Friday, July 29, 2011

John Stott: A Legacy Passed On

Photo Credit: osattack
John Stott, a leading figure in Christian evangelicalism in the past century, passed away this week at the age of ninety. Christianity Today has written a wonderful piece about his influence and legacy on the world. Here's a highlight:
"Stott was every inch an evangelical, but a reforming evangelical. He recognized that evangelicalism could and sometimes did sink down into mere piety, whereas the Bible spoke of a robust transformation of the world brought about by God's people engaged in mission. As a London pastor, Stott increasingly recognized the need for evangelicalism to reclaim its heritage of engagement with the social issues of the day.

As he told an interviewer years later, "In the early 1960s, I began to travel in the Third World, and I saw poverty in Latin America, Africa, and Asia as I had not seen it before. It became clear to me that it was utterly impossible to take that old view." The "old view" was that preaching was always a Christian's preeminent task, and that deeds of compassion were strictly secondary. As Stott probed the Scriptures, he came to believe that Jesus' Great Commission commanded Jesus' servants to carry on his entire mission, which included practical concern for life and health.

One of Stott's most significant works—and one that carried him far out of his own expertise—was the book Issues Facing Christians Today (1984), in which he attempted to address crucial concerns of contemporary society such as abortion, industrial relations, and human rights. Earlier he had written Your Mind Matters: The Place of the Mind in the Christian Life (1972). In 1982, he helped to launch the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, which offered classes and lectures on a wide variety of topics relevant to life in modern society.

His greatest impact in the area of social concern came somewhat inadvertently. In 1974, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association convened an International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland. About 2,500 members attended (in addition to 1,300 other participants). About half of the delegates and speakers came from Majority World countries. The gathering's wide representation resembled meetings of the World Council of Churches, but the excited atmosphere of unified mission was unprecedented. Many participants grasped for the first time the global dimensions of the evangelical church. Almost 30 years later, Philip Jenkins would write The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity. But as David Jones, president of John Stott Ministries, says, at Lausanne, "Jenkins' book was there in the faces and minds of people. Lausanne showed the global church that we can work together."

Such unity was hardly automatic. In fact, there were great differences in perspective between those from the West and those from the Majority World, and the relationship between evangelism and social concern was an emotional hot button. According to some, Christians were called to preach the gospel, full stop. For others, particularly those in countries where poverty and injustice were inescapably obvious, such a stance amounted to callous indifference to people. Lausanne could easily have divided between these perspectives.

Stott had been asked to give the opening address on the nature of biblical evangelism. He began with characteristic humility, calling for "a note of evangelical repentance." And he spoke head-on—with a lucid exposition of Scripture—to the issue on people's minds.

"Here then are two instructions, 'love your neighbor' and 'go and make disciples.' What is the relation between the two? Some of us behave as if we thought them identical, so that if we have shared the gospel with somebody, we consider we have completed our responsibility to love him. But no. The Great Commission neither explains, nor exhausts, nor supersedes the Great Commandment. What it does is to add to the command of neighbor-love and neighbor-service a new and urgent Christian dimension. If we truly love our neighbor, we shall without doubt tell him the Good News of Jesus. But equally, if we truly love our neighbor, we shall not stop there."

Stott's speech made it possible for delegates to rethink their positions, to listen to others, and to conceive of preaching and social action working in tandem. He managed the same trick in chairing the committee that drafted the Lausanne Covenant. Stott's skill as a diplomat was never more in evidence, as he chaired potentially fractious meetings, getting people to listen to each others' views. He worked tirelessly behind the scenes to draft and redraft the covenant, finding wording that would capture various points of view without doing violence to any. In the end, the Lausanne Covenant spoke to the moment, expressing a common mission that most delegates could enthusiastically endorse; and it spoke to the future, providing a framework that evangelical groups could use as their basic statement. Lausanne was a defining moment in global evangelicalism. Billy Graham was the indispensable convener, but John Stott was the indispensable uniter."
You can read the complete CT article here.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

How The Selling Of Sex Is Destroying Our World

Photo Credit: @sahxic < twitter
We live in a sex-saturated society and the selling of sex is destroying our world. Look at what Newsweek has to say:
"Men of all ages, races, religions, and backgrounds do it. Rich men do it, and poor men do it, in forms so varied and ubiquitous that they can be summoned at a moment’s notice.

