The Greatest Showman Is The Wake Up Call That the Church Needs

Racial discrimination? Check. Gender inequality? Check. Class warfare? Check. Prejudice based on physical ability and differences? Check. The choice between family values and power? Check. The undying pursuit of the American dream at all costs? Check. The Greatest Showman is an allegory about what the church should be. If we don’t address the fissure currently dividing the church now, we will never put out the fire currently raging through our halls and hearts. Like Barnum, we have forgotten to love. To love people who look, sound, think and feel differently to us. To love other Christians who didn’t vote the same way we did.

Source: The Greatest Showman Is The Wake Up Call That the Church Needs – RELEVANT Magazine

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Christ has no body now but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours

Christ has no body now but yours,
no hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes with which He sees,
Yours are the feet with which He walks,
Yours are the hands with which
He blesses all the world:
Yours are the hands.

Christ Has No Body Now But Yours (feat. Josh Garrels) from Work Songs by The Porter’s Gate Worship Project.

In June 2017, musicians, pastors, writers, and scholars from around the country gathered together in NYC to collaborate on a series of worship songs for a new worship record themed around faith and vocation. The lyrics are from a prayer by Teresa of Avila circa 1571. Music by David Ogden and published by The Royal School of Church Music (admin. by GIA Publications, Inc.). Used by permission. Filmed, recorded, and mixed by Mason Jar Music.

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I love my Babylon; Oh my Lord I’m your enemy

Oh great mammon of form and function; careless consumerist consumption; dangerous dysfunction, disguised as expensive taste. I’m a people disgraced by what I claim I need and what I want to waste. I take no account for nothing if it’s not mine. It’s a misappropriation of funds; protect my ninety percent with my guns. Whose side am I on? Well who’s winning?

My kingdom’s built with the blood of slaves, orphans, widows, and homeless graves. I sold their souls just to build my private mansion. Some people say that my time is coming: Kingdom come is the justice running down, down, down on me. I’m a poor child, I’m a lost son; I refuse to give my love to anyone, fight for the truth, or help the weaker ones, because I love my Babylon. I am a slave, I was never free. I betrayed you for blood money. Oh I bought the world, all its vanity. Oh my Lord I’m your enemy.—Josh Garrels, Zion & Babylon

 

Josh Garrels has spent more than a decade crafting music that cuts clean through. Resting in the space between accessibility and honesty, Garrels’ songs wrestle with and celebrate the mystery of faith with authenticity and heart. Cultivating a genre-blending mix of folk and hip hop, Garrels’ music explores themes of compassion, hope, longing, and liberation.

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The death of “cultural Christianity” is good

Churches are in serious decline. This fundamental shift away from churches is [caused by] the death of “cultural Christianity.” As the pressure to associate with a local church diminished in society, “cultural Christians” have integrated back into a church-less culture. Church attendance became the spiritual crutch for many cultural Christians; many churches lost their focus; [and] it has presented them with a clear choice: refocus or perish. The atmosphere of “cultural Christianity” actually discouraged honesty about your spiritual state and encouraged people to “blend in” to the cultural norms of religion.

Source: Is the church really dying? – Lifestyle – The Courier-Tribune – Asheboro, NC

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Donald Trump has caused Christians to think more deeply about what is important

Donald Trump has been a sort of fault line, with a large percentage of his ardent supporters who claim to be “evangelicals” being older and barely attending church, while many of those who oppose him are younger and more devout in their faith. This election, as terrible and divisive as it’s been, has caused Christians to think more deeply about what is important and it’s made very evident the fact that some are more interested in building the kingdom of man than the kingdom of God.

Source: The Generational Divide Between Christians

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Gen Xers will help bridge the divide between government and the people and the two large and idealistic generations that bookend us

We were the “whatever” teens, considered — at least in comparison to the shake-up-the-world boomers — lazy, disengaged, cynical eye-rollers who didn’t care much about much, especially adulting. Collectively, no one’s ever thought much of us. The boomers have for the most part ignored us and when the millennials came along — a group just as large and self-obsessed and overly dramatic as their parents — we became the forgotten middle children. [We] grew up into people no one expected us to be: hardworking, open-minded, pragmatic, inclusive, [and] charitable. Gen Xers rising into political leadership will help bridge the divide. We have a more modern approach. Being a bridge — not just between government and the people, but between the two large and idealistic generations that bookend us — may ultimately prove to be Gen X’s destiny. We’re much more comfortable living in the gray. There’s great hope in our secret sauce of cynicism, humor, resiliency and tough love. We see and embrace the idealism but are a marriage of the better parts of both generations.

Source: Whatever Happened to Generation X? – Philadelphia Magazine

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Billy Graham’s granddaughter, Jerushah Armfield, says Donald Trump needs to clean up his act

I just don’t want [President Trump] to be held up as the poster boy for Christian evangelicals because he doesn’t represent most of us. I understand a lot of evangelicals supporting him because of his policies. I’d love to see a Christian leader come out and say that they support Trump for his policies, but that his behavior disