Sunday, August 30, 2009

Is Rifqa Bary Really in Danger for Her Life?

There is an interesting story that is getting a lot of attention here in Orlando about a young girl from Ohio that is accusing her Muslim family of threatening her life because of her conversion to Christianity from Islam. Rifqa Bary, a 17 year old high school student from Columbus, recently fled to Orlando to live with a Christian family who befriended her on the Internet.

You can catch up on some of the details in this article from the Orlando Sentinel. I honestly don't know what to think of this story. Many evangelical Christians have joined Rifqa's cause and believe her story of seeking to escape a strict Muslim family that is not accepting of her Christian faith. (In fact, while writing this post, I received an invitation from a friend to join a "Saving Rifqa Bary" group on Facebook.)

While I would like to believe that there is no truth to this story and that this is just another example of a teenager telling a tall-tale in order to exert her independence, I also know that what she is accusing her family of is not out of the realm of possibility. The reality is that in many parts of the world those that come from Muslim backgrounds that become followers of Jesus may very well find their lives in danger.

According to Open Doors USA, seven of the top ten countries that are most notorious today for the persecution of Christians are Muslim-majority nations. This certainly does not mean that every Muslim that has a family member convert to Christianity will act violently towards them. But I have been concerned how the local Orlando media has been so quick to dismiss Rifqa's assertions as a child's make-believe. For example, Mike Thomas, an Orlando Sentinel columnist whose writings I often enjoy, almost mocks even the possibility that Rifqa may be telling the truth.

Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, there has been a growing bias towards Muslims in the U.S., many of whom are law-abiding, tax paying American citizens. And many Christians have been guilty of not extending to their Muslim neighbors the same kind of courtesies that they would expect in return. However, this not does not mean that this young girl should be ignored. What she charges is serious and should be investigated.

If she has not been telling the truth, then she needs to face the consequences of making unfounded claims such as these. But if what she has been saying is true then we have to ask ourselves if we going to continue to allow people freedom of religious expression or if that is something that parents can decide for their grown children.

Friday, August 28, 2009

An Update on the One Hundred Push Ups Challenge

A few weeks ago I wrote about a workout regimen that I was in the midst of called The One Hundred Push Ups Challenge. The program is simple: Start with how ever many proper form push ups that you can do and by following the recommended program, you should be able to do 100 consecutive push ups in just six weeks.

Well, I just completed my last workout of the sixth week. All that is left is my final test. Although I've seen dramatic improvement and am doing a lot more pushups than I ever thought I'd be able to do, we'll see if I will be able to do the 100 when I perform the final exhaustion test on Sunday.

But if I'm not able to get there this weekend (I'm hoping I can do at least 75-80), I'm not giving up. I've made it too far to turn back now, even if I fall short of my six week goal. I'll repeat the Week 6 plan and will hopefully be able to get there next weekend if I can't do it now. As you can see from this chart, I've made some pretty good progress. In my first workout on July 20th, I only did 35 push ups in my total workout. Tonight I did 231 total!

My wife and kids have been supportive throughout the process and I've enjoyed seeing several of my friends follow suit and try the program. In addition to this workout plan, I've also changed my eating habits significantly and have lost 15 pounds in the last three months, as well adding at least a few pounds of muscle.

I'll be posting my results from my test on Sunday on Twitter @scottmcrocker and on my Facebook account. Thanks for those of you that have encouraged me on this journey!

Adultery is Big Business on the Internet

I guess it was only a matter of time before this happened but the website has learned that there is big business in adultery. In seven short years, the website, whose tag line is "Life is Short. Have an Affair", has made over 20 million dollars in its promotion of adultery.

Its founder, Noel Biderman, really doesn't see a problem with what he's doing and thinks he's only providing a service for something that's in demand. But, of course, he doesn't quite feel the same if things struck close to home for him. Look what he says in a TIME magazine article:
"Humans aren't meant to be monogamous," [Biderman] says. So would this free-thinking CEO mind if his own wife used his site? "I would be devastated," he says."
It is no big news that there is a lot of money to be made in sin. And with sites like the aforementioned now available on mobile devices, it makes cheating all the easier. The homepage on the website boasts that you can "Join free & change your life today. Guaranteed!" I'm sure that those that will use this site have their lives changed but I doubt it is for the better. It may be free but it sure is costly.