And yet surprisingly little is known about the age-old practice of buying sex, long assumed to be inevitable. No one even knows what proportion of the male population does it; estimates range from 16 percent to 80 percent. “Ninety-nine percent of the research in this field has been done on prostitutes, and 1 percent has been done on johns,” says Melissa Farley, director of Prostitution Research and Education, a nonprofit organization that is a project of San Francisco Women’s Centers.

A clinical psychologist, Farley studies prostitution, trafficking, and sexual violence, but even she wasn’t sure how representative her results were. “The question has always remained: are all our findings true of just sex buyers, or are they true of men in general?” she says.

In a new study released exclusively to NEWSWEEK, “Comparing Sex Buyers With Men Who Don’t Buy Sex,” Farley provides some startling answers. Although the two groups share many attitudes about women and sex, they differ in significant ways illustrated by two quotes that serve as the report’s subtitle.

One man in the study explained why he likes to buy prostitutes: “You can have a good time with the servitude,” he said. A contrasting view was expressed by another man as the reason he doesn’t buy sex: “You’re supporting a system of degradation,” he said.

And yet buying sex is so pervasive that Farley’s team had a shockingly difficult time locating men who really don’t do it. The use of pornography, phone sex, lap dances, and other services has become so widespread that the researchers were forced to loosen their definition in order to assemble a 100-person control group.

“We had big, big trouble finding nonusers,” Farley says. “We finally had to settle on a definition of non-sex-buyers as men who have not been to a strip club more than two times in the past year, have not purchased a lap dance, have not used pornography more than one time in the last month, and have not purchased phone sex or the services of a sex worker, escort, erotic masseuse, or prostitute.”

Many experts believe the digital age has spawned an enormous increase in sexual exploitation; today anyone with access to the Internet can easily make a “date” through online postings, escort agencies, and other suppliers who cater to virtually any sexual predilection. The burgeoning demand has led to a dizzying proliferation of services so commonplace that many men don’t see erotic massages, strip clubs, or lap dances as forms of prostitution. “The more the commercial sex industry normalizes this behavior, the more of this behavior you get,” says Norma Ramos, executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW)."
For many that engage in the solicitation of the services of prostitutes and for those that participate in the use of pornography, it may feel like their behavior is innocent fun. However, research shows that nothing could be further from the truth. Look at the following facts from International Justice Mission (IJM):
- The total market value of illicit human trafficking is estimated to be in excess of $32 billion (U.N.)

- Each year, more than 2 million children are exploited in the global commercial sex trade (UNICEF)

- 27 million men, women and children are held as slaves. (Kevin Bales, Disposable People)

- 1 in 5 women is a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. (U.N. Development Fund for Women)
The commercialization of sex is not only destructive to our culture but it ruins millions of lives every year.  Don't be fooled. If you are personally involved in sexually addictive behavior please click here for help. 

Or perhaps you can help those affected by the sex trade by getting involved in the work of IJM by going here.

To read the complete Newsweek article, "The John Next Door", click here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

More Hispanics Describing Themselves as Native Americans

Photo Credit: U. of Md. Press Releases
From The New York Times:
"When Fernando Meza is asked about his identity, “I tell them that I am Indian,” said Mr. Meza, a parade participant from the Tlaxcala tribe. “They say, ‘But you’re Mexican.’ And I say, ‘But I’m Indian.’ ”

Mr. Meza represents one of the changes to emerge from the 2010 census, which showed an explosion in respondents of Hispanic descent who also identified themselves as American Indians.

Seventy percent of the 57,000 American Indians living in New York City are of Hispanic origin, according to census figures. That is 40,000 American Indians from Latin America — up 70 percent from a decade ago.

The trend is part of a demographic growth taking place nationwide of Hispanics using “American Indian” to identify their race. The number of Amerindians — a blanket term for indigenous people of the Americas, North and South — who also identify themselves as Hispanic has tripled since 2000, to 1.2 million from 400,000.

“There has been an actual and dramatic increase of Amerindian immigration from Latin America,” said José C. Moya, a professor of Latin American history at Barnard College.

Dr. Moya attributes the increase to shifting patterns of immigration to the United States over the last two decades, from regions with larger indigenous populations, like southern Mexico and Central America, instead of northern Mexico.

Half of all Hispanics who moved to New York over the last 10 years were Mexican, according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Most of them come from southern Mexico.

The pattern started in 1994 with the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which opened the American-Mexican border to more economic activity. To encourage foreign investment in Mexico, its government started to strip Indian landowners of a long-held legal protection from privatization. The resulting conflict awakened ethnic tensions that dated back centuries, and spurred a populist support of indigenous heritage."
To read the complete article please click here.

