- The Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: An Interview with Charles Marsh: And anyway, they’re drinking their beers and smoking their cigars, and they’re singing, “Go Down, Moses.” The discovery that many of the same songs and spirituals that inundated and energized the black freedom struggle in the South 20-something years later were in the 1930s at the heart of the German church resistance movement that Bonhoeffer led was just wonderful. (Religion & Politics)
- When Bullying Becomes Spiritual Warfare: If Christian parents are to better serve as advocates for their children, they may consider bullying as both a psychological event and a form of spiritual warfare. (Hermeneutics)
- The Loss of Pastoral Credibility in the Age of the Internet: While the dramatic collapses of trust in the institutional authority of the Church following the exposure and scrutiny of cases of abuse may receive the most attention, there are other ways—albeit slower and more gradual—in which this trust is being eroded. Perhaps the most significant of these in my experience has been our greater exposure to Church leaders and their thinking. (Alastair Roberts)
- There Is Nothing Modern about Euthanasia: But in the 100 years that euthanasia has been a matter for public policy debate, technology has driven the conversation much less than people assume. Euthanasia advocacy has waxed and waned according to changes in politics and culture, not medicine. (The Centre for Independent Studies)
- Bibliotheca: What’s the Point of Making the Bible More Beautiful? All of that time, money, and effort could be put towards something more practical and necessary, like translating the Bible into a language that doesn’t have it yet or printing thousands of cheap copies to hand out for free. Such statements may contain wisdom, but they also gloss over the ministry that aesthetics and beauty can have, i.e., creating transcendental experiences that shake us from this world’s mundanity and point towards God. (Christ and Pop Culture)
- The Next Chapter for Christian Publishing: Working with my family’s Christian literary agency and law firm, Yates & Yates, I’ve witnessed some of the obstacles and opportunities in today’s ever-changing book market. While the industry looks different in the 21st century, many authors who have adapted to the new era find Christian publishing remains alive and well. (Hermeneutics)
- Moving in and Moving On: Cohabitation is fundamentally ambiguous In fact, that is part—but just part—of why I believe it has become so popular. Sure, there are many cohabiting couples for whom living together was understood as a step-up in commitment, but, on average, research shows it is not associated with an increase in dedication to one’s partner. (Family Studies)
- I Lie about My Teaching: Any honest discussion between teachers must begin with the understanding that each of us mingles the good with the bad. One student may experience the epiphany of a lifetime, while her neighbor drifts quietly off to sleep. In the classroom, it’s never pure gold or pure tin; we’re all muddled alloys. (The Atlantic)
- Why Pastors Should Preach About Body Image: I can only speculate about why church leaders are largely silent about body image. Perhaps it’s seen as a “women’s issue,” whereas the majority of pastors are men. Perhaps the topic is just too sensitive. Perhaps it speaks to a theology more concerned with the spirit than the body. Or perhaps it is an idol so entwined in Christian culture that we hardly even notice it. (Hermeneutics)
- You Might Want to Fact-Check Your Pastor’s Sermon: Preachers love to drop statistics and historical tidbits into their sermons. Too bad so many of their facts are untrue. (On Faith)
- What the Media Misses about Iraqi Christian Persecution: This doesn’t mean that the persecution is justified. They shouldn’t be subject to genocide. They shouldn’t lose their homes. But Western Christians want to view these issues only through Christian evangelism, while overlooking Christian nationalism, Christian politics, and Christian violence abroad—all of which are real things. (Religion News)
- The Virtue of Unread Books: the array of books in our home is intended for ongoing, well-rounded usefulness. They’re there to show us what’s possible, not venerate what’s already been. Even the history books, which are expressly about what has already been, are there to light an inquisitive fuse and point us forward into new exploits. (StoryWarren)
Few people manage to have a lasting impact on the church with only a single book. Thomas à Kempis is one of them. His Imitation of Christ is widely considered to be the most influential devotional work of the Middle Ages and one of the most widely read Christian books of all time. (I’ve even heard it claimed that the Imitation of Christ has been translated into more languages than any book besides the Bible, a claim I have not even tried to confirm.) The Imitation of Christ had an undoubted impact on Catholic spirituality, but also impacted many Protestant thinkers (e.g. John Wesley). And it received a renewed boost in contemporary spirituality through the writings of people like Thomas Merton.
Although Thomas à Kempis’ book has received significant criticism over the years–especially for an apparent overemphasis on the “inner” life of the Christian at the expense of a more “active” spirituality–his work has played an unquestionable role in the spiritual lives our countless Christians. So in honor of the life and ministry of Thomas à Kempis, who died on July 25, 1471, this Sunday’s prayer comes from him.
Grant me, O Lord, to know what I ought to know,
To love what I ought to love,
To praise what delights thee most,
To value what is precious in thy sight,
To hate what is offensive to thee.
Do not suffer me to judge according to the sight of my eyes,
Nor to pass sentence according
…..to the hearing of the ears of ignorant men;
But to discern with a true judgment
…..between things visible and spiritual,
And above all, always to inquire what is the good pleasure of thy will.
