Daily Archives

March 22, 2018

The Evangel-ist

Billy Graham restored a sense of goodness about the Good News. The fundamentalist church of my youth viewed the upstart evangelist Billy Graham with deep suspicion. He invited members of the National Council of Churches—and Roman Catholics!—to sit on his crusade platforms. He seemed soft on communism, especially in his comments about the church behind the Iron Curtain. Perhaps most important, in those days of Jim Crow racism, he insisted on integrated crusades even in white bastions like Alabama. Those suspicions, which now seem quaintly extremist, provide a glimpse of what theologically conservative churches might have become apart from Graham's influence: cultic and divisive, a minority defensively opposing rather than engaging culture. We can measure the greatness of the man by noting his impression on a movement that emerged from fundamentalist roots. Billy Graham did not invent the word evangelical, but he managed to restore the word's original meaning—“good news”—both for the skeptical world and for the beleaguered minority who looked to him for inspiration and leadership. He made mistakes along the way, of course: angering President Truman by using the White House as a photo op, making off-the-cuff comments about social issues of the day, getting conned by President…

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What Does Community Have to Do with Our Evangelism, Anyways? [Gospel Life Podcast]

Start each week with this encouragement to show and share the love of Jesus. What Does Community Have to Do with Our Evangelism, Anyways? Daniel Yang, Director of the Send Institute for Church Planting at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, talks about our first impression of evangelism and the mission of the local church. We are to naturally invite friends to learn about Jesus and to admit when we fall short in our walk of faith. We are to be in authentic community with others so that even if we falter, people will still see the light of Christ in us. Continue reading…

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Free Speech and Abortion Collide: Supreme Court Hears One of Its Biggest Cases of 2018

Pregnancy clinics are a crucial force in the pro-life movement, and the center of the argument before the justices today. Americans on both sides often view abortion as the defining issue for the Supreme Court. But the case coming before its panel of justices today represent a legal fight that extends beyond the typical pro-life and pro-choice debate. National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra is as much a free speech case as an abortion case; at stake is whether the government can require pregnancy resource centers to share information about the availability of abortion elsewhere—advertising to clients an option that the centers, by definition, oppose. The suit involves a network of more than 100 pregnancy centers in California, where the state’s 2015 Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency (FACT) Act mandates that such centers post contact information for obtaining state-funded free or low-cost contraception and abortions in their county. Along with the wave of pro-life legislation at the state level in recent years, these faith-based clinics—often called crisis pregnancy centers or CPCs—represent a major force in the movement to end abortion; with more than 3,000 in the US, they outnumber abortion clinics three to four…

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One-on-One with Tom Holladay on “Putting It All Together Again When It’s All Fallen Apart”

Nehemiah mourned, fasted, and prayed; that's where you start. Ed: Tell us what led you to write your new book. Tom: This book grows out of one of my life messages. For me, a life message is something I’ve been learning for decades, and is usually something learned out of pain. Thirty years ago, my wife Chaundel and I suffered a devastating loss when a flood hit the town we were pastoring in. Our own home was under nine feet of water, and many of our members’ homes and our church were also flooded. So we needed to rebuild, and as a young pastor I needed to lead a whole church that needed to put things together again. My mind went to the Book of Nehemiah. Since I knew he’d needed to rebuild a wall in Jerusalem, I thought he might have some things to teach us about rebuilding. I’ll never forget the joy I felt when I came across the promise in Nehemiah 2:20: “The God of heaven will give us success, we his servants will start rebuilding.” I knew it was his promise for us. I first taught the seven principles in the book to that small church,…

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Has Attachment Theory Made Us Anxious Parents?

How gospel truth and global perspective free us from guilt-inducing expectations. Guilty feelings are common among mothers of my generation. We’ve come to the parenting task at a time when so-called “attachment theory” is common parlance. It’s being applied everywhere from inner-city preschools to executive coaching programs, according to The New York Times. For many of us, it’s a source of tremendous pressure. According to attachment theorists, the quality of the early bond formed between children and their primary caregivers (usually mothers) influences emotional wellbeing for life. In response, many of us try to put into practice all the expert findings—how skin-to-skin contact at birth promotes bonding or how exclusive breastfeeding up until six months is best. Then we drive ourselves crazy with the possibility that we’re not getting it right and that all the missed moments will add up to a lifetime of emotional insecurity for our kids. (It’s worth noting that experts distinguish between official attachment theory and the pressures of attachment parenting.) Some of my friends and I commiserate over our mom failures—and the expectations we feel to reach “attachment perfection.” All in all, we’re left wondering: Has parenting always been this hard? Is our intense contemporary…

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How Larry Norman Became the Elvis Presley of Christian Rock

His music inspired a generation of Jesus freaks, but he never shook the suspicion of being a wolf in sheep’s clothing. In 2014, John Darnielle, of the band the Mountain Goats, gave his first novel an obscure title—Wolf in White Van. In the book, the protagonist described watching the Trinity Broadcasting Network many years before. Televangelists Paul and Jan Crouch were discussing Satanism in rock music with an “expert” guest. The hosts were shocked to learn that demonic messages were hidden everywhere—even in albums from so-called Christian artists. To prove his point, the guest produced a vinyl LP, which was placed on a turntable and played backward. Supposedly a mysterious phrase could be heard: “Wolf in White Van.” Why was this phrase so nefarious? Surely it didn’t help matters that the song it was taken from, “666,” was about the Antichrist. But the larger worry was that the artist, Larry Norman (1947–2008), was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Such suspicion dogged the career of the man who was called the “Father of Christian Rock.” For decades, Christians have been obsessed with the prospect of hidden messages, both in the Bible and outside it. I confess I spent considerable time in…

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Court: Pakistani Christians Must Reveal Religion to Vote or Apply for Jobs

Religious ID on passports has proven useful to asylum seekers. But expansion targeting Ahmadis threatens Christians’ employment prospects. Pakistan’s citizens must now declare their religion when applying for identity documents, or if they want to work in government or register to vote, Islamabad’s High Court ruled this month. Applicants who disguise their true religion defy the constitution and betray the state, the judge stated. Their true religion must now also be visible on birth certificates, ID cards, voters’ lists, and passports. Those who apply for a job in the judiciary, armed forces, civil services, and other government jobs also need to submit an affidavit declaring the Khatm-i-Naboowat (that Muhammad was the final prophet), stated Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui in his ruling, as reported by Pakistani newspaper Dawn. Human Rights Watch’s Saroop Ijaz said the judgement “would enable and incite violence,” in particularly directed at the Ahmadi community, Reuters reported. “All [the judge’s] specific instructions are about ensuring and finding out who is an Ahmadi,” human rights lawyer Jibran Nasir told Reuters. He said the order would provide the government with lists of who belonged to which religious minority. Pakistani passports already show the holder’s religious belief. A local source told…

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