(h/t to Racialicious for the link)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

How a Single Decision Affected Millions

Photo Credit: Gambarrotti
Being a resident of Orlando, Florida, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, it is hard to believe that it wasn't that long ago that central Florida was made up of orange groves and cow pastures and not much else.

But the vision of a single man, Walt Disney, dramatically altered the city of Orlando and his decision to create a "Disneyland East" affected the lives of millions of people for generations to come.

Not too long ago, I read a book, Married to the Mouse: Walt Disney and Orlando by Richard E. Foglesong, that lays out the history of how "The City Beautiful" became the choice for Disney World and describes the economic and social impact that resulted.  One of the most compelling portions of the book is when Foglesong shares how it was another city, St. Louis, that came dramatically close to becoming the home of Disney World.

Disney executives had learned through marketing research that only 2% of their visitors to Disneyland, located in Anaheim, California, came from east of the Mississippi River, yet 75% of the American population resided east of the Mississippi.  They realized that they were missing out on a substantial source of financial profit by not having a theme park in the eastern part of the country.  Plans were made to secure a location farther east and St. Louis was close to getting the bid.

The night before the papers were to be signed, a big dinner party was held for all those involved.  One of the sticking points of the agreement had been that Walt Disney did not want alcohol served on the property of his theme park.  As a family oriented venture, he did not want beer and liquor to affect the environment he was hoping to create.  In a city known for its beer, not everyone agreed with Disney's perspective and one throwaway comment changed everything.

This is how Foglesong recounts it:
"It was there the offending remark was made. "Any man who thinks he can design an attraction that is going to be a success in this city and not serve beer or liquor, ought to have his head examined," said the head of the city's leading business.  Hearing the remark, the mayor gasped, "Oh, my [gosh]."  He turned to Admiral Joe Fowler [the vice president for construction who had built Disneyland], and apologized, saying, "I just can't control that guy."

But the damage was done.  Walt hated being challenged, especially in public.  Upon returning for the dinner party to his hotel suite, he asked Card Walker, another Disney vice president, "What time can we have the plane in the morning?"  Surprised, Walker responded, "But you know we've got --" He tried to say they had legal papers to sign the next day, but Walt cut him off."  "It's all finished," said Walt.  "We're not coming.  Forget about it."  Afterward, local bankers made three trips to California trying to change Walt's mind, all unsuccessful.  August (Gussie) Busch, Jr.'s insulting remark had killed the deal -- Disney World would not be in St. Louis.

...The events that evening changed the history of two cities.  For the beer baron was like the guilty party in a broken engagement: in repulsing the Disney fiancee, he enabled another city to win her.  The failure of the first relationship facilitated the second one."
An offhand comment and a major decision by a wealthy business owner changed the history of countless people.  Had Disney World not come to Orlando, other theme parks likely wouldn't have followed.  The ministry I work with, Campus Crusade for Christ International, probably would not have relocated our international headquarters to Orlando and I wouldn't be living here.

Though few of us enjoy the stature of a Walt Disney, our decisions affect the lives of other people.  Where we choose to live (or not live), the person we choose to marry (or not marry) and the people we choose to interact with (or ignore) have the potential to affect history.  Even changing the name of a ministry in order to be more effective on mission matters.  Our lives matter and everything we do affects others, whether we realize it or not.  Are you living today with eternity in mind?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Thoughts On The Campus Crusade For Christ Name Change

As a nineteen-year-old college sophomore at Central Michigan University, I reached a crisis of belief. I had been raised in a Christian home but had come to the point of questioning much of what I thought I believed. I came to the realization that my parents believed strongly in Jesus, the Bible and the Church but I came to the conclusion that I didn't think I did.

And then, to borrow a phrase from author Brennan Manning, I was ambushed by Jesus Christ. A friend had given me a book published by Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC) that explained the concept of having a personal relationship with God in a way that I couldn't ever remember hearing before. I read the book and a four-point outline in the back (commonly known as The Four Spiritual Laws) and invited Christ to be the Lord of my life. I have never been the same since and I have Campus Crusade for Christ to thank for it.

Over fifteen years ago I joined the staff of Campus Crusade because I feel that there is nothing more important in life than seeing a person's life transformed through a relationship with Christ.  So it is with keen interest that I have followed the discussions of the past couple years in which our organizational leaders have explored the possibility of a name change for CCC.  Earlier this week at our biennial U.S. staff conference, it was announced that we will be changing our name in the coming months to "Cru."

Since I had the privilege of learning of the new name with a small group of leaders in the organization a couple days before the announcement was made, I was prepared when the new name was shared with over 5,000 of our U.S. staff.  What I was unprepared for, though, was the amount of coverage in the mainstream media that this news would generate.  Mainstream outlets such as CNN, USA Today and The Huffington Post have all posted front page stories of the change in the past couple days.  On the day of the announcement, "Campus Crusade" was a trending topic on Twitter.

Over the past number of years, it had become apparent to many within our organization that our name was not helping us in what we feel our primary calling to be -- sharing the life-changing message of Jesus Christ with those that are far from God.  The word "crusade" carries a significant amount of baggage and had become a hindrance in many circles because of its historical connotations.  In fact, many of our campus chapters had begun using a different name locally years ago in order to increase effectiveness on campus.

For many within the Christian community, our name is a benefit and brings credibility to those with whom we interact.  For most non-Christians, however, our name is a turn-off that limits conversations before someone has even had an opportunity to interact with them.  Our name change has nothing to do with being ashamed of the name of Jesus Christ.  It is because we want to proclaim Him that we believed that this change was necessary.  To help illustrate this point, please check out this video that vividly demonstrates how the change of words can make a difference:

Words do matter and because we felt like the words within our organizational name was preventing us from doing what we are called to do, we have decided to change it. The question is not how this affects those who are already Christians but how it affects those we seek to reach. There has been a backlash from some in the Christian community who feel like we are kowtowing to the political correctness movement and that we have left our calling. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our name may be changing but our mission stays the same. We are still committed to sharing the gospel, building believers and sending them into the world to establish spiritual movements everywhere so that everyone knows someone that truly follows Jesus.

There are some Christians that have legitimate questions about the decision making process in changing our name and those questions can be addressed by following the link near the end of this post.  But for those that identify themselves as Christians and are overly critical of this decision, I ask you to do a heart examination. If you have never personally stepped out in faith to share the gospel with another person, if you've never had the privilege to see another place their faith in Christ, if you've never personally invested your life into the spiritual life of another or have never left your family and home for the sake of the gospel, then may I suggest that you seek the Lord on how you can personally be involved in His mission rather than criticizing those that are already doing it.

It is far easier to sit within the four walls of a church and talk about ministry than to actually go out and do it. There can be no argument that the staff members, volunteers and students of what will now be known as Cru are wholeheartedly committed to the Great Commission. There are critics in the mainstream that think we're too evangelistic; now there are critics in the Christian world that think we're somehow ashamed of the name of Jesus. No matter what others say, we will continue to go to the four corners of the earth to let everyone that will listen know that "God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life."

For further information on the Campus Crusade for Christ name change, please check out these resources:
* Frequently Asked Questions about the name change can be found on the CCC public website here.

* Christianity Today's article about the change can be found here.

* Thoughts from my colleague, Shawn McGrath, on his perspective about the process of the name change can be read here.

When Being Colorblind Is Not A Good Thing

Photo Credit: stopthegears
Some insightful thoughts from Chris Lahr on the topic of colorblindness:
"Recently I visited an overwhelmingly white campus and struck up a conversation with one of the few African American students about her time at the university. She told me that overall it was a good experience as long as she assimilated into the white culture! In other words as long as she ‘acted white,” tolerated white music (Lord help her), and didn’t talk about issues of race she was fine.

I find it interesting in the Church that it is mostly white folks that talk about the need for a multicultural (or multi-ethnic) church. I do not know a lot of African American preachers trying to recruit white folks to their congregations so that they can reflect the multi-ethnic worship experience we find in Revelations 7. Why is that? After some reflection I think it comes back to the colorblind problem.

Multi-ethnic churches started by white people are often very white in their power structure (white folks calling the shots), in the way they worship, etc. Being a diverse church or university does not mean that you simply add people of color into the mix, but that you carve out a space for them, in all of their gifts and inadequacies so that they can truly be a part of the larger community.

Too often white folks are in a rush to “use their gifts” which often translates into being in charge. If you truly desire being a part of a multicultural church attend a predominantly African American or Hispanic congregation and just show up. Do not worry about using your gifts, but rather show up and just be. Learn the songs, get to know the people, and most importantly… eat the food. As you build relationships and earn the right to be heard allow them to invite you to use your gifts. This will take longer but taking the role of a learner and taking the time to really grow roots will set the stage for real reconciliation."
To read Lahr's complete post please click here.

