Category Archives: Global issues

A clash of worldviews

One of the reasons the recent US Presidential election has been so emotive is that, more than at any time in recent memory, it was also a stark clash of worldviews. Not just political doctrines, or sets of public policies, but a clash between two very different worldviews. The one has been labelled Right, Traditional, Conservative. The other Left, Liberal, Progressive.

I find myself drawn to the progressive side of this divide, without buying into everything that it stands for. I have been debating online for a few weeks with a set of people from the Right, who have been as fervent as I have to state their views and defend their worldview.

One of these gentlemen sent me two videos and asked me to respond to them: one by Andrew Breitbart https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIO4oSLwK3A and another on Cultural Marxism https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cg3T_H2LZ54

I don’t plan to do a moment by moment response. But Breitbart is a good lightning rod for where the Tea Party, alt-right and Trump are taking America, so it’s worth taking a moment to respond to this.

At the heart of the Right’s concern with the world right now is the perceived use of a Marxist approach to society. Marxism aims to highlight the divide between the haves and have nots, encouraging the have nots to rise up in revolution. It’s goal is to destroy capitalism and replace it with socialism. ‘Cultural Marxism’ – a label the Right like to impose on almost all Liberal worldviews – is perceived to be the use of similar tactics in encouraging minority groups to consider themselves to be oppressed and to rise up against their oppressor, which is the current ruling system.

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Missional Business Seminar, Johannesburg, 5 Nov 2016

This is your invitation to a vitally important seminar. Download a PDF brochure here, and share with your friends.

The world is changing. More Christians from developing nations are becoming interested in mission. We need more people on the mission field, coming from more diverse backgrounds and finding new methods of funding their work.

Come and join a seminar hosted by OMF International that will investigate some new models of missional business.

LEARN about…

  • NEW WAYS of doing and funding mission
  • INTEGRATING your entrepreneurial spirit and gifts with mission to the ends of the earth
  • GOD AT WORK in various parts of the world through Missional Business

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I am a racist. But I do not want to be one.

CONTEXT: A few weeks ago, a young girl at a school in South Africa protested against the rules of her school by wearing a fairly sizeable Afro-style hair style. On the face of it, this doesn’t sound like much. But there are many reasons this became a flashpoint for discussion and debate.

  • Firstly, it happened in a South Africa that has just experienced a watershed election, where the balance of power is shifting in the whole of society – we’re trying to work out what it means to be South African, rather than post-apartheid South African.
  • Secondly, hair is an issue for black women. It just is. I have an adopted black daughter, and hair has been an issue in our home since she arrived. I have spent many hours with her at hair salons, and marvel at what African women must endure to do anything with their hair.
  • Thirdly, hair is more than a merely cosmetic issue – it is a political issue. All the way back in the days of slavery, hairstyles distinguished the house slaves (who had to straighten their hair or wear wigs) and field slaves. It was an apartheid test for race – if a pencil stayed in your hair, you were ‘black’. I kid you not – this was happening in South Africa in the 1970s and 80s.
  • Fourthly, our world is built with a hidden (but very much intentional and specifically constructive) white heteronormative bias. Most white people (especially white, straight males) do not even notice this. Like fish don’t know they’re swimming in water.

I recently posted a Facebook profile picture with a short statement of support for all the young black women who are standing against their schools’ hair policies. The responses I received to this indicated that many people do not understand the racism inherent in the very system itself. I realised I was one of those people. So, I wrote this:
Continue reading I am a racist. But I do not want to be one.

How to know your version of Christianity is broken

Last week, a lone gunman attacked a gay club in Orlando, Florida. Fifty people were killed, making this modern America’s worst mass shooting tragedy. We may never know for sure what the gunman’s motives were, although we do know that he made calls to 911 and the police claiming to be influenced by ISIS. For the purposes of this post, though, his motives are irrelevant.

An outpouring of grief and condolences followed. But not by everyone. Some Christians used the massacre as an opportunity to further their agenda of hatred towards the LGBT community in the most extraordinary ways.

