Category Archives: Future trends

A deeper consciousness: What Knut’s death might teach us about the life choices facing us soon

Just a few days ago, one of the world’s most famous animals died. Knut was a polar bear who was born in captivity at the Berlin Zoological Garden. Rejected by his mother at birth, he was raised by zookeepers. He became a celebrity, even making it onto the cover of Vanity Fair magazine (twice, by the way – also sharing the cover with Leonardo di Caprio).

On 19 March, Knut collapsed and died in his enclosure. He was four years old. He had a seizure due to encephalitis, a swelling of the brain triggered by an infection, and collapsed into his pool where he drowned.

This story got me thinking. My understanding is that many animals exhibit a sixth sense when it comes to health and nature. They seem to be able to sense, anticipate, connect and communicate things that go beyond the ‘normal’. Knut’s mother strangely rejected both him and his brother who was born on the same day. Knut’s brother died of an infection when he was only four days old.

Could it be that Knut’s mother somehow knew that her two cubs were not “viable”? My understanding is that this may very well have been the case. In the animal world, it makes sense to abandon animals if they are not able to contribute. It takes up too many valuable resources to care for animals that will just die anyway.

I don’t know if Knut’s mother knew this. But it does provide an interesting starting point for discussions we’re going to have to have in the next decade or so.

As we continue to increase life expectancy, and as our medical and technical knowledge and expertise improves to the point where we can prolong our lives and fight off disease, we may very well reach the point of having to decide which lives are worth saving and which not. These decisions may very well relate to how we value people and their ability to contribute to society. Of course, in reality, this is happening already. Poor people have very few choices when it comes to health. Rich people can spend their wealth on prolonging their lives.

The difficulty will start in countries that have social medicine and limited budgets. At what point do we decide who can be treated (saved) and who has a disease that does not deserve treatment? When it’s public money being spent, how do we decide between one person and another? As we live ever longer, these choices will become starker.

Maybe animals like Knut’s mother do have the ability to work out quickly which of their fellows are worth saving and which not. Do we? And even if we did, should we not differentiate ourselves from the animals in some way – specifically by caring for the weak and outcast of society?

But how do we make these decisions? I think this may be one of the defining moral issues of my generation.

Is Evangelical Christianity Having a Great Gay Awakening?

A recent article in the Huffington Post has caused a bit of a stir amongst conservative evangelicals. It simply aimed to point out an objective fact: that more and more Christians are questioning the church’s traditional response to homosexuality. For some, this is another sign of the crumbling of the orthodoxy of Christianity. For others, it is a sign of hope that Christianity can continue to escape its prejudices and past (they cite examples of how the church treated non-whites, women, slaves and others).

Whatever your view on the church’s current response to homosexuality, this article is worth reading and reflecting on. You can read it at The Huffington Post, or an extract below:

Is Evangelical Christianity Having a Great Gay Awakening?

by Cathleen Falsani, Huffington Post, 13 Jan 2011

Some of my dearest friends are gay.

Most of my dearest friends are Christians.

And more than a few of my dearest friends are gay Christians.

As an evangelical, that last part is not something that, traditionally and culturally, I’m supposed to say out loud. For most of my life, I’ve been taught that it’s impossible to be both openly gay and authentically Christian.

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From Minority to Majority – a problem for Reformed Protestants

This post was originally written on 10 June 2009, on the previous version of my blog

I was recently sent an article from the Associated Baptist Press (ABP, USA), entitled: “Baptists urged to consider risks of ‘majoritarian faith’”, by David Wilkinson. It is a news article about a recent lecture by Baptist historian Doug Weaver, speaking at the Baptist History and Heritage Society annual meeting.

His main point was that Baptists (and by inference, other Reformed Protestants) were shaped and formed as persecuted, minority groups. Now, they are majority, mainstream groups, and are in danger (I’d say they have already) lost their distinctiveness and compromised their values. In particular, he is concerned that Baptists have abandoned their belief in religious liberty (and in liberty in general).

While Baptists proudly point to religious liberty and church-state separation as their distinctive contributions to American history, Weaver said, contemporary Baptist heirs to that tradition may find it difficult to relate to their 17th-century forebears, who were part of a persecuted minority of dissenters to official state-supported denominations.