To check out a post that I wrote several years ago on this same topic entitled "The Myth of Being Colorblind", please click here.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Why Youth Ministry Is So Much More Than Entertaining Bored Teenagers

Photo Credit: Richard Jones
Back when I was in high school I didn't particularly enjoy going to church. Sure, I went to church nearly every Sunday morning but I slept (literally) through most sermons and didn't participate that much in my church's youth group activities unless it involved athletics or trips to the Midwest's premier amusement park, Cedar Point.

Even though I didn't find church all that compelling, my interest did pick up when I got involved in my best friend's youth group at another church. The kids that were involved were fun to be with, there were some cute girls that attended, we ate lots of pizza, played fun games and the adults that led the group were kind to us.

But there was nearly no spiritual content other than a closing 30-second prayer that we said each week.  If the objective of the group was to provide high school kids with a weekly outlet for wholesome, clean fun then it was a rousing success. If the point of the group was to introduce teens to the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus then it was an abject failure. I was entertained but my life was not changed.

In a recent issue of Leadership Journal, Drew Dyck writes about why youth ministry needs to be more than just entertainment:
"In his book UnChristian, [David] Kinnaman reports that 65 percent of all American young people report making a commitment to Jesus Christ at some point in their lives. Yet based on his surveys, Kinnaman concludes that only about 3 percent of these young adults have a biblical worldview.

Whether or not we accept Kinnaman's definition of what constitutes a biblical worldview, few would argue that anywhere near 65 percent of young adults in the U.S. could be described as active followers of Jesus. We may have done a good job of getting young people to sign a pledge or mutter a prayer, but a poor job of forming them into devoted disciples.

Perhaps we've settled for entertaining rather than developing followers of Jesus.

Of course there's nothing wrong with pizza and video games. The real problem is when they displace spiritual formation and teaching the Bible. And ultimately that's the greatest danger of being overly reliant on an entertainment model. It's not just that we can't compete with the world's amusements. It's not only that we get locked into a cycle of serving up ever-increasing measures of fun. Rather it's that we're distracted from doing the real work of youth ministry—fostering robust faith.

Jim Rayburn, the founder of Young Life, liked to say, "It's a sin to bore a kid with the gospel." A generation later, that philosophy morphed into an entertainment based gospel that has actually produced entertainment numbness and an avoidance of the gospel's harder teachings. Somehow we thought we could sweeten the gospel message for young people to make it easier for them to swallow, but it turns out that they're choking on our concoction.

In the end, pizza and video games don't transform lives. Young people are transformed by truth clearly presented. They're drawn to a cause to live and die for. In other words, they want the unvarnished gospel. When we present that gospel, with all its hard demands and radical implications, we'll be speaking the language they long to, and need to, hear."
Unfortunately, the trap that all too many youth ministries fall into is trying to compete with the world's entertainment options. If we're honest with ourselves, the movies, music and entertainment options that the secular world offers is simply more attractive than what the Church offers. If we attempt to compete on that level, we will lose. Having spent time as a youth pastor working with junior and senior high students, I sympathize with the tension of offering solid biblical content but making it interesting enough to have the maximum number of youth involved.

What we must realize, though, is that what we offer that the world has no response for is the gospel. The gospel of Christ is life-changing and everlasting. It doesn't run out, it isn't boring and it's something that we can experience every day. Youth ministry is not about keeping kids from sex and drink and drugs. It is about giving kids the gospel. The gospel brings forgiveness, healing and life. No movie, no corny game and certainly no piece of pizza offers what the gospel does.

As the great British writer, C.S. Lewis, once said:
"It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."
If we find that our youth are not living lives enraptured by the gospel perhaps it is because we are offering them a cheap imitation.

To read Dyck's complete article please click here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Why The Black Middle-Class Is Shrinking

Photo Credit: Floyd Brown
From DCentric:

"Here are five factors contributing to the “decimation” of the black middle class:

Wealth versus income

The wealth gap between whites and blacks in the same socioeconomic classes had quadrupled in the decade preceding the recession. Wealth is how much a person owns, minus any debt. So even if African Americans had made strides to hold jobs with incomes that took them into the middle and upper classes, as a whole, their accumulated wealth wasn’t on par with their white counterparts.

For instance, in 2007, about 63 percent of black Americans’ net worth was tied to their housing, compared to 38.5 percent for white Americans . A loss of income, depreciated home values or losing a home to foreclosure — all of those have a greater power to knock you out of your socioeconomic class if you don’t have some accumulated wealth to rely upon.


