Last Build Date: Fri, 24 Feb 2017 16:56:28 PSTCopyright: Copyright 2017, Christianity Today
But only after I went to Japan in search of his life story.(image)
I couldn’t believe it when I opened my email.
Inside my inbox was an invitation to the 120th anniversary celebration of a church in Osaka—a church founded by my great-grandfather, a 19th-century Presbyterian missionary. The minister had Googled my great-grandfather’s name, and apparently my own name had popped up, along with the text of a speech I had given in Tokyo a few years earlier just after leaving my job as a top official of an international organization in Paris. The topic was “National Identity and International Pressures: Are they compatible?”
I had given hundreds of speeches during my diplomatic career without mentioning my great-grandfather, the Reverend Thomas Theron Alexander. But the challenge of maintaining a cultural identity in the face of a rapidly shrinking world was something he and his adopted countrymen surely would have understood. My hosts posted the speech online, forever linking my name with my great-grandfather’s in cyberspace.
When I read the email, I felt something pulling me toward Japan and the story of my great-grandfather’s struggles and triumphs there. Before long—and against all odds—his example would help launch my own journey of faith.
I was born in the flat lowlands of Texas, in the far southeastern corner near the Gulf Coast and Louisiana. My family moved often, going wherever my father’s career as a chemical engineer took us.
Although not particularly religious, my parents occasionally took my brother and me to church. Both had been raised in the church and felt they should expose their children to the Bible and religion.
I remember sitting with my parents in the sanctuary during the beginning of each service, ...
Pew: Latino Protestants most likely to rate Trump a ‘terrible’ president.(image)
Even before President Donald Trump pledged to double down on policies against undocumented immigrants living in the United States, many Hispanics were already praying for protection.
Half of Latino Christians worry about themselves or someone close to them getting deported, according to Pew Research Center data provided to CT. And more than 4 in 10 have “serious concerns” about their place in America under Trump.
Hispanic Catholics (54%) and Protestants (47%) were more likely than the unaffiliated (38%) to say they worry “a lot” or “some” about the threat of deportation, Pew’s survey of Hispanic adults living in the US found. One in four Protestants worry a lot (25%), while Catholics are significantly most likely to worry a lot (37%).
The Trump administration announced Tuesday a plan to aggressively enforce current immigration laws, which is expected to result in more and quicker deportations for undocumented immigrants. Previous administrations had prioritized undocumented immigrants charged with severe crimes.
The orders from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) include provisions to protect children brought to the United States when their parents entered illegally. About a million of these “Dreamers” have been safeguarded by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, while Deferred Action for Parents of Americans applies to families of children born in the US.
“I ask the administration to enact and fulfill the promise President Trump made not to harm families and exclusively deport those involved in nefarious activities,” stated Samuel Rodriguez, one of Trump’s evangelical advisers and president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership ...
The most valuable resource we can offer is the Gospel.(image)
We all hear those inspiring stories of people who have paid for the meal of the person behind them in the drive-thru lane. Or people who have dropped $20 bills into the buckets of all those they pass by on the street. Or those who have purchased a hot drink for the person standing out in the cold. Our hearts warm as we hear of these and we are inspired to action.
At the risk of offending some, let me be honest: what you think is warm and fuzzy may in fact be the opposite to someone else. I was reminded of this last week when I met Heather. Heather is a homeless woman who just left her abusive boyfriend and is looking for money for a down payment on an apartment so she no longer has to be homeless. She suffers from spinal pain and can’t work, but has income from social security and disability.
The moment I saw Heather standing alone on the street, I made a bee-line for her. We talked and prayed and I told her of the love of God.
And as we talked, a woman came by and handed Heather a cup of coffee and walked away. Heather looked down at it and then eagerly re-engaged our conversation.
Missiologist Donald K. Smith once said that all communication is cross-cultural. David Hesselgrave has also written on the importance of contextualization, worldview, communications, and the like, as have many others. When we seek to serve others, we put their needs before ours. We deliberately work to understand what would best serve them. We seek ways to love and care for them so they feel valued and valuable.
The Golden Rule, for all of its brilliance, is often times a hindrance to true gospel witness and real relationships. Let me share a silly, but powerful proverb to make my point:
The restaurant had a sign that said, "We treat others ...
More than 3,000 employees in 36 states will be laid off in the liquidation of one of the world’s largest Christian retailers.(image)
More than two years ago, suppliers forgave Family Christian Stores $127 million in debt so that it could remain open. Today, the chain—which bills itself as “the world’s largest retailer of Christian-themed merchandise”—announced it is closing all of its stores after 85 years in business.
Family Christian, which employed more than 3,000 people in more than 240 stores across 36 states, blamed “changing consumer behavior and declining sales.”
“We had two very difficult years post-bankruptcy,” stated president Chuck Bengochea. “Despite improvements in product assortment and the store experience, sales continued to decline. In addition, we were not able to get the pricing and terms we needed from our vendors to successfully compete in the market.