The highest profile of these is Pat Robertson, front man of the 700 Club TV show. He used his show to claim that liberal LGBT rights advocates have aligned themselves with radical Islamists and are now reaping what they have sowed. Robertson said that liberals are facing a dilemma because they love both LGBT equality and Islamic extremism, and that it is better for conservatives like himself not to get involved but to instead just watch the two groups kill each other. Watch the video for yourself if you don’t believe me. For further quotations where Roberston explains this “dilemma” in even more detail, see this article from Right Wing Watch.

Then, in a sermon so filled with hate that YouTube has since removed it for violating their policy on hate speech, Sacramento pastor Roger Jimenez of Verity Baptist Church said, “Are you sad that 50 pedophiles were killed today? Um no, I think that’s great! I think that helps society. I think Orlando, Florida is a little safer tonight…. I wish the government would round them all up, put them up against a wall, put a firing squad in front of them and blow their brains out…. The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. The tragedy is — I’m kind of upset that he didn’t finish the job!”

Another pastor, Steven Anderson, from Faithful Word Baptist Church, Arizona, uploaded a video that is still available on Vimeo. It’s a horrific video in which he refers to LGBT people repeatedly as “sodomites”, “pedophiles” and “homos”.

Continue reading How to know your version of Christianity is broken

Even if you believe being gay is sinful, you can’t support James Dobson or Franklin Graham’s views

On 19 January, Dr James Dobson interviewed Franklin Graham on his Family Talk Radio Show. You can listen to the show here – and you really only need to listen to first two minutes to hear my complaint.

I know that many of my friends and family don’t agree with my view on homosexuality. But even if you believe that homosexuality is a sin, you cannot support Dr Dobson and Dr Graham’s views. And you should definitely speak out against their views. You cannot remain silent in the face of homophobia and fear-mongering. I am being serious about this statement – the church cannot be seen to either hate or fear gays, nor can it be seen to exclude homosexuals from churches.

Here is what Franklin Graham said:

    “We have allowed the Enemy to come into our churches. I was talking to some Christians and they were talking about how they invited these gay children to come into their home and to come into the church and that they were wanting to influence them. And I thought to myself, they’re not going to influence those kids; those kids are going to influence those parent’s children.

    “What happens is we think we can fight by smiling and being real nice and loving. We have to understand who the Enemy is and what he wants to do. He wants to devour our homes. He wants to devour this nation and we have to be so careful who we let our kids hang out with. We have to be so careful who we let into the churches. You have immoral people who get into the churches and it begins to affect the others in the church and it is dangerous. So, I am going to encourage the church to take a stand for Christ, and for righteousness. … “

Is he serious?

Does Franklin Graham think his Gospel is so weak that having gay children attend his church would undermine the faith of the Christians who are already there? Did he really mean to say that church is a club for saved saints, and that sinners should not be allowed to attend? Is he genuinely concerned that homosexuals and their “lifestyle” are more powerful than his gospel and his God?

Continue reading Even if you believe being gay is sinful, you can’t support James Dobson or Franklin Graham’s views

For the sake of the gospel, drop the persecution complex

Around the world, conservative Christians love to think of themselves as being a persecuted minority. In some countries, of course, they are. But in so-called “Christian” countries, like the ones my family and extended family live in (America, Canada, United Kingdom and South Africa), conservative Christians love to feel persecuted, silenced and outcast. They’re not really – not in countries with freedom of speech and religion. Rachel Held Evans writes eloquently about this topic on her blog this week, specifically referencing recent issues in the USA. It’s a great read – on her blog, or an extract below.

For the sake of the gospel, drop the persecution complex

July 15, 2015 by Rachel Held Evans

Did you hear about the pastor who was arrested for not marrying a same-sex couple? What about the publisher that got sued for refusing to censor anti-gay verses from the Bible?

Both of these stories have been exposed as fakes of course, but that didn’t keep hundreds of thousands of conservative Christians from sharing them online this week. When I pointed out to a friend that the story he had just shared on social media wasn’t true, he replied, “well it might as well be. Christians in this country are under attack.” 

It has become a familiar refrain. We hear it every Christmas when an unsuspecting store clerk wishes the wrong Christian “happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”  We hear it whenever a high school drops its traditional pre-football game prayer out of respect for those students who may be Jewish or Muslim or non-religious.  An entire industry of books and films has blossomed in the red soil of the American Christian persecution complex, with the first “Gods’ Not Dead” installment caricaturing and vilifying atheists and the second set to expose liberal efforts to “expel God from the classroom once and for all.”