The CEO of the company enjoys getting rich off of other peoples' broken marriages but admits he wouldn't want his wife to become a member of his own website. With as much good that is offered on the Internet it's sad that there is so much more garbage that leads to destroyed lives. A fulfilled life will not be found through sites that promote cheating and marital unfaithfulness. So if you're struggling in your marriage, I encourage you to visit this site instead.

(Thanks to Breaking Free for bringing this to my attention.)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Asian American Women at Risk For Suicide

According to a recent University of Washington study*, women of Asian descent who were born in the United States are at greater risk to contemplate and actually attempt suicide than the general population. Although the researchers are unclear why U.S. born Asian women are at a greater risk for suicide, one contributor to the study has some ideas:
"It is unclear why Asian-Americans who were born in the United States have higher rates of thinking about and attempting suicide," said Aileen Duldulao, a UW doctoral student in social work and lead author of the study. "There is the theory of the 'healthy immigrant' that proposes immigrants may be healthier on average than U.S-born Americans, because of the selectivity of migration or the retention of culturally-based behaviors. But it is unclear if this theory is the mechanism at work with regard to our findings."

Evidence supporting this idea was previously found among Mexican-American and Latino American immigrants. However, Duldulao said, the health of immigrants tends to decline with the number of years they spend in the U.S. and start adopting behaviors that are less healthy than those found in their homeland."
Another contributing factor to the alarmingly high rates of suicide among young Asian American women may be the myth of the "model minority." In case you're not familiar with the term, the model minority refers to those of a certain ethnic minority group that excels in education, business or in adapting to mainstream American culture. Generally, this term is applied to East Asian cultures.

For example, there can be tremendous pressure placed on young Asian Americans to not only do well in education, but to be the best with little to no room left for error. This pressure, coupled with family demands and expectations, can become too much for those that fail to meet the standard that has placed upon them.

Although there is nothing wrong with educational attainment or striving for success in business, these accomplishments will never bring lasting satisfaction and fulfillment. It is why I'm grateful for my friends in the Epic Movement that seek to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to emerging Asian American leaders throughout the country. With large numbers of young Asian college students dealing with the pressures of college, the grace offered through a relationship with Christ is what will satisfy their deepest longings. To learn more about Epic click here.

*Thanks to Racialicious for the link and commentary on the study.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Choice That God Makes

Back in the fall of my junior year at Central Michigan I was still fairly new in my walk with the Lord and went through a bit of, shall we say, growing pains. I had gotten involved with Campus Crusade midway through my sophomore year and learned a lot about what it meant to live as a Christian and to be involved in telling others about Christ.

But that fall I entered into a dating relationship that probably wasn't the best for me. Although my intentions were pure at the time, the women I was dating was much older than me and there were some circumstances surrounding the relationship that I should have taken into account before it got to that level.

Because of this relationship (which I had hidden from even my closest friends), my involvement in our ministry lessened as I spent more and more time with this woman. Eventually my Bible study leader asked me what was going on in my life and why he hadn't seen me around as much as he had before. I evaded questions, got defensive and avoided conversations involving my personal life. Essentially, I was hiding out in order to do what I wanted to do.

One day the campus minister that was working with our group was talking to me about my involvement in the ministry and, out of concern for me, asked about why I hadn't been around as much. I responded to something of the effect that my personal time was my personal time and that if people kept bugging me about it, that I might just stop being involved altogether. (I knew that there was a lack of male leadership and that I was being counted on as an up and coming leader. I figured my "threat" would cause them to back off.)

Scott, the staff member that I was having this conversation with, said something along these lines:
"Scott, I would be disappointed if you were to stop being involved with Campus Crusade on this campus. But I do know this: that if God wants to move here, and I think he does, then He will do it with or without Scott Crocker. The choice you have to make it is whether you want to stay and be part of something special or look on from the outside full of regrets that you could have been part of it but chose not to."
It was exactly what I needed to hear. Shortly thereafter God very clearly spoke to me and I broke off the relationship I was in. I stepped up my involvement in our ministry, went on a summer missions trip and got to be part of something neat as I saw God work in dramatic ways in the lives of my classmates and those that came after us.

