Category archives: jargon

Kristof on Human Trafficking

Nicholas Kristof has another column about the awful reality of human trafficking. (Reader discretion advised.)

So for those of you doubtful that “modern slavery” really is an issue for the new international agenda, think of Srey Pov—and multiply her by millions. If what such girls experience isn’t slavery, that word has no meaning. It’s time for a 21st-century abolitionist movement in the U.S. and around the world.

I agree. I don’t know how to solve that problem, but I like the work that Gary Haugen is doing at International Justice Mission. If you’re looking for an unconventional Christmas present, or a charity to support before the year-end, consider them.

(Via Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution, who sadly concurs with that “millions” factor in Kristof’s article.)

Doing Something About Hunger

You may not be aware, our church is one of four that supports a local food pantry, the Joshua Tree Community Food Pantry. (Watch the video some of our kids made about it.)

There are still hungry people in America:

However, national food insecurity data reveal that about 45% of those struggling with hunger actually have incomes above the federal poverty level and 53% of poor households are food secure1. Thus, measuring need based on local poverty rates alone provides an incomplete illustration of the potential need for food assistance within our communities. More accurate assessments of need across all income levels within our service areas can assist Feeding America and our network of food banks in strategic planning for charitable food services that best support hungry Americans, as well as inform the public policy discussion so that vital federal nutrition programs can better serve those in need.

And by “America,” I mean “next door.” (See the map here.)

There are a lot of reasons for hunger, including the utterly insane use of food for automobile fuel. We can hope and work for non-stupid public policy to help with the problem. But in the meantime, one of the ways you can help is to donate food to a community food pantry, or volunteer at one.

The Church and Working Class Americans

Here’s an interesting finding, reported by LiveScience today:

In the 1980s, the researchers found, there was little difference in religious participation between high school- and college-educated whites. But by the 2000s, a gap appeared. Today, 46 percent of college-educated whites go to a church, synagogue or equivalent institution at least once a month, compared with 37 percent of high school-educated whites.

Whites without a high school diploma were the least likely to attend church in the 1970s and remain so today. In the 1970s, 38 percent attended church at least monthly. Today, only 23 percent do. (Blacks and Hispanics do not show the same declines.)

I wonder why this is. Are better-educated people more responsive to outreach? Do churches seek out and minister to better-educated people? And is there a difference between those questions? How can churches be more effective at communicating the gospel to people who aren’t as well educated?

Just War: the ACID test

A few weeks ago, U.S. special forces carried out a raid into Abottabad, Pakistan, in the course of which, the terrorist leader Osama bin Laden was killed. Earlier this spring, the U.S., as part of NATO, began military operations in support of Libyan rebels. These two events, along with our ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, raise the question: can a war be justified, and, if so, under what circumstances?

Thoughtful and decent Christians have argued both sides of this question for centuries. Whole denominations, such as Quakers and Mennonites, have historically said “no,” on the basis of Jesus’ statement of blessing on peacemakers in Matthew 5:9 and other scriptures.

Other Christians have said that war can sometimes be justified, if it meets certain criteria. This doctrine of Just War provides a number of tests which I remember as the “ACID” test: Read more

Sharing the Life of Christ

I heartily approve of the mission statement recently adopted by our Session: “Sharing the Life of Christ.” The first reason I like it is that it’s concise. I used to work in big companies that had those horrible mission statements nobody could repeat or even knew existed, half a page of fashionable buzzwords strung together, like “strategic,” “teamwork,” and “partnering.”

By contrast, our new mission statement passes what I call the “Tee-Shirt Test”–it’s not too big to fit on a Tee-shirt. (Another simple test: which is easier to say: “our mission statement” or the mission statement itself? If it’s not a toss-up, your mission statement needs to be shorter.)

The second reason I like “Sharing the Life of Christ” is that it’s a mission statement. It tells us what we’re doing as a church. There’s a reason God put us here, and we’re doing it. Even if we fail, we’ve done our best, but hopefully, our mission statement will help us succeed.

The Bible records many places where Jesus gave instructions to his disciples. The most famous, perhaps, is the Great Commission in Matthew 28: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all I have commanded you.”

There are any number things we could be doing to fulfill the Great Commission, but, given our size and our limited resources, there are probably only a few we can do well. The entire Christian church can and should go to all nations, but if we attempted to do that as individual Christians, we’d spend our whole life in airports, and not have any time for making disciples or teaching them to obey Jesus. A mission statement helps us decide where to focus our efforts.

I’m excited to have this new tool to help us be faithful in our calling to be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, and I hope you are too.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll let you know what I think it means for us to share the life of Christ. I’d love to hear what you think. What is “the life of Christ?” How do we share it? Who do we share it with? Let’s talk!

(Cross-posted at the Desert Hills Presbyterian Church blog.)

The Catholic Church (Part 1)

I’ve mentioned that “Orthodox” is a word I’d like us Mainline Protestants to reclaim. Another word like that is “Catholic.”

The word “catholic” means “universal” or “entire.” It comes from a Greek word that means “according to the whole.” Unlike “orthodox,” this word actually appears in Scripture, where members of the high priest’s party examine the disciples and order them not to testify about Jesus:

So they called them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.

The word that eventually became “catholic” is translated here as “at all.” The only place in Scripture where this word occurs is here in Acts 4:18.

If that verse were the only place Christians used the word catholic, it wouldn’t matter. But of course it isn’t. Most of the time, when American Protestants say “catholic” they’re referring to the Roman Catholic Church. This is reasonable, as 95% of “Catholics” are members of the Church of Rome, and only 5% belong to the 22 Eastern Catholic churches.

But at the same time, Protestants assert their own catholicity. Read more

Words Worth Holding Onto

When my children were younger, their kindergarten teacher taught them this saying: “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can also hurt me.” That’s not the version I learned when I was a kid: back then we were taught that words could never hurt us. I’m of two minds about changing that saying. There should, on the one hand, be a clear distinction between physical violence and verbal aggression, but it is also true that words can hurt us.

Words are powerful things. Read more