It’s been well-documented that sub-prime mortgage lending, which contributed greatly to the foreclosure crisis, targeted minority neighborhoods, regardless of class.

Locally, the area that was hit the hardest by the foreclosure crisis was Prince George’s County, the country’s wealthiest majority black county. In Prince George’s County, half of the county’s sales have been foreclosure-based this year.

Loss of government jobs

The public sector has cut the most jobs out of any industry this year, and black people hold a disproportionately high number of government jobs. For years, African Americans have often relied upon government jobs as alternatives to the private sector. They presented a way to circumvent discrimination that prevented them from private sector jobs.

College-educated and unemployed

For many Americans, a college degree translates to better job opportunities and increased job security. And although that’s diminished during the recession, college-educated African Americans are more likely to be unemployed than college-educated white Americans. According to the AP story:

In 2007, unemployment for college-educated whites was 1.8 percent; for college-educated blacks it was 2.7 percent. Now, the college-educated unemployment rate is 3.9 percent for whites and 7 percent for blacks.

The situation is even worse for recent college grads who don’t have years’ of experience in the workforce to help them: in 2010, the jobless rate for black college graduates under 25 was 19 percent, compared to 8.4 percent for white men.

The ‘old boys network’ and discrimination

It’s only been a few decades since anti-discrimination laws have been passed and thoroughly enforced, but it took even longer for the effects to trickle through the black community, Wiley tells Washington. That means fewer generations’ of minorities have been able to climb corporate ladders.

Chris Wilder, a 43-year-old black unemployed journalist who fell victim to losses in the media industry, describes the situation to Washington this way:

“It’s definitely harder for black people to get jobs… With the economy as bad as it is, people are hiring nephews and family friends and friends of friends. It’s hard for black people to break that cycle. We don’t own or even run the big companies.”"

To read the complete article please click here.

(h/t to Black Voices for the link)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What It Means To Be Both American and Mexican

Photo Credit: lndhflf72
The United States is a nation of immigrants. Whether we came to this country ourselves or our ancestors came here centuries ago, most of us have our roots in some other country. While it has been less challenging for some (especially those of European descent) to assimilate into American culture, it has not been found simplistic for all.

For those from other nations, particularly from non-English speaking countries, a choice to intentionally maintain aspects of their cultural distinctiveness for their children and grandchildren makes acceptance into American society more difficult.  Then there are others who have wished to fully assimilate into American culture but have been kept from doing so due to skin color, religion, accent, country of origin or some other issue not under their control.

Ruben Navarrette, Jr., a writer for, has written an informative piece on the challenges he faces as an American of Mexican descent.  Navarrette's wife grew up in Mexico, came to America as a child and is now a U.S. citizen. He writes of their mixed-marriage:
"Ironically, long before I met my wife, while growing up in central California, I never considered myself anything but a Mexican. Not a Mexican-American, but, in ethnic shorthand, a Mexican. Just as important, it was how others saw me and people like me. Adults referred to the "Mexican" part of town or talked about the high school's first "Mexican" quarterback or first "Mexican" homecoming queen.

Years later, when I was admitted to Harvard, jealous white classmates informed me: "If you hadn't been Mexican, you wouldn't have gotten in."

Not Mexican-American. Just Mexican.

My readers do the same. Not long ago, one accused me of welcoming the "Mexican invasion ... because you're Mexican."

OK, so I'm Mexican. Just like my friends in Boston who call themselves Irish, and friends in New York who call themselves Italian, and friends back home in Fresno who refer to themselves as Armenian.

Cool. I'm Mexican, right?

Wrong, says my wife. Wrong, wrong, wrong. To her, I'm an American, plain and simple. Born and raised in the United States, how could I be anything else?

She's the Mexican. She came to the United States with her mother and three sisters when she was 9 years old. Later, she returned to Mexico for two years of high school, and she stayed there for four years of college before returning to the United States for graduate school. In addition to being fluent in English, she speaks, reads, and writes Spanish with an awesome proficiency that I could never attain.

"How can you be Mexican?" she asks. "If you went to Mexico and identified yourself that way, people would laugh. They'd ask where in Mexico you were from, and they'd expect you to answer in perfect Spanish with no accent."

She's right. It's like the old saying that a Mexican-American is treated as an American everywhere in the world except America, and as a Mexican everywhere except Mexico."
You can read the rest of Navarrette's post please click here.