“We are used to being a part of the majority. We are the Bible Belt, maybe even the buckle of that belt. We are Baptists, the largest body of Protestants in the United States,” Weaver, a religion professor at Baylor University, said. “We have climbed the ladder of success numerically, socially and intellectually. We have an air of respectability. We are the majority; hear us roar.”

In contrast, he noted, it was the persecuted minority groups – the Anabaptists, Baptists and Quakers – that “pushed the Christian world in the 16th and 17th centuries to face the music and hear cries for complete religious liberty.”

Continue reading From Minority to Majority – a problem for Reformed Protestants

Engaging with Islam – with an agenda of peace, reconciliation and truth seeking

I wrote yesterday about the need to engage appropriately with skeptics of the Christian faith. It’s also important for Christians to engage with people of other faiths and religions. The most important route to lasting global peace right now is for the three major monotheistic religions to find ways to peacefully engage with each other.

It is amazing to me that the Christian right wing in the United States has so easily and quickly engaged – even integrated – with Judaism (and especially Zionistic Judaism). I don’t want to comment on that issue in this blog entry, but it does indicate that major religions are able to find ways to engage with each other when they share a common goal (like the protection of the State of Israel). What better goal for all religious leaders to have than world peace?

So, it was with interest that I read about Amr Khaled in the (very conservative) Spectator magazine Christmas edition. This is a Muslim cleric who seems to be gaining the kind of reputation in the Islamic world that Billy Graham or Bill Hybels have in the Protestant Christian world. Although there would be obviously be significant theological differences between us, I nevertheless support his efforts to bring about a calmer, more rational, more engaging Islam. That can only be a good thing, and should be supported by all Christian everywhere. Maybe this is a common space for all religious people (and those of no faith, too) to play.

But read the article for yourself (at The Spectator website, or an extract below) and make up your own mind.

Continue reading Engaging with Islam – with an agenda of peace, reconciliation and truth seeking

Reflections on Christmas and Christianity in the USA

The New York Times op-ed column this past weekend included an excellent analysis of two recent books and what they tell us about Christians in the USA. Well worth a read, especially at this time of year.

You can read the piece at the NY Times website here, or an extract below.

A Tough Season for Believers

By ROSS DOUTHAT
Published: NY Times op-ed column, December 19, 2010

Christmas is hard for everyone. But it’s particularly hard for people who actually believe in it.

In a sense, of course, there’s no better time to be a Christian than the first 25 days of December. But this is also the season when American Christians can feel most embattled. Their piety is overshadowed by materialist ticky-tack. Their great feast is compromised by Christmukkwanzaa multiculturalism. And the once-a-year churchgoers crowding the pews beside them are a reminder of how many Americans regard religion as just another form of midwinter entertainment, wedged in between “The Nutcracker” and “Miracle on 34th Street.”

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The last man to wear pantaloons

A while ago I spent an evening flipping in and out of a B-grade mini-series on life in the early 1920s. It was the time of transition between the Victorian era and the modern Industrial era. The shift from horses to cars, from provincialism to nationalism, from rural to urban living (for the rich), from hooped skirts to the sleek flappers (The term “flapper”, which became common slang in the 1920s, referred to a “new breed” of young women who wore short skirts, bobbed their hair and flaunted their disdain for what was then considered “decent” behavior. The typical flapper was unafraid to wear cosmetics or to be seen smoking or drinking alcoholic beverages in public – from Wikipedia), from top hats and cravats to suits and ties.

It was a fascinating look at the times of transition, following one man and his family from mid 1800s to the 1930s. One of the interesting things for me was the clothes people wore – epecially the men. A question sprung to mind: who was the last man to get up in the morning, go to his wardrobe and decide to put on pantaloons?

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The Gospel of Wealth – are Faith and the American Dream compatible?

An op-ed piece in a recent New York Times reviews a new book that suggests that the American Dream (health, wealth, happiness, freedom) are not compatible with the Gospel. The author says Americans should live as if they earned $ 50,000 a year and give the rest away. The NYT piece makes some great points. Read it at the NYT site here, or an extract below.