“We have prayerfully looked at all possible options, trusting God’s plan for our organization,” he stated, “and the difficult decision to liquidate is our only recourse.”
Tyndale House Publishers chairman and CEO Mark Taylor called the stores “an important outlet for Christian books, gifts, and Bibles for many decades.”
“All of us at Tyndale House Publishers feel a sense of grief over Family Christian’s decision to close the entire chain of stores,” he stated. “Family’s millions of customers now have even fewer options for finding these wonderful, life-giving products. The entire Christian community—indeed the entire nation—will be poorer as a result of this pending closure.
“At the same time that we share our sense of loss, we express our appreciation to Chuck Bengochea and his staff who have worked so hard over the past few years to make the ...
Time and attention are not the only ways to bless our children.(image)
When we first moved to Connecticut five years ago for my husband’s job, I decided that I would go without childcare. Our kids were six, four, and two at the time. I wanted to be their source of stability in the midst of their dad’s new job, a new town, new friends, and a new house.
In the years since then, I’ve learned that time is not the only gift we give our children. In fact, I’ve learned that, while parental presence is certainly crucial to children’s development, so too is parental absence. I used to think my children’s wellbeing depended entirely upon my presence, but now I believe that it is equally important to entrust them to the care of other people.
Just a few weeks ago, my husband and I had planned to leave town for a weekend away. The childcare we had in place fell apart at the last minute when my extended family came down with the flu, so I texted a babysitter to see if she could help. “That would be great!” she said. And it was.
That weekend, the babysitter and her mother—who happens to be our kids’ Sunday School teacher—sent me photos of my kids climbing in the nooks of trees near an old train tunnel and one of my daughter Penny (who’s afraid of dogs) sitting with a contented smile next to our babysitter’s dachshund. The next time I saw the mother, she asked if she could “steal our children” again because they’d had so much fun. What began as a source of stress—scrambling for help—turned into an unexpected gift, and in our absence, the kids enjoyed themselves, demonstrated courage and resilience, and became more connected to our community.
Christians talk frequently about the importance of presence, but ...
Why I was wrong—and what the ABC comedy reveals about conviction and forgiveness.(image)
When I first saw the trailer for ABC’s Speechless, it was shortly after my son was diagnosed with autism, and I was prepared to self-righteously hate it. It conjured the first and only memory I have of my child being mocked: As my son head-butted the side of a car-shaped grocery cart, an older boy in line behind us did the same. Declan thought he was being included in a game. I knew he was being excluded from one.
This is the sort of tone I feared Speechless might strike—one that generated humor by merely playing at inclusion. The 30-minute sitcom features JJ DiMeo, a 16-year-old boy who is rendered speechless by cerebral palsy, and the other DiMeos as they grapple with life as a special needs family in Newport Beach, California. Its premise reads like it should be a drama a la Parenthood. From the get-go, however, it promised to move against the sentimental current that drives most other shows about kids with special needs.
Based solely on the trailer, Speechless seemed uncomfortably irreverent to me, siphoning humor from the special needs community. As I’ve continued to watch it, though, I’ve realized this careful irreverence actually enables Speechless not only to depict the challenges of a special needs family holistically but also to raise broader questions about metaphorical voicelessness and privilege. To accomplish this, the show’s creators tap into the vestiges of a fading form of humor—namely, humor as a form of grace. This unexpected tone won me over as a viewer and empowered me to find a similar grace in my own life.
By the time I hate-watched one episode of Speechless, the sticker shock of my son’s diagnosis had worn off. We were still walking through the heavy moments ...
Why this 'new spirituality' is really just old-fashioned syncretism.(image)
After waking up in the middle of the night to the high-pitched cries of my sweet daughter, I rolled out of bed to warm a bottle. With her snuggled closely in my arms, I reached for my iPhone and noticed that I had received a text message from one of the other pastors at my church. It was a link to a recent interview with the rapper, actor, film producer, and social media phenomenon Nick Cannon.
As a pastor in the inner city, I often listen to interviews and podcasts on urban stations so I can stay up to date on some of the prevailing thoughts that influence inner-city culture. With millions of social media followers, Nick Cannon has a cult-like following that adheres to his business advice, wisdom, and insight like a modern day prophet. After placing the baby down, I popped in my headphones and listened to the entrepreneur open up on a wide range of issues including his failed marriage with Mariah Carey, his new NCredible headphones, and even his belief in God.
Cannon, the son of the late televangelist James Cannon, was asked about his eccentric dress and specifically the reason he dons a diamond-studded turban. He mentioned that he wore the garb for religious significance. He'd been studying different religions and cultures, and while he affirmed his Christian roots, he'd become greatly influenced by the teachings of the Nation of Islam, The Moorish Science Temple, and a plethora of other mystical religions.
Cannon goes on to mention that Christianity was his first language but that he is now fluent in a range of different spiritualities as well. As I listened intently, it became clear that his religious worldview was based on a combination of Christian, Islamic, and Moorish thought which frames his unique, personal ...