Saturday, April 29, 2017

Weekly Web Roundup (4/29/17)

Photo Credit:
US Department of Education
Here is a collection of items from around the web that caught my attention the past couple of weeks:

Sorry Weber, Durkheim, and Marx: Educated Evangelicals Are More Religious by Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra (Christianity Today)
"Evangelicals who graduated from college are more likely than those who didn’t enroll to attend religious services at least weekly (68% vs. 55%), to pray daily (83% vs. 77%), and to believe in God with absolute certainty (90% vs. 87%). They’re also more likely to say religion is very important to them (81% vs. 79%). Those numbers aren’t a fluke; when Pew broke the categories down further, the trend continued. Evangelicals who earned a graduate degree after college are the most committed to their faith; those who dropped out of high school are the least committed."
The Missing Piece in American International Missions by Courtlandt Perkins (Reformed African American Network)
"In many places, ethnicity and faith are deeply connected to a people group’s identity, so to only see people with white skin representing Christ speaks volumes about what Christians look like. The human heart naturally doesn’t want to receive Christ due to depravity, but what if the dark skin of a missionary helps them be received into an African village, simply because they look familiar? The unreached will physically see that Jesus changes the lives of people who look like them. African American missionaries could inspire a generation of African missionaries to receive Christ, and take His message to places AA’s could never go. In the same way, sending Hispanic-American missionaries to Latin American countries, we could help deconstruct the notions of white superiority, and point to the reality that white Christians do not have the copyright of international missions. It is obvious the issues run deeper than just numbers. The reality is often rooted in inherit racial bias and historical discrimination. But my friend’s words resound deeply with me: “Diversity is a powerful (and much needed) tool for witness.”"
6 Tech Habits Changing the American Home (Barna Group)
"Technology is literally everywhere in our homes—not only the devices in our pockets but the invisible electromagnetic waves that flood our homes,” writes Andy Crouch in his new book The Tech-Wise Family, written in partnership with original Barna research. “This change has come about overnight, in the blink of an eye in terms of human history and culture. When previous generations confronted the perplexing challenges of parenting and family life, they could fall back on wisdom, or at least old wives’ tales, that had been handed down for generations. But the pace of technological change has surpassed anyone’s capacity to develop enough wisdom to handle it. We are stuffing our lives with technology’s new promises, with no clear sense of whether technology will help us keep the promises we’ve already made."
The Legitimacy of Ethnic Churches in Multi-Ethnic Contexts by Andrew Ong (Reformed Margins)
"While pursuing a church demographic that proportionally matches the community’s might be a helpful and wise benchmark for certain churches, to impose any particular vision of unity and diversity upon a local church strikes me as mechanistic. This is especially true since the automobile has fundamentally altered our conception of communities’ bounds. How many of us worship at the closest Christian church to our home? Binding local churches to the norm of multi-ethnicity is mechanistic if our conception of church unity is absolutely bound by spatial-location. Is a church less faithful if it’s attended by more people who live ten minutes away by car than people who live ten minutes away by foot? Didn’t Jesus just say that his sheep would hear his voice?"
One Teenager's (Supremely Brilliant) Perspective on Social Media (Scott Sauls)
"When I finally spent a week “unplugging” from my phone, I realized that the withdrawals I experienced from disengaging from the app were a sign of the control it had over me. This control scared me and made me angry because I had willingly put myself in an unnecessary position to compare my insides to others’ outsides, to be controlled by my appearance and people’s opinions, and to hurt others and myself with my comments, posts, or digital footprint. This unnerved me because it was a dangerous trap that had been disguised by an attractive, socially acceptable, and necessary staple of popularity. After I deleted my social media accounts, I began to notice how other teenagers my age were trapped in the same digital world that I was. I wanted to understand why this was happening. What exactly are we as a society risking with the constant attachment to our screens?"
Why a racially insensitive photo of Southern Baptist seminary professors matters by Jemar Tisby (The Washington Post)
"But the biggest problem doesn’t show up in the picture. The presence of any person of color would have reduced the chances of this photo ever happening. But a photo like this evolves in an environment that lacks meaningful interaction with people from other cultures, especially on the leadership level. The seminary’s website appears to picture all white men in an administration and an entire preaching faculty. Even if a school has diversity in the student body, if the decision-makers all come from a similar racial and cultural background, then they will remain oblivious to their own racial blind spots."
The Guide to Being a Detroit Sports Fan by Dan Holmes (Detroit Athletic Blog)
"What does it mean to be a Detroit sports fan? What should we all know? What do we need to know? Not everyone has the answers to these questions, so I wrote them all down in one place. Enjoy."