The Gospel of Wealth

By DAVID BROOKS, Op-ed columnist, The New York Times, September 6, 2010

Maybe the first decade of the 21st century will come to be known as the great age of headroom. During those years, new houses had great rooms with 20-foot ceilings and entire new art forms had to be invented to fill the acres of empty overhead wall space.

People bought bulbous vehicles like Hummers and Suburbans. The rule was, The Smaller the Woman, the Bigger the Car — so you would see a 90-pound lady in tennis whites driving a 4-ton truck with enough headroom to allow her to drive with her doubles partner perched atop her shoulders.

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Expanding Youth Professionals Opportunities

This paper, originally published in the peer reviewed Journal of Youth and Theology, edition 3, volume 1, 2004 (see http://www.iasym.org), aims to expose youth professionals to a number of opportunities within the corporate business world. This will enable youth professionals to self-fund their ministries/work, as well as gain credibility and experience in their area of expertise. The paper outlines the need that the corporate world has with regards to an understanding of today’s youth culture, as well as provides specific guidelines for ministry professionals who wish to pursue part-time (or full-time) consulting work in the corporate world. The paper specifically ignores theological and ethical issues such work may provoke. Since it was written in 2003, it also doesn’t take into account the many social media and digital opportunities to prove your expertise that are now available. These should obviously be utilised as part of developing one’s profile.

Expanding Youth Professionals Opportunities

The contribution that not-for-profit youth professionals can make in the corporate world
by Dr Graeme Codrington (2003)

The Professional Youth Ministry Problem

One of the abiding complaints of professional youth ministers and workers1 around the world is that they are not taken seriously. They are often seen as glorified baby-sitters or cheerleaders. Yet, in an increasing number of countries, there is a growing number of professionally trained, well qualified, called and committed life-long career youth workers and ministers (“youth professionals”).2 These people are as qualified in their specialised field as any other professionals are in theirs. Their expert knowledge and critical skills in fields such as childcare, adolescent development, youth culture and group dynamics, together with deep understanding of related disciplines, such as theology, psychology, sociology and education, set these youth professionals apart in today’s world. Yet, they are often not accorded the recognition they deserve, or the responsibilities they are equipped to handle.

In addition to these systemic challenges, youth professionals also facea financial challenge at the start of the 21st century. Churches, denominations, missions and youth agencies are no longer receiving the funding they were some years ago.3 Budgets are tight, and full-time youth professionals are seen as a luxury in many places. Many are ridiculously underpaid, and cannot sustain a career, and therefore are either forced to go part-time, or to abandon youth work/ministry all together.

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Worshiping Personalities

This post was originally uploaded onto the earlier version of this blog on 25 August 2005

Looking at my posts recently, they’ve been a bit “heavy” on the theology side. So, to break that a bit, I decided to write up a thought that has been running around my head for the past few weeks. It has to do with how worship leaders help people to connect with God (I also think it applies equally to preachers/teachers as well).

In analysing how people learn, researchers have come to recognise a shift from intelligence to intelligences. No longer do we have a traditionalist view that recognises only a single ‘intelligence’ (usually related to linguistic or mathematical ability) and which varies in its development from person to person. Rather, we should see people as having multiple ‘intelligences’. Add to that the fact that people have different personalities, cultures, genders, etc, and you create a seriously intense environment for education and connection.

There are many tools that can help us get beyond this complexity – mainly these are frameworks which help us simplify, without becoming simplistic.

In the light of this, my thought is simply this: we should take these differences much more seriously when we plan a time of worship.

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Welcome new readers – a quick intro to the conversation thus far

Every now and again I’ll do a quick overview of my favourite posts – and that can act as a nice introduction for new readers and a navigation tool for those who want to “catch up” with some of the thinking and conversations on this blog.

The purpose of this blog is to help Christians and those seeking faith to find new ways to think about what it means to be a Christ follower. I have been writing and blogging on this topic since 1995, and this blog includes a selection of new and old stuff I have been working on. Some of it I’d die for, but some of it is purely experimental (I try and let you know which is which). The point is not to present a fully worked through systematic theology, but rather to allow you to enter into an ongoing conversation with me. If you like, this is just my journal – and you get to look in…

So, with that said, here is a brief intro to some of the posts on this blog:

Continue reading Welcome new readers – a quick intro to the conversation thus far