In John 15 Jesus had this to say:
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.
It wasn't my involvement in Campus Crusade that dictated whether I would see fruit produced in my life. God still could have used me in other ways. But at that time my heart wasn't fully His and that was reflected in some of the choices I had made. But that ministry was (and still is) a vehicle in which God has chosen to bear fruit through me as I live according to His will. Ultimately, it wasn't about the choice that I was making. Rather it was whether I was going to follow the choice that God had made in placing me at a specific place at a certain time so that He would be glorified through my life.

Whenever I've chosen to abide in Him, the fruit has been produced. When I've failed to do so there has only been barren branches. Abiding in Christ is not a one-time or yearly decision. Each day I need to decide whether I will remain in His will and yield to His Spirit so that spiritual fruit will be produced in my life. Are you abiding in Him today?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Myths of the Great Commission

My friend, Jay Lorenzen (who blogs at, recently reviewed an article by Joey Shaw entitled, "5 Common Great Commission Myths." The five misconceptions behind the Great Commission that Shaw lists are:

1. The myth of accidental discipleship.

2. Crossing cultures is a step beyond the general mandate.

3. Jesus wants converts.

4. When I am ready and able, I will start making disciples.

5. Making disciples is great advice.

Shaw unpacks each of these statements further but here's a highlight from point three:
"The most interesting thing about the Great Commission is that it does not command us to make converts of Christianity. Instead, we are to make disciples of Jesus. The difference between convert making and disciple making is crucial. Converts change religions. Disciples change masters. Converts follow a system. Disciples follow a Person. Converts build Christendom. Disciples build the Kingdom of God. Converts embrace rituals. Disciples embrace a way of life. Converts love the command to “baptize them” in the Great Commission, but that is all. Disciples baptize others but only in context of “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you”. Converts love conversion. Disciples love transformation."
You can read the complete article here.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Gospel & Social Justice

One of the hottest topics at our recent Campus Crusade U.S. Staff Conference was how we as Christians can engage in issues of social justice and compassionate ministry while not sacrificing our zeal for verbal proclamation of the gospel of Jesus. It is a significant issue that the Church faces as we seek to live out a balance between helping to meeting both the physical and spiritual needs of those we encounter.

Matt Harmon, a friend from my early days in ministry when we were both campus ministers in Ohio, is now a seminary professor and offers ten components of the Kingdom of God and Social Justice on his blog, Biblical Theology. The ten points are broken up into two parts, which can be read here and here. A highlight:
"If we are convinced that heaven and hell are ultimate realities that each human being must face, then we will prioritize the communication of the gospel message. This does not mean that every kind deed must be accompanied by a gospel tract, but it does mean an intentional effort to share the gospel in the context of meeting physical needs or addressing social structures. Actions are not self-interpreting; there are plenty of nice moral people who do good things for the community and have no interest in Jesus Christ. If we are to distinguish our efforts from them (and at some level we MUST if we are to be faithful to Christ) there must be communication of the gospel. Faith comes by hearing (Rom 10:17), not by simple observation of good works."
Thanks to Justin Taylor at Between Two Worlds for the link.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Is Piper Right About the Tornado?

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) recently had their general assembly in Minneapolis and the gathering was certainly not without controversy. What has received the most attention was an official statement on sexuality that was passed and the eventual successful vote to allow gay clergy.

Another interesting occurrence took place during the convention when a powerful tornado ripped through downtown Minneapolis, right near where the Lutherans were meeting. Although Rev. Steven Loy, a leader in the ELCA, quipped, "We trust that the weather is not a commentary on our work," well-known Minneapolis pastor, John Piper, doesn't think what happened at the convention is a laughing matter.

Piper, who is a popular Christian author and leading proponent of Reformed theology, wrote about the tornado and its possible meaning on his blog, Desiring God. The complete article can be read here, but Piper concluded his comments this way:
"The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction. Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture. Turn back from distorting the grace of God into sensuality. Rejoice in the pardon of the cross of Christ and its power to transform left and right wing sinners."
Let me first say that I respect John Piper deeply and appreciate his heart for Jesus and passion for world missions. However, on this matter, I have to disagree with him. Although I solidly believe that God can (and does) bring judgment to sinful people through means such as natural disaster, I don't think we can be certain about the reasons why hurricanes and tornadoes and earthquakes happen to some people and not to others.

In this case Dr. Piper seems to be claiming to know the mind of God (i.e. God disapproves of homosexuality and, therefore, sent a tornado to get the Lutherans' attention). The real reason I have a problem with Piper's assertion is not because I don't think he could be right (God very well could have done what Piper claimed) but rather because the circumstances in which he chose to make this proclamation seem quite arbitrary to me.