For further insights on the struggle that Mexican Americans face, check out this clip from the movie Selena, a biopic about the late Tejano singer, featuring a young Jennifer Lopez.

Thanks to my friend, Jim Sautner, for the link to the article.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Oswald Chambers on Knowing Christ

Photo Credit: Chiceaux
From Oswald Chambers' classic, My Utmost For His Highest:
"A saint is not to take the initiative toward self-realization, but toward knowing Jesus Christ. A spiritually vigorous saint never believes that his circumstances simply happen at random, nor does he ever think of his life as being divided into the secular and the sacred. He sees every situation in which he finds himself as the means of obtaining a greater knowledge of Jesus Christ, and he has an attitude of unrestrained abandon and total surrender about him.
The Holy Spirit is determined that we will have the realization of Jesus Christ in every area of our lives, and He will bring us back to the same point over and over again until we do. Self-realization only leads to the glorification of good works, whereas a saint of God glorifies Jesus Christ through his good works. Whatever we may be doing— even eating, drinking, or washing disciples’ feet— we have to take the initiative of realizing and recognizing Jesus Christ in it. Every phase of our life has its counterpart in the life of Jesus. Our Lord realized His relationship to the Father even in the most menial task. “Jesus, knowing ... that He had come from God and was going to God, ... took a towel ... and began to wash the disciples’ feet ...” (John 13:3-5).

The aim of a spiritually vigorous saint is “that I may know Him ...” Do I know Him where I am today? If not, I am failing Him. I am not here for self-realization, but to know Jesus Christ. In Christian work our initiative and motivation are too often simply the result of realizing that there is work to be done and that we must do it. Yet that is never the attitude of a spiritually vigorous saint. His aim is to achieve the realization of Jesus Christ in every set of circumstances."

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Is Forced Drug Testing For Welfare Recipients Racist?

Photo Credit: micahb37
My governor in Florida, Rick Scott, is catching some flack for recently signing legislation that requires the state's welfare recipients to submit to drug testing.  Some are arguing that this requirement is unfairly targeting the poor and others claim it is racist as it selectively targets African American citizens.

Surprisingly, a recent poll conducted by Black Planet/News One found that nearly 8 out of 10 African Americans favored drug screening for those applying for federal assistance.  Although there tends to be a stereotype in our society that the bulk of welfare recipients are single black women with multiple children who perpetually remain on public assistance, that belief is simply not supported by the facts.

Although African Americans are disproportionally represented among welfare recipients, the majority of those participating in the government's social welfare program are not black.  In fact, there are nearly as many white Americans that receive aid as black Americans.  Furthermore, the average number of children in households receiving aid is 1.8 (see 2008 report) and the Office for Family Assistance has a number of requirements in place for those applying for aid and incentives for those engaging in responsible behavior.

The fact that the vast majority of African Americans who were polled support drug screening for those applying for welfare assistance is not surprising to me.  The bulk of black Americans are hard working, law abiding individuals that want safe communities like we all do.  They do not want drug abusers to continue in their addiction due to governmental aid going to their habit.

During a couple of summers while I was in college, I worked at a power plant doing manual labor.  In order to get hired, I had to submit to a drug test each summer.  I didn't look at it as a particular invasion of my privacy but a necessary measure since I would be operating heavy equipment that could put lives in danger if operated by someone on drugs.  Since I wasn't using drugs, I didn't have anything to fear.  I would imagine it would be similar for those under Florida's new law. 

There are a number of issues, though, that are raised in implementing a law like this, particularly questions about personal privacy that will likely be addressed in the courts.
"In 2000 a United States District Court held that a Michigan law requiring “suspicionless drug testing” of all welfare recipients fell afoul of the fourth amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. Mr Scott’s other initiative also has fourth amendment problems. In 1997 the United States Supreme Court found a Georgia statute requiring candidates for public office to be drug tested failed to show a need pressing enough to “suppress the fourth amendment’s normal requirement of individualised suspicion.” And in 2000 a Florida district court found that reassuring the public that state workers are not using drugs—which is Mr Scott’s rationale for testing employees—was similarly insufficient to justify blanket searches."
It seems to me that those that would be most bothered by a policy like this are those who are drug users looking to receive governmental assistance.  The courts may end up finding this policy as being unnecessary invasions of privacy but to say it is racist doesn't ring true for me since drug abuse knows no class and people in need of governmental assistance knows no race.  