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Weekly Web Roundup (4/15/17)

Photo Credit:
World Bank Photo Collection
Here is a collection of items from around the web that caught my attention over this past week:

'What a total God shot!' Understand that? Then you speak Christianese by Patrick Cox (
"This religious dialect is spoken by increasing numbers of English-speaking Christians, especially evangelicals. And it isn't just deployed for Bible study. Everyday non-religious conversation is also sprinkled with words from the scriptures, and phrases popularized by charismatic preachers and writers. So for example, instead of "results," you might hear a Christianese speaker refer to "fruits." Instead of "thoughtful," "intentional." Christanese can also depart slightly from English grammar: "My friend spoke into my life." "I was called to move to Nicaragua." It's code, a useful way for believers to seek out like-minded people."
Who Would Jesus Abort? Confessions of a “Christian” Abortion Doctor by Russell Moore
"The biggest hurdle, though, for Parker, is to redefine life itself. Like many in the abortion movement, Parker scoffs at the possibility of fetal personhood because the child is small, “no bigger, from crown to rump, than the first two digits of my pinkie finger,” and because the child cannot live, in most cases, on his or her own outside the womb. He seems to recognize though that lack of size and lack of power won’t be persuasive on their own, so he continues to what he sees as the real problem: the idea that life is “a miracle.” Parker writes that to say that “conception, or birth, or even death is ‘miraculous’ does an injustice to God.” Life is, instead, he argues, merely “a process.” As I read this abortion doctor’s repeated inveighing against the metaphor of “miracle” for human life, I could not help but be reminded of Wendell Berry’s manifesto against scientism and materialism, which he says demotes humanity from creature to machine. The rejection of the miracle of life, Berry wrote, leaves us with the coldness of abstraction."
How Single Women Became an Unstoppable Force in Bible Translation by Kate Shellnutt (Christianity Today)
"Though women in Bible translation are well represented in the field, they remain underrepresented in leadership positions. In recent years, SIL has worked to bring more women into administrative leadership, believing that “God works through women and men of every ethnic group and age level, and calls them to be involved in leadership roles in all facets of our organizational life.” Women mostly feel free to focus on the work they were called to in the first place—getting more people access to the Bible in their own languages—but the pressure’s still there. Everyone on the mission field works hard and sacrifices much; women may notice themselves working extra hard to demonstrate their contributions."
How Isiah Thomas became the greatest Detroit Piston ever by Bill Dow (Detroit Free Press)
"And then there was Isiah Lord Thomas III, the player whose impact turned around the once floundering franchise and laid the foundation for the construction of one of the premier arenas in basketball, especially for its time. Thomas blossomed into the Pistons' fearless leader during his career, cementing a legacy befitting of his middle name. During his 13-year career, he established himself as one of the greatest “small men” in NBA history. A dangerous shooter and spectacular playmaker, he still is the franchise’s all-time leader in points (18,822), assists (9,061), steals (1,861) and minutes played (35,516). The 12-time All-Star was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000 and was named to the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time team. “Simply put, Isiah Thomas was the difference maker and the key to the franchise’s success,” says Tom Wilson, the former Pistons president and CEO and right-hand man to the late club owner Bill Davidson. Wilson was the project manager of the Palace and first suggested the pioneering concourse-level suites. The arena opened in 1988. “Internally," Wilson said, "we called the Palace 'The House that Isiah Built.' "
That's My King Dr. S.M. Lockridge

In honor of the commemoration and celebration of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ that Christians around the worldwide recognize this weekend, here's a video that reminds us about the King of Kings.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

When Stereotypes Go Bad

Photo Credit: Peter.Lorre
It was several years ago and I was sitting down to dinner with a number of pastors from another part of the world. I was speaking at a conference and these men were guests of the conference host.

A mutual friend introduced me to them and shared that I had worked for many years with The Impact Movement, a ministry focused on African American college students.

After settling into our meal and getting acquainted with one another, one of the men asked me, "Can I ask you a question? Why do Black people like fried chicken so much?"

Inwardly appalled by his inquiry, I composed myself and responded, "What makes you think that?"

He went onto share that although he didn't know any Black Americans personally, he inferred from watching American television programs and movies that this was true. He simply wanted to know why and thought I might be able to help him. Knowing that English was not this brother's first language, I took the time to clarify his question and to make sure that I comprehended him as best as I could.

Confident that what I heard was what he had asked, I posed a question, as well as a follow-up to him:
I asked, "Have you ever had fried chicken?" 
He said, "Of course! Many times." 
I then asked, "Do you like it?" 
He responded, "Of course!" 
I said, "I do too. So I guess there are lot of people that probably like fried chicken, including the both of us."
I then went on to explain that unfair stereotypes -- ways of categorizes groups of people without viewing them as individuals -- had been woven into our country's history, especially as it pertained to African Americans. In order for those in power -- yes, even some Christian pastors -- to justify the dehumanization of those of African descent, negative stereotypes of Black people had developed over time. Sadly, many of these stereotypes persist to this day.

I could have assumed there was racist intent behind the man's question but I don't think that would have been fair...nor helpful. He had little context for American history and admittedly knew no African Americans personally. His question came from a place of unawareness and not ill-intent. He had been exposed to a stereotype about Black Americans that wasn't being applied to other ethnic groups and he simply wanted to know if it was true. I attempted to address his question in the most gracious and helpful way I could.

In the case of African Americans and fried chicken, the curious might wonder how this specific stereotype might have come about. Gene Demby with NPR provides some history:
"What is it with this stereotype about black people loving fried chicken? 
I asked Claire Schmidt for help. She's a professor at the University of Missouri who studies race and folklore. Schmidt said chickens had long been a part of Southern diets, but they had particular utility for slaves. They were cheap, easy to feed and a good source of meat. But then, Schmidt says, came Birth of a Nation. 
D.W. Griffith's seminal and supremely racist 1915 silent movie about the supposedly heroic founding of the Ku Klux Klan was a huge sensation when it debuted. One scene features a group of actors portraying shiftless black elected officials acting rowdy and crudely in a legislative hall. (The message to the audience: These are the dangers of letting blacks vote.) Some of the legislators are shown drinking. Others had their feet kicked up on their desks. And one of them was very ostentatiously eating fried chicken. "That image really solidified the way white people thought of black people and fried chicken," Schmidt said. 
Schmidt said that like watermelon, that other food that's been a mainstay in racist depictions of blacks, chicken was also a good vehicle for racism because of the way people eat it. (According to government stats, blacks are underrepresented among watermelon consumers.) "It's a food you eat with your hands, and therefore it's dirty," Schmidt said. "Table manners are a way of determining who is worthy of respect or not." 
But why does this idea still hold traction, since fried chicken is clearly a staple of the American diet? Surely, KFC, Popeyes and Church's ain't national chains — and chicken and waffles aren't a brunch staple — because of the supposed culinary obsessions of black folks. "It's still a way to express racial [contempt] without getting into serious trouble," Schmidt said. (Among the Code Switch team, we've started referring to these types of winking statements as "racist bank shots.") 
"How it's possible to be both a taboo and a corporate mainstream thing just shows how complicated race in America is," Schmidt said."
In discussing the topic of stereotypes, it may be helpful to explore the origin of the word. It seems that the term originated as a result of the printing press. When books were being printed, it was a laborious process for the printer to have to set the type to new molds for each book being printed. With limited supplies available, it meant that other books couldn't be printed while those on the press were being created. When books that were popular had to be printed over and over, it felt even more time consuming to have to do the same process with each printing.

Eventually, it was discovered that a printer could create a mold of already set type and cast large metal plates so that the book could be quickly printed again at a future date. Once the "stereotype" plates were created, the set type could be taken apart and used for other projects. This made the job much easier for the printer. They didn't have to think about searching for the right letters and carefully placing them in the right order to print the book. They could just slap the plate down and, Voila!, an exact reproduction of the book could be created.

