Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Importance of Reading Authors Outside our Tribe

Photo Credit: theloushe
In a recent interview on The Gospel Coalition blog, Pastor Tullian Tchividjian offers his perspective on the importance of reading and the importance of exposing yourself to works you may not already agree with. He says the following:
"My nightstand is a mess—the biggest eyesore in our bedroom (according to my wife). I have about 30 books piled up on top of each other. I'm constantly reading, and I'm always reading more than one book at a time. I have everything from books I've been asked to endorse to books I'm consulting for my current sermon series to books I'm reading for fun. 
I'm also a curious reader, which means I'm always reading books by people just to find out how they write and what they say about certain things—which means I'm not simply reading books by people within my theological tradition. One of my concerns about some who would consider themselves "reformed" is that they only read books by other "reformed" people. This, in my opinion, is a big mistake. And when some do read books outside their own theological tradition, they only do so with an eye to critique instead of an eye to learn. At least this was my mistake for far too many years. I graduated from a well-known reformed seminary (and am unbelievably grateful for the education I received there), and I never heard of any of the books, theologians, or scholars I list below (except one). I have, therefore, greatly varied my reading over the past five years or so and am reading many more books by writers, thinkers, and scholars outside of my theological  tradition. Seven years ago I heard Tim Keller say, "When you read one thinker, you become a clone. Two thinkers, you become confused. Ten thinkers, you begin developing your own voice. Two or three hundred thinkers, you become wise."
The easy thing for avid readers is to simply read those that we know we already agree with or enjoy. Although this can help cement the beliefs we hold, we rarely will be challenged in our thinking. This can, at times, lead to the presumption that most others think as we do. I think it's also good for us to expose ourselves to the writings of those that are unfamiliar to us or not of "our tribe." This can help us in seeing the holes in some of our thinking, shore up that which we know to be true and cause us to look at the world differently.

As a Christian, I seek to make the Bible the guide for all other reading that I do. I try to read the Bible more than anything else and attempt to use God's Word as the lens through which I read other writings. Although I don't end up agreeing with the assertions of every author I read, there is much to be learned from those outside of our denominational affiliations or our cultural background.

For example, there are some blogs that I read in order to learn about the culture in which we live even though I don't agree with the perspective that is taken most of the time. However, I'm able to gain some insight into the thinking that is common in today's society and this helps me in relating to others from backgrounds that are different than mine.

Reading a broad range of authors can help us learn what it is that we believe and what makes us unique from others. It can help enhance our view of the world as we learn from those that have had different experiences and take the opportunity to see things through the eyes of another. I think I'm a different person than I was twenty years ago, due in no small part because of the broad range of people that I have read. And, hopefully, I'll continue to change for the better over the next twenty years.

For a list of the 25 books that have greatly influenced my life, please see this previous post.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Ethnic Minorities Comprise Half of America's Under-5 Age Group

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks
From Hope Yen of Yahoo News:
"In a first, America's racial and ethnic minorities now make up about half of the under-5 age group, reflecting sweeping changes by race and class among young people. Due to an aging population, non-Hispanic whites last year recorded more deaths than births. 
These two milestones, revealed in 2012 census estimates released Thursday, are the latest signs of a historic shift in which whites will become a minority within a generation, by 2043. They come after the Census Bureau reported last year that whites had fallen to a minority among newborns. 
Fueled by immigration and high rates of birth, particularly among Hispanics, racial and ethnic minorities are growing more rapidly in numbers than whites. The decline in the U.S. white population has been occurring more quickly than expected, resulting in the first "natural decrease" for whites — deaths exceeding births — in more than a century, census data show. For now, the non-Hispanic white population continues to increase slightly, but only because of immigration from Europe. 
Based on current rates of growth, whites in the under-5 group are expected to fall below 50 percent this year or next, said Thomas Mesenbourg, the Census Bureau's acting director. 
"This is the tipping point presaging the gradual decline of the white population, which will be a signature demographic trend of this century," said William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. "More so than ever, we need to recognize the importance of young minorities for the growth and vitality of our labor force and economy." 
The imminent tip to a white minority among young children adds a racial dimension to government spending on early-childhood education, such as President Barack Obama's proposal to significantly expand pre-K for lower-income families. The nation's demographic changes are already stirring discussion as to whether some civil rights-era programs, such as affirmative action in college admissions, should be retooled to focus more on income than on race and ethnicity. The Supreme Court will rule on the issue this month. 
The government projects that in five years, minorities will make up more than half of children under 18."
To read the complete article please click here.