Continue reading For the sake of the gospel, drop the persecution complex

Best books to read on Christians, the Bible and homosexuality

For the past ten years, I have been reading, writing and researching on the issue of Christians, the Bible and homosexuality. I have become convinced that the traditional Christian approach to the topic of homosexuality and to same sex marriage is incorrect, and needs to be adjusted. This is not due to pressure from society or to recent legislation changes in some countries, but rather through an in-depth study of God’s Word.

I don’t believe that any twisting of God’s Word is required in order to see that we can accept homosexuality and approve same sex marriage, based on Scripture and what we understand of God. I don’t believe that we have to ignore certain parts of Scripture, writing them off as cultural or outdated in order to do this. I believe the Bible has been misread for two millennia on this issue. I realise that this can be a very difficult position for conservative Christians to accept and understand, but I believe that those who are truth seekers, and are open to seeing how God’s grace and love is extended to the LGBT community, will find an acceptance in God’s Word that will surprise them. I think we’ll discover that this issue is to our generation what previous generations of Christians have had to face when dealing with significant social change brought about by women’s suffrage, the end of segregation, the end of slavery, the changing of the system of divine rights of kings and of feudalism, mindsets around foreign missions, and many other similar shifts in both theology and society in our history.

There are some excellent books available to help you to investigate this issue for yourself, and familiarise yourself with new ways of looking at God’s Word. Here is a short list to help you get started. These are books that deal with affirming homosexuality and same sex marriage, or engage in looking at the topic through multiple lenses. I am not including books that are opposed to same sex marriage – I am sure a Google search will give you plenty of those if you want to read all sides of the debate.

Continue reading Best books to read on Christians, the Bible and homosexuality

Don’t stop now: It’s not enough for churches to just “welcome” gay people

The last few weeks since the Supreme Court in America approved same sex marriage, and Ireland voted to do the same, there has been a lot of conversation (ok, mainly argument) on all forums and social media platforms. Rightly so. This is a massive shift in society.

Some people have asked me why I have made such a big deal of it, and why I am “pushing” the issue so hard. The reason is simple. I grew up in a very conservative part of the Christian tradition. I was taught that I was part of a chosen group who were going to live in Paradise, and everyone else was hated by God and would suffer for eternity. If you don’t think about it too much, there’s comfort in being part of the chosen. When you apply your mind to it, though, it’s a horrifying mindset. It actively creates “us vs them” divides at every level.

This is not what I see in the life and teachings of Jesus, who stands at the centre of my religion. I see someone who breaks down these “us verses them” divides at every opportunity. He does it across all sorts of lines: race, culture, economic status, politics, religion and sexuality.

So now that the church is confronted by such a radical shift in societal norms, we have an opportunity to re-form our churches too. It’s a key moment in history, and we must grasp it.

It is incredibly hard for someone who has grown up their whole life not just believing that homosexuality is a sin, but also that gay people are actually disgusting and despised by God to see what is now happening around the world. Acceptance of homosexuality as normal must be incredibly difficult – and for some, a sign of how badly messed up the world is.

It is wonderful to see some of these people beginning to confront their personal distaste of the “gay lifestyle” and argue for a church that should be accepting of homosexuals, and welcoming. That’s an important and necessary first step. But it’s not enough. Not nearly enough.

For those who believe that the Bible affirms same sex marriage, we cannot stop and applaud this half way step. It is going to bring more pain and suffering very soon. If you believe that “being gay” is a sin in itself, then you are only going to find pain in a church. And churches that welcome gays but still believe that “being gay” is sinful are going to cause deep and abiding harm to people. Homosexuals who attend those churches will be second class citizens, will be prohibited from leading, serving and exercising their spiritual gifts and calling. They will be broken down, not built up.

Continue reading Don’t stop now: It’s not enough for churches to just “welcome” gay people

One by one: Tony Campolo comes out for gay marriage

Tony Campolo, author, theologian and outspoken evangelical leader, has today announced that after much prayer and study, he has changed his position on gay marriage and now believes that the church should be in favour of it. One by one, evangelical thinkers and theologians are changing their positions. Tony is a significant figure, as he has long stood against affirming gay marriage (while being in favour of churches improving their affirmation of celibate gays). This is an important milestone in the church’s journey of change on this issue.