Let me explain... He quotes from a passage in I Corinthians 6 in which homosexuals are deemed unrighteous, but so are heterosexuals that engage in sex outside of marriage, those who steal, the greedy, drunkards and thieves. In a nation that is full of individuals that commit all of these sins (most of them a lot more than homosexuality), why is it that the only time many Christian pastors believe God sends judgment is because of homosexuality? When formulating my thoughts on this post, when of my favorite bloggers also wrote about it. The Internet Monk puts it this way:
"Evangelical Christians are amazing for wanting it both ways. They want to be able to say when a tornado is warning liberal Lutherans, but they don’t want to say the light fixture that fell and killed a baby in some church is a sign of anything. They will probably sue the electrician. They want to say that God sends signs of repentance in the tornado that just skirted their town, and then want to say God is teaching us to depend on him when the tornado destroys the building the church meets in."
Anywhere a disaster happens we can find the sins mentioned in I Corinthians 6 practiced but it seems to be the gay issue that most frequently brings out statements from Christian leaders. For example, the late Jerry Falwell famously blamed the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. on "abortionists... feminists... gays... lesbians... the ACLU..." Why didn't his blame extend to the immense greed in America or adultery in the Church? Why didn't he blame the multi-million dollar corporate executives that stole the retirement packages of their employees and got off without even a slap on the wrist?

My point here is not to defend the decisions that the ELCA made this week. I believe they caved into cultural pressures and deviated from the clear teaching of Scripture. But I was disappointed with Dr. Piper's comments since they have the potential to lead to a greater insensitivity from Christians to those struggling with same-sex attraction.

To be fair, Piper published a follow-up article on this issue in order to clarify his initial statements by identifying his own personal tornado, cancer, and how God used that to bring Him to personal repentance. I appreciate his call for all people to turn from their sin and turn to Jesus. I just wish he would have chosen another way to do it in this particular instance.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Phil Vischer, Veggie Tales & the Movies

If you're a Christian parent of young children then you no doubt are familiar with the popular kid's video series, VeggieTales. The programs star Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato and tell Bible stories using examples and language that kids can understand. My kids have enjoyed them in their younger years and I appreciate the quality with which they are done.

The man behind VeggieTales, Phil Vischer, saw his dream begin to crumble several years ago when financial challenges forced his company, Big Idea Productions, into bankruptcy. Although still involved with the production of VeggieTales, he no longer owns the company.

Since VeggieTales has experienced widespread success in the Christian market and some exposure in the mainstream (through movies like Jonah and being part of NBC's Saturday morning lineup), Vischer has an interesting and informed perspective on how Christians involved in the arts can make a positive difference in the world.

In an interview that Vischer did with Todd Hertz in Books & Culture, he gives some insight into how Christians can make films that influence our culture. In commenting on the recent success of movies like The Passion of the Christ, the Narnia films and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, he had this to say:
"I've learned the hard way that movies are not a great teaching medium. If you want to engage people emotionally, great—but you can't ever turn to the camera and say, "Now I have three points I want to make about parenting." You can do that on TV. Sesame Street does that. Dora the Explorer does that every day and nobody says, "That's not film making! That's didactic!" The difference is that people do not go to the movies to be preached at. That's the bottom line. The more you preach, the fewer you reach. What frustrates me with the film business is how much time, energy, and money you have to spend to have the opportunity for two sentences of real transparent meaning.

The Passion was such an anomaly; you really can't use it to learn much of anything about the nature of film. You had the most popular film actor in the world making a deeply personal work of art about a religious story. What are the odds of that happening again?

The movies inspired by the Narnia stories and the Lord of the Rings are also tough test cases. How many Narnias are there? How easy is it to come up with another Lord of the Rings? It's not. There's [J.R.R.] Tolkien and [C.S.] Lewis and then everybody else. Besides, Narnia had a 50-year history of engagement with fans—and a grandfather-clause evangelical exception for the use of fantasy and magic. You can't get away with that today. Now, if we go to another fantasy world, we need to find Jesus there—literally.