- Wikipedia’s Edit Wars — and the 8 Religious Pages People Can’t Stop Editing: Religion is among several of the top 100 altered topics on Wikipedia, according to a recent list published by Five Thirty Eight. Former President George W. Bush is the most contested entry, but Jesus (No. 5) and the Catholic Church (No. 7) fall closely behind. (Sarah Pulliam Bailey)
- What progressives fundamentally don’t get about traditional Christians: They are unyielding on sexuality because it is inseparable from their understanding of God. And they’re not going away. (The Week)
- Prioritizing Church Attendance: There used to be an understanding in Christian families that unless one was deathly ill or there was a family emergency, you just never ever missed church. So what has changed and caused so many people to view the church as a disposable good instead of as an intricate part of one’s spiritual life? (Gospel Centered Discipleship)
- Why evangelicals’ love for Jews is a case of unrequited love: According to a new survey, white evangelical Christians feel a lot of warmth toward Jews. As for Jews, they feel colder toward evangelical Christians than they do about any other religious group. (Religion News Service)
Just for Fun
- The Double Standard of Religious Leadership: On the one hand, leaders are accorded certain privileges and have corresponding responsibilities. The price of the platform is accountability. At the same time, we don’t want leaders to assume they are somehow better. When they fail there is a certain reassurance and even delight in the schadenfreudian confirmation that everyone is human. (On Faith)
- Living With Disability in the Dark Ages: The moral arc of the universe may indeed bend toward justice, in disability as in race, gender, and class—but that arc doesn’t flow smoothly: It contains many hills and valleys. (The Daily Beast)
- Iraq’s Waterless Christians: The Campaign to Expel a Religion: Now, in a further effort to oust Christians from land they have inhabited for two millennia, the Islamic militants have begun turning off a precious utility: water. (Business Week)
- Why our brains love the ocean: Science explains what draws humans to the sea: Several years ago I came up with a name for this human–water connection: Blue Mind, a mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment. It is inspired by water and elements associated with water, from the color blue to the words we use to describe the sensations associated with immersion. (Salon)
- How to Talk about Pain: Stripped of its mysticism and its virtuous solicitations, pain was emptied of positive value. Rather than being passively endured, pain became an “enemy” to be fought and ultimately defeated. The introduction of effective relief made submission to pain perverse rather than praiseworthy. (New York Times)
- The Importance of Eating Together: It’s incredible what we’re willing to make time for if we’re motivated….Perhaps seeing eating together not as another appointment on a busy schedule, but rather as an opportunity to de-stress, a chance to catch up with those whom we love then, could help our children do better in school, get in better shape, and be less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. Eating together also led children to report better relationships with their parents and surely relationships between adults can similarly benefit. (The Atlantic)
- Five Pleas from Pastors to Search Committees: At any given time in a year, as many as 50,000 congregations are searching for a pastor. The implications of the challenges and possible misunderstandings are many. These pleas from pastors are sound and reasonable. (Thom Rainer)
- The Dark Side of Emotional Intelligence: Emotional intelligence is important, but the unbridled enthusiasm has obscured a dark side. New evidence shows that when people hone their emotional skills, they become better at manipulating others. When you’re good at controlling your own emotions, you can disguise your true feelings. When you know what others are feeling, you can tug at their heartstrings and motivate them to act against their own best interests. (The Atlantic)
The older sister of Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa, Macrina the Younger was an influential figure in our own right, becoming one of the leading monastics of the early church and deeply shaping the theology and writings of her two significant brothers. Gregory of Nyssa’s Life of Macrina describes her as an impressive woman with a tremendous intellect and a passion for following Christ.
Macrina died on July 19, 340. In honor of her amazing life and ministry, this morning’s prayer is the prayer that she prayed on her deathbed.
“O Lord, You have freed us from the fear of death;
You have made the end of life here the beginning of a true life for us.
For a time, You give rest to our bodies in
…..sleep and You awaken us again with the last trumpet.
The dust from which You fashioned us with Your hands
…..You give back to the dust of the earth for safekeeping,
and You who have relinquished it will recall it
…..after reshaping with incorruptibility and grace
our mortal and graceless substance.
You redeemed us from the curse and from sin,
…..having taken both upon Yourself;
You crushed the heads of the serpent who had seized us
…..with his jaws in the abyss of disobedience.
Breaking down the gates of hell
…..and overcoming the one who had the empire of death,
You opened up for us a path to the resurrection.
For those who fear You, You gave as a token
…..the sign of the holy cross for the destruction of the Adversary
…..and the salvation of our life.
O God everlasting, towards whom I have directed myself from my mother’s womb,
…..whom my soul has loved with all its strength,
…..to whom I have dedicated my body and my soul from my infancy up to now,
prepare for me a shining angel to lead me to the place of refreshment
…..where is the water of relaxation near the bosom of the holy Fathers.
You who broke the flaming sword
…..and compassionately gave Paradise back to the man crucified with You,
remember me also in Your kingdom,
…..for I, too, have been crucified with You,
…..having nailed my flesh through fear of You and having feared your judgments.
Let the terrible abyss not separate me from Your chosen ones;
let the Slanderer not stand in my way
…..or my sins be discovered before Your eyes
…..if I have fallen and sinned in word or deed or thought
…..because of the weakness of our nature.
Do You who have power on earth to forgive sins forgive me
…..so that I may be refreshed and may be found before You
…..once I have put off my body,
…..having no fault in the form of my soul,
but blameless and spotless may my soul be taken into Your hands
…..as an offering before Your face.