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Why Non-Christians Are Not The Enemy

Photo Credit: dave_apple
In a challenging post, Tim Challies identifies why so many Christians "miss it" in how we relate to those around us:
"Over the years I’ve had to reflect on what made the churches I attended as a child and teenager so ineffective at evangelism. While there are several reasons I could provide, and they are of varying importance, there is one that I believe stands at the foundation of the rest: These churches often regarded the unbeliever as the enemy. Of course the church would never have articulated that belief, but it seemed to be deeply rooted.

This attitude manifested itself in many ways. One of the clearest ways was among the children of church members. They would rarely, if ever, be allowed or encouraged to play or even interact with the unsaved children in the neighborhood. I knew an “urban missionary” whose children were confined to their backyard and were forbidden from playing with the other children. The churched children were not allowed to play with other children lest they become corrupted by their worldliness.

My observation was that this approach failed and failed badly. First, the church was not faithful in its calling to take the gospel throughout the world. They preferred to exist in an enclave, safe from outside influences. Second, and ironically, the children developed a fascination with the world. I believe this was, in large part, because access to the outside world had been denied to them and they had never seen the pain and heartbreak that are the inevitable results of forsaking God. The world can look awfully attractive until a person sees the results of giving himself over to it. Third, the parents were prone to ignoring worldliness in their own children. I know that I saw more drugs, more drinking, more disrespect and more awful behavior in the Christian schools I attended than I did in the public schools. This isolation simply did not work. What I saw was that we do not need the world to teach us worldliness. Worldliness arises from within."
To read the rest of Challies post please click here.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Is Kobe Better Than Jordan?

I first wrote this post a couple of years ago after the Lakers triumphed over the Magic in the NBA finals and, with another championship added to his resume, the debate over whether Kobe Bryant is a better player than Michael Jordan has intensified.

The comparisons make sense since there are a lot of similarities between the two. They were shooting guards that played the same style of game and were both prolific scorers. Both played in Phil Jackson's triangle offense for the bulk of their careers and won multiple championships.

But in order to examine the two we'll need to look at some of the relevant facts of what they were able to do in their careers. Anytime we compare players from the same sport, especially from different eras, it's important to not only look at their statistical numbers but also how they compared to their peers during their playing career. Although Kobe's playing days are far from over, he and Jordan have played a comparable number of games.

Let's look at how Kobe and Jordan compare when it comes to individual accomplishments, awards and team success. The numbers below are based on the completion of the 2010-2011 season.
  • NBA Championships: Bryant - 5, Jordan - 6. Slight advantage Jordan.
  • NBA Finals MVP's: Bryant - 2, Jordan - 6. Big advantage Jordan.
  • NBA MVP's: Bryant - 1, Jordan - 5. Big advantage Jordan.
  • All-NBA 1st Team: Bryant - 9, Jordan 10. Slight advantage Jordan.
  • All-NBA Defensive 1st Team: Bryant - 9, Jordan 9. Draw.
  • Scoring Titles: Bryant - 2, Jordan 10. Huge advantage Jordan.
  • All-Star Games: Bryant - 13, Jordan - 14. Slight advantage Jordan.
  • All-Star Game MVP's: Bryant - 4, Jordan - 3. Slight advantage Bryant.
  • All-Star Dunk Champion: Bryant - 1, Jordan - 2. Slight advantage Jordan.
  • Olympic Gold Medals: Bryant - 1, Jordan 2. Slight advantage Jordan.
  • Scoring Average: Bryant - 25.3, Jordan - 30.1. Advantage Jordan.
  • Rebound Average: Bryant - 5.3, Jordan - 6.2. Advantage Jordan.
  • Assist Average: Bryant - 4.7, Jordan - 5.3. Advantage Jordan.
  • Steals Average: Bryant - 1.5, Jordan - 2.3. Advantage Jordan.
  • Field Goal Percentage: Bryant - 45.5%, Jordan - 49.7%. Advantage Jordan.
  • Free Throw Percentage: Bryant - 83.8%, Jordan - 83.5%. Slight advantage Bryant.
  • Three-Point Percentage: Bryant - 33.7%, Jordan - 32.7%. Slight advantage Bryant.
Although it is obvious that Kobe Bryant is a tremendous basketball player and will be considered one of the best to ever play the game, the level that Michael Jordan excelled is yet to be matched. From nearly every conceivable angle Jordan was simply better than Kobe. Jordan performed at a level of excellence that had never been seen and has yet to be seen again. Perhaps if Kobe has a few more MVP seasons then this argument will be stronger, but, for now, Jordan is the superior player.