That is why for some evangelicals, the Harry Potter books are seen as being straight from the pit. Even if Rowling says she's employing Christian themes, forget it. How do you write a Christian fantasy today? I have no idea. I don't know that you can. I think we've killed it. I think we are so concerned with how oppressed our worldview is and so defensive that we've painted ourselves into a corner. And thus, we can't tell the kind of stories that Lewis or [G.K.] Chesterton would have told to share the gospel. It's kind of depressing, frankly."
You can read the complete interview here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What Is True For the Class of 2013

Each year around this time Beloit Collge releases what they call the Mindset List -- a list of important facts and events which influence the worldview and perspective that this year's college freshmen class brings with them.

This year's list, which is made up for the graduating class of 2013, holds particularly significance for me since this year's freshmen in college were born in 1991 -- the year I graduated from high school. You can read the complete list here but here are some particular things that stood out to me:

  • For these students, Michael Landon, Dr. Seuss, Miles Davis, and Freddie Mercury have always been dead.
  • Dan Rostenkowski, Jack Kevorkian, and Mike Tyson have always been felons.
  • They have never used a card catalog to find a book.
  • Margaret Thatcher has always been a former prime minister.
  • Salsa has always outsold ketchup.
  • Earvin "Magic" Johnson has always been HIV-positive.
  • Tattoos have always been very chic and highly visible.
  • They have been preparing for the arrival of HDTV all their lives.
  • Rap music has always been mainstream.
  • Chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream has always been a flavor choice.
  • Condoms have always been advertised on television.
  • Cable television systems have always offered telephone service and vice versa.
  • Bobby Cox has always managed the Atlanta Braves.
  • There has always been a Cartoon Network.
  • We have always watched wars, coups, and police arrests unfold on television in real time.
  • Phil Jackson has always been coaching championship basketball.
  • There have always been flat screen televisions.
  • Everyone has always known what the evening news was before the Evening News came on.
  • They have never been Saved by the Bell.
  • Most communities have always had a mega-church.
  • There has always been a computer in the Oval Office.
  • CDs have never been sold in cardboard packaging.
  • Official racial classifications in South Africa have always been outlawed.
  • Migration of once independent media like radio, TV, videos and compact discs to the computer has never amazed them.
  • Nobody has ever responded to “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”
  • Monday, August 17, 2009

    No Supermarkets in Motown?

    Just last week I was sharing with some co-workers how, even though it is one of the largest cities in the United States, the city of Detroit does not have one major supermarket within the city limits. It's hard to believe but it is true. As rough as the economy has been throughout the U.S. recently, there has arguably been no location greater hit than Detroit and the state of Michigan. The lack of a major chain grocery store is just one example of a much bigger problem.

    Feeling the affects of the struggles of the auto industry, Michigan currently has the worst unemployment rate in the country. Without a major supermarket to do their shopping, residents of Detroit are forced to pay higher prices with lower selection at corner stores and markets.

    Fortunately, Meijer, a popular grocery chain in the state, has plans to open a store at 8 Mile and Woodward. Hopefully this will help in triggering Detroit's resurgence and the state economy in Michigan.

    Thanks to my friend, Dan, for the link to the story.

    Saturday, August 15, 2009

    911 Ain't a Joke

    If you listened to Public Enemy's hit, "911 is a Joke", you may be led to believe that the emergency phone service for the Police and Fire departments shouldn't be taken all that seriously. In fact, some treat the 911 number as an information service. Amy L. Edwards, a writer for the Orlando Sentinel, wrote a brief article in today's paper about this dilemma.

    Some people call 911 for utterly mundane reasons, like ordering dinner. Edwards shares the transcript from an actual call to Orlando 911:
    "Nine-one-one emergency. This is Josh. Your call is recorded."

    "Um, yeah, can I get an order of the pork fried rice and ... do you guys have crab rangoons?

    "This is the Police Department."

    "Uh, OK. I'll also have an egg roll, too. Do you know how long it will be?"

    "Ma'am, this is the police."

    "OK. Do you know how long it will be?"

    "This is the Police Department, ma'am."

    "So you can't tell me how long it will be?"
    Or how about the gentleman that called 911 while inquiring about the services of a lady of the night:
    "The dispatcher pointed out that the caller had phoned the police. The caller said he knew that, adding that he figured police would know how to find prostitutes."
    I guess I'll think twice before calling 911 next time my pizza delivery is late. You can read the whole article here.

    Friday, August 14, 2009

    Does Michael Vick Deserve a Second Chance?

    With the signing of Michael Vick this week by the Philadelphia Eagles, the debate of whether Vick should be allowed to play in the NFL rages on. In case you are not aware of the situation, Vick, who was a star quarterback with the Atlanta Falcons, was recently released from prison after spending nearly two years behind bars as a result of his involvement in illegal dogfighting. He has not played an NFL game since the end of the 2006 season.

    In the early days of his case I wrote about Vick and the attention his situation was receiving. At that time he had yet to have been found guilty or sentenced for his crimes. But now that he was served his time and paid his debt to society it seems that the feelings for him (whether good or bad) have not changed much in the public eye.

    From my perspective I feel like the acts that he was accused of (and found guilty of) were atrocious and he deserved to be punished. But now that he has done his time I think the man should be given the opportunity to return as a productive member of society. Even as I say that, I don't believe the NFL "owes" it to him to let him be a part of their league. But if a team wants to sign him (as the Eagles have done) I don't believe he should be deprived of the chance to play again.

    This is different than, say, a convicted child molester who served ten years in prison and now wants to be an elementary school teacher. What Vick did was horrible but it involved animals, not human beings. With that being said, I also feel that those that are particularly offended by what he did have every right to protest the NFL and picket Philadelphia Eagles games. They should have the freedom to express their displeasure, just as Vick should have the freedom to play. However, my guess is that there are more people that want to see him play than are those that want to deprive him of that chance.

    One of the things that I've found interesting with this whole ordeal is that very few of the black people that I know feel as strongly about this as the mainstream population. I don't know what to take from that but I think that it is intriguing that most of the vitriolic comments about Vick have come from those that are not from the African American community.

    I also think that there is one reason (and one reason alone) that the Eagles signed him -- it is because they think it will win them more games. There were no altruistic motives about giving somebody a second chance. Vick is a talented football player and that is why he's playing in the NFL again. In fact, it's why anyone ever gets the chance to play at that level.

    To be honest, there are some pretty horrible people that play professional sports. There are those that have been involved in murders, wife beaters, rapists, habitual drunk drivers, drug dealers and, yes, those involved in dogfighting. However, Vick, unlike many others, didn't get away with his crimes. He did his time and he should be allowed to play if he's capable.

    But even as I say that I'm not really rooting for or against him. I really don't care how he performs on the field although seeing a redeemed Michael Vick emerge would be good to see. As a Christian I believe strongly in forgiveness and second chances. I think the NFL has made the right decision in letting him play. It'll be interesting to see how this all plays out.

    Wednesday, August 12, 2009

    Body Image & African American Women

    I came across the following article by Tameka Raymond (ex-wife of the popular singer, Usher) on body image among African American women. In a society that seems to glorify toothpick figures and long, blond straight hair, women that don't meet that criteria are often left wondering whether they are considered beautiful.

    Raymond has this to say:
    "I am a dark-skinned African American woman with features that reflect my ancestry. Debates regarding Light vs. Dark and other biases have plagued our race for years and continues to impact millions of Black women. The deeply rooted intra-racial contempt that lies beneath this inane "compliment" is the reason I've chosen to spark dialogue surrounding the topic of self-hatred in our culture. It saturates every aspect of our lives, dominating the perspectives of our generation as a whole. We culturally are so influential, at times inadvertently, that we affect all with the words we utter and the images we portray."
    Raymond has some intriguing thoughts and you can read her complete article on the Huffington Post here.

    In addition to body shape and skin color, comedian Chris Rock raises another important question in his new documentary, "Good Hair." In the film Rock inquires about how black women feel about their hair and how popular culture influences the money that is spent on hair care products and the hairstyles that women wear.

    You can read an interview that Rock did on the movie here and view the trailer below. (If the video player doesn't show up please click here.)

    Monday, August 10, 2009

    The Changing Faith of African Americans

    According to a recent study by The Barna Group, African Americans continue to exhibit strong Christian faith in comparison to other ethnic groups within the United States. The study, which examined a number of different areas of Christian belief and behavior, found that black Americans had the highest score on most of the categories when compared to Asian Americans, Hispanics and whites.

    The topics considered in the study included beliefs about the Bible, importance of a relationship with God, and the existence of Satan. In regard to personal behavior, areas considered included church-going habits, prayer, and making a personal commitment to Christ.