Tony made the announcement a few hours ago via his blog.

He says, in part:

… Furthermore, we should be doing all we can to reach, comfort and include all those precious children of God who have been wrongly led to believe that they are mistakes or just not good enough for God, simply because they are not straight.

As a social scientist, I have concluded that sexual orientation is almost never a choice and I have seen how damaging it can be to try to “cure” someone from being gay. As a Christian, my responsibility is not to condemn or reject gay people, but rather to love and embrace them, and to endeavor to draw them into the fellowship of the Church. When we sing the old invitation hymn, “Just As I Am”, I want us to mean it, and I want my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to know it is true for them too.

Rest assured that I have already heard – and in some cases made – every kind of biblical argument against gay marriage, including those of Dr. Ronald Sider, my esteemed friend and colleague at Eastern University. Obviously, people of good will can and do read the scriptures very differently when it comes to controversial issues, and I am painfully aware that there are ways I could be wrong about this one.

However, I am old enough to remember when we in the Church made strong biblical cases for keeping women out of teaching roles in the Church, and when divorced and remarried people often were excluded from fellowship altogether on the basis of scripture. Not long before that, some Christians even made biblical cases supporting slavery. Many of those people were sincere believers, but most of us now agree that they were wrong. I am afraid we are making the same kind of mistake again, which is why I am speaking out.

One by one, until the ripple becomes a wave, and the wave becomes a flood. That is how it has always been, with any major shift in society.

Thank you, Tony, for having the courage to make this stand. May many more pastors and Christian leaders be encouraged now to follow your lead, and help us change this dreadful error in our interpretation of the Bible.

UPDATE ON 10 JUNE 2015: Brian D. McLaren, long time friend and collaborator with Tony (who also opposed him on the gay marriage issue for many years, while still remaining friends), has commented on Tony’s statement as well as the Christianity Today editorial. It’s well worth reading here.

5 Reasons Why Many American Christians Wouldn’t Like The First Ones

On his Formerly Fundie blog, Benjamin L. Corey, recently posted this blog entry. It’s a provocative read for some conservative American Christians, but it’s well worth it. Thought provoking and challenging. And, in my opinion, right.

Read it in full at his site, or an extract below.

5 Reasons Why Many American Christians Wouldn’t Like The First Ones

By Benjamin L. Corey

If you could meet one of the first Christians would you like them?

I’m convinced that many American Christians would not. In the course of 2000 years, Christianity- while maintaining the basic tenets, has morphed and shifted from the way it was originally designed and lived out. Since we tend to live in a culture that is rather self-centered, we have a tendency to assume we “have it right” while completely overlooking the fact that our version of Christianity might appear quite foreign– even hopelessly corrupted– if viewed through the eyes of one of the first Christians.

If those entrenched in American Christianity could transport back in time to experience Christianity as it originally was, they’d be uncomfortable at best, and at worst, would probably have declined the invitation to join Christianity at all.
Here’s 5 of the major reasons why I think many American Christians probably would not have liked the first ones:

1. The first Christians rejected personal ownership of property and engaged in a redistribution of wealth.

Americanized Christians often fight to make sure our taxes are lower, fight to repeal healthcare for poor people, and throw a fit over a small portion of our income going to provide foodstamps. While touting “voluntary” and “private” charity as the way to go, we give on average 2-3% of our income to the church or charities– not nearly enough to actually address the needy in any meaningful way. But what about the early Christians?

Well, the first Christians were quite different. In the book of Acts (the book that tells the story of original Christianity) tells us that “all the believers were together and held everything in common, selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need” (Acts 2:44-45). We’re further told that there were no poor among them, because those who had land or property sold it so that this wealth could be “redistributed” to the needy (Acts 4:35). While on one hand communal property and redistribution of wealth was voluntary, scripture tells us that “all” of the believers in the church did this– meaning that it wasn’t exactly voluntary but a condition of being accepted into the group.
If Americanized Christians were to see how the first Christians lived, it would be denounced as some sort of communist cult being led by folks who distorted the Gospel.

Continue reading 5 Reasons Why Many American Christians Wouldn’t Like The First Ones