity. When we die, we leave stuff behind. We leave behind the possessions we acquire here. We leave behind any unfinished business. We leave behind our memories—the painful and the pleasant memories. The word for all we leave behind might be called our legacy. This may be a morbid way to start a leadership message. The truth is, if we as leaders don’t understand the principle of the legacy we leave behind, we may leave a mess for others to clean up after us! Leaving a healthy legacy may be one of the most important things a leader can do. I came into ministry in my late thirties, after many years in the business world. Our first church had fallen on hard times. I tried to provide good leadership to help the church grow again. I cast vision, got people excited, celebrated along the way, and sent the people of the church back into the community to spread the good news and invite people to…

Continue Reading

How Will Hollywood Handle the Spiritual Themes in ‘A Wrinkle in Time?’

Fans of Madeleine L’Engle’s novel are wondering whether the film will do justice to the “cosmic questions” the book raises. You’ve heard the buzz: A Wrinkle in Time, based on the classic children’s book by Madeleine L’Engle (1918–2007), hits theaters this week as a $100 million Disney movie. A lot more than money is riding on the film’s success. Not only is the sci-fi novel beloved by millions of readers—since winning the 1963 Newbery Medal, it has sold upwards of 16 million copies—but its author was one of the most adored writers of Christian faith in recent history. As I’ve learned while writing her spiritual biography (A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L’Engle, which releases in August), her fans among millennials and my own Generation X, in particular, are as vast as the cosmos she so loved. For many who struggle with faith and doubt, L’Engle has become a kind of patron saint for the wavering, the wondering, and the wounded. No pressure, Hollywood. This new adaptation of Wrinkle, directed by the irrepressible Ava DuVernay (Selma, 13th, Queen Sugar), stars no less than Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, and Chris Pine. Frozen’s Jennifer Lee adapted the…

Continue Reading

Evangelicalism Is Far Deeper, Wider, and Greater Than the Foibles of the Moment

An excerpt from 'Still Evangelical?' Editor’s note: This excerpt is taken from Karen Swallow Prior’s chapter, “Why I Am an Evangelical.” I came to Christian faith at a very young age and never wavered in my faith or in my trust in Jesus as my Savior. Sadly, the message from my evangelical tradition was that while trusting in Jesus ensured I would go to heaven instead of hell, but there didn’t seem to be much else to it —other than avoiding sin in order to get more jewels in my heavenly crown—and, of course, telling as many other people as I could about Jesus so they could go to heaven and wear a jeweled crown. But a more mature, robust evangelicalism eventually taught me how to think and love like a Christian. Evangelical writers and thinkers helped me face, understand, and challenge the movement’s tendency toward anti-intellectualism and its undervaluation of beauty. Evangelicalism eventually taught me that “being saved” was not just about the afterlife but also the abundant life, not just for me as an individual but for all of humankind. And so evangelicalism created an activist spirit within me, molding and refining a passion to do right politically,…

Continue Reading

Why Christian Theology Needs (Former) Atheists

A lot of prominent 20th century Christian thinkers used to be skeptics. Walter Hooper, C. S. Lewis’s personal secretary, once commented to the great Christian writer about a clever inscription engraved on an atheist’s tombstone: “Here lies an atheist. All dressed up with no place to go.” Not bemused, Lewis quipped: “That atheist probably wishes now that were true.” Impertinent as Lewis’s one-liner might first appear, it was not a malicious verbal barb. Lewis was deadly serious. After all, he viewed atheism as having deadly serious consequences. Rather he sought to woo and warn atheists they faced a desperate future apart from Christ. Lewis’s specific apologetic endeavor to thwart atheism possesses an intriguing backstory: Lewis had been a convinced atheist himself. He knew very well of what he spoke. He had “been there, done that” credibility. In Surprised by Joy, Lewis recounts his conversion to theism, a sinuous path from childhood belief to atheism to theism and finally to Christian faith. My personal “surprise” in reading the book was caused by the discovery that Lewis’s account contained experiences with which I could loosely identify. The simple reason—one for which I am not proud—is that as a young person I, too,…

Continue Reading

The 6 Songs Billy Graham Picked for His Funeral

(UPDATED) The evangelist planned his own ceremony. Experts analyze the music he chose. As Billy Graham is laid to rest in North Carolina today, the 2,000 invited funeral attendees will listen to—or sing together—six songs. Graham, who planned his own funeral [see CT’s live report], was the one who chose them. In this, he seems to have taken the path of his longtime music director Cliff Barrows. “I want a lot of music,” Barrows instructed Billy Graham Evangelistic Association choir director Tom Bledsoe before he died in 2016. “And I want the people to sing.” Graham’s six picks: “Until Then” (Stuart Hamblen, 1958), performed by musical artist Linda McCrary-Fisher “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” (Edward Perronet, 1779), congregational singing led by Bledsoe “Above All” (Lenny LeBlanc and Paul Baloche, 1999), performed by musical artist Michael W. Smith “Because He Lives” (Bill and Gloria Gaither, 1970), performed by the Gaither Vocal Band “To God Be the Glory” (Fanny Crosby/William Howard Doane, 1875), congregational singing led by Bledsoe “Amazing Grace,” bagpipe escort led by Pipe Major William Boetticher CT asked worship and hymnody experts what they thought of Graham’s choices: John Witvliet, director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship…

Continue Reading