    A particularly interesting finding from the research was that, in comparison to 15 years ago, African Americans have grown even stronger in their faith in a number of areas:
    "Six of seven measures of belief had changed significantly. Blacks today are more likely than they were in the early 1990s to believe that the principles taught in the Bible are totally accurate; to say that their religious faith is very important in their life; to have a biblically orthodox understanding of the nature of God; and to be born again.

    Three of the five behavioral measures that were evaluated both recently and 15 years ago showed substantial change. Those efforts included an increase in the proportion of African-Americans who have made a personally important commitment to Christ, church attendance, and Bible reading.
    As with any study such as this, these are general findings and do not hold true for everyone that is an African American. But the importance that many in the black community place on the Christian faith indicates the resilience of the black church in the midst of sweeping cultural change within the American mainstream.

    You can read more about the Barna study here.

    Sunday, August 09, 2009

    The One Hundred Push Ups Challenge

    After a visit to my doctor a couple of months ago served as a wake up call to me, I've gotten much more serious about my health -- especially my eating habits and exercise. I learned that my cholesterol was way too high for someone my age and that I needed to substantially change my eating habits if I didn't want to experience heart problems later on.

    Since late May I have changed my diet and have begun paying much more attention to what (and how much) I put in my body. I've lost about 10-12 pounds and I feel much better. Lots more fruits and vegetables and less processed food and hardly any visits to my favorite fast food joints.

    I've also been more intentional about exercise. Although I do get some exercise through normal activities like yard work and playing with my kids, I haven't had any formal routine that I've held to. But that all changed a few weeks ago.

    I had seen a few of my friends on Facebook and Twitter refer to something called the "One Hundred Push Ups" Challenge. I figured I'd give it a try since it's free, fairly uncomplicated and can be done anywhere. The objective is simple. You take an initial test to see how many push ups you can do without a break (I did 14 on my initial test). Based on that you're given a workout plan that gradually increases over time until at the end of six weeks you should be able to do 100 consecutive push ups.

    Sounds hard, right? I thought so, too, but after three weeks of being on the program, I'm definitely seeing a difference. The workouts (which typically consist of 5-8 sets) take less than a half-hour/day for only three days a week. I've increased from doing 35 total push ups in my first workout to 88 total in my workout at the end of week 3.

    Although the numbers of reps and sets will start going up drastically from here, I think I'll be able to do it. I feel stronger and I'm encouraged by the results. I'll be updating my results after each workout on Twitter and you can follow me at Do you think you might be up for the challenge? Let me know if you'd like to take the 100 push up challenge, too, and we can spur each other on!

    Tuesday, August 04, 2009

    Promise Keepers Re-Launches

    After a number of years of decline, the evangelical men's ministry, Promise Keepers (PK), is revamping its efforts to bring change to America's homes and churches by being more inclusive of women and messianic believers, among other things. According to New Man Magazine, Bill McCartney, the former Colorado University football coach and founder of PK, is once again leading the organization.

    After hitting its peak in the mid-90's when hundreds of thousands of men gathered in large stadiums across the country for weekend rallies, this year saw only one PK event take place. "A Time to Honor" was held at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colorado with approximately 10,000 in attendance.

    I attended a Promise Keepers conference back in 1995 when the ministry was in its heyday. I joined with close to 70,000 other men at the Pontiac Silverdome and overall it was a positive experience. However, as a college student years away from having a wife or children, the focus on marriage and parenthood didn't fully hit home for me since I wasn't at that stage of life yet. I do remember, though, being powerfully impacted by messages from Pastor Tony Evans and Bruce Wilkinson (of Prayer of Jabez fame).

    Even though PK has received a lot of criticism over the years as a sexist organization, I don't think that assessment is fair. At its heart PK has been about calling men to a deeper relationship with God, their wife, children and neighbors. In addition, Bill McCartney and Promise Keepers probably played a greater role than anyone in lighting the fire that sparked discussion on topics like racism and racial reconciliation in white evangelical churches over the last two decades.

    As more and more men abdicate their responsibilities as husbands and fathers, I'm grateful for ministries like Promise Keepers (and others like them) that challenge men to be the kind of godly servants to their families, churches and communities that God expects us to be. The challenge that PK faces now, as it did 15 years ago, is to take the momentum gained at big stadium rallies and translate that to everyday life. After the conference "high" wears off, individual men need to continue to live out the commitments that they made in that PK environment. Hopefully we'll see positive changes continue to take place as PK relaunches.