In the world of printing books, it was discovered that stereotyping can be a wonderful way to ensure consistency in product while saving significant time and money.

But, when it comes to people, stereotypes can be destructive.

Stereotypes can strip people of their humanity and leave them with nothing more than a label placed upon them that is not of their choosing. Even if a common belief about a certain group of people might be generally true (e.g. Canadians like hockey), we must resist the temptation to treat people as weird if they do not meet the expectations that we have presumed upon them.

When we assume we know everything about a person because of how they look or where they are from, it prevents us from learning who they are as individuals. Each human being is a expression of the handiwork of God and they deserve much more than a stereotype to define them.

The Bible tells us that God created us uniquely and that He even knows the number of hairs on our head. In light of this, doesn't it make sense that we would seek to know our fellow image bearers of God as individuals and not simply categorize them based on lazy stereotypes?

Let us do the hard work of "resetting the machine" for each person God gives us the privilege of encountering. It takes great time and effort but, in the end, we will discover that viewing each person as an individual is better than settling for a stereotyped copy.

(h/t to my friend Rasool Berry for his assistance in writing this post and to Mental Floss on the origin of the term stereotype.)

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Weekly Web Roundup (4/8/17)

Photo Credit: Amaza Design
Here is a collection of items from around the web that caught my attention over this past week:

How to be a Tech-Wise Family & manage kids, technology & family by Andy Crouch (
"Some of our happiest times as a family have been spent on this first floor, lit entirely by candlelight and the glow of a wood fire. Why wait for a power outage? The Wi-Fi and cell signals are there, all right—but we can choose to ignore them, turning instead to conversation, music, books, or silence. Indeed, on Sundays that is what we intentionally do, all day long. And all the most beautiful and striking things—everything that would start a conversation or capture a child’s attention—require our active engagement. Children love this, by the way. They thrive in a world stocked with raw materials. Too often, and with the best of intentions, we fill their world with technology instead—devices that ask very little of them. A cheap electronic keyboard makes a few monotonous sounds, while an expensive one promises to make all kinds of sounds. But actually, neither the cheap keyboard nor the expensive one has anything like the depth and range of possibility of an acoustic piano. A single pencil can produce more “colors” of gray and black than the most high-tech screen can reproduce. For a child’s creative development, the inexpensive, deep, organic thing is far better than the expensive, broad, electronic thing."
Faceless of the Game: Where have all the MLB superstars gone? by Jayson Stark (
"For more than three decades, dating to the arrival of Bird and Magic, the NBA has embraced star power as the secret sauce for How To Sell Your League. And baseball? Not so much. "Baseball has always promoted the game," [Arn] Tellem says. "But it's been more about the game and its history. And it's been less about the individual players." Tellem sees that approach beginning to change. Finally. But in a star-driven society, he said, it can't shift gears fast enough. "Baseball is at a point now where they have to reach the youth of America," he says. "And clearly, [promoting] the game is important. But it's about using stars and developing stars and helping them become bigger names, as a way of reaching the youth. And baseball has to see that convincing [those stars] and having them participate will serve the game."
‘S-Town’ Explores the Maze of the Divine Clockmaker’s Mind by Kaitlyn Schiess (Christianity Today)
"My favorite professor likes to say that a biblical view of humanity “needs to start in Genesis 1, not Genesis 3.” In saying so, he’s arguing for a fuller picture of what Scripture tells us about ourselves—not only that we’re fallen and sinful, but that each and every one of us is made in the image of God. It’s actually the combination of these ideas that most fully explains both the goodness and evil of which humans are capable: We display—albeit brokenly and imperfectly—characteristics that point us to the perfect character of our God. Christians can find signs of this eternal truth in highly unusual places, such as the incredibly successful podcast S-Town."
How Japanese Americans Survived Internment in WW2 by Emily Wilson (The Daily Beast)
"With President Trump having issued executive orders for two travel bans for majority Muslim countries, both blocked by federal judges, the history of rounding up a group of people based on ethnicity or religion seems especially relevant and urgent. A couple weeks before the exhibition’s [Exclusion: The Presidio’s Role in World War II Japanese American Incarceration] opening, Eric Blind, the director of Heritage Programs for the Presidio, showed me the space that would house it. Outside the entrance visitors will see a telephone pole with a replica of the poster telling all Japanese Americans to report to that buses that would take them to the camps. “It’s an ordinary object with an extraordinary pronouncement,” he said. “We want to create this empathy with people seeing the order—not just if you were Japanese Americans, but their friends and neighbors—about how would you feel if you saw this on a telephone pole?”"
Black Eye on America - What Is Black Twitter?: The Daily Show

Roy Wood Jr. explains how the African-American community uses Twitter to discuss social issues and finds out why that communication is unique to black culture.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Weekly Web Roundup (4/1/17)

Photo Credit: fazen
Here is a collection of items from around the web that caught my attention over this past week:

The LAUNCH Survey: Helpful and Hindering Factors for Launching into Long-Term Missions by  Megan R. Brown and John W. McVay (The Exchange)
"Clearly, relationships are key in journeying toward lifelong service in the Kingdom of God overseas. Nearly all of the respondents indicated that God’s guidance and call were essential to their successful pursuit of overseas work. Additionally, having a good support network, including friends and family, a mentor, long-term workers, and a good agency, team, or leader were remembered to be helpful in the process. This is congruent with studies completed in recent years (Matenga and Gold 2016). A 2013 qualitative study with missionaries from Australia found that 100% of the interviewees were influenced by other missionaries prior to launch (Hibbert, Hibbert, and Silberman 2015). Additionally, surveys completed by the Christian Community Health Fellowship found that 80% of students who did a rotation early in their training with a Christian physician who was practicing quality faith-based medicine, as well as attending a healthcare missions conference, chose a path to serve the poor through missional medicine (CCHF Follow-Up Survey)."
Here’s How Many Books You Can Expect to Read Before You Die (Mental Floss)

Ever wonder how many books you've read in your lifetime? Or how many you'll be able to read before the end of your life? This handy chart helps give you an idea of how your regular reading habits play out over the course of a lifetime.

Crux listens as Africans ask: Why isn't it big news when terrorists slaughter our people? by Terry Mattingly (Get Religion)
"Of course, as Pope Francis has noted (in the kind of statement that draws relatively little news coverage), there is more to ideological or cultural colonization than money and political power. There is the cultural power of elite media, especially entertainment media, and the causes favored by their leaders. Who typically receives more news coverage today, a YouTube sensation pop star or a Wall Street magnate whose decisions affect millions? But there is an even larger question here: Who do ordinary readers want to read about? In other words, does this problem have something to do with the values of the marketplace, in this age when power is measured in Twitter followers and mouse "clicks"? Which story would receive the most coverage in African media, the death of Beyonce or the latest massacre of a hundred Christians in Northern Nigeria by Boko Haram? I think I know the answer to that question, even though it makes me angry."
Check Your Privilege Obsession by Tish Harrison Warren (Christianity Today)
"At their worst, privilege enforcers descend into sheer cruelty. Bovy includes a story about online commenters blasting the “privilege” of a promising 22-year-old who tragically died. No longer able to gather around a common humanity with our shared frailty and pain, we are reduced to ruthlessly sorting between those who “deserve” our sympathy and those who don’t. I wonder if our privilege obsession arises in part from an epistemic problem: In a world that considers individual experience the primary arbiter of truth, how do we navigate the cacophony of conflicting reality-claims? One way is to create a hierarchy where some voices are valued more than others. Therefore, the “privilege” framework, like fundamentalism or certain forms of religious rhetoric, can demand unquestioning adherence."
America's Cult of Ignorance—And the Death of Expertise by Tom Nichols (The Daily Beast)
"These are dangerous times. Never have so many people had so much access to so much knowledge and yet have been so resistant to learning anything. In the United States and other developed nations, otherwise intelligent people denigrate intellectual achievement and reject the advice of experts. Not only do increasing numbers of lay people lack basic knowledge, they reject fundamental rules of evidence and refuse to learn how to make a logical argument. In doing so, they risk throwing away centuries of accumulated knowledge and undermining the practices and habits that allow us to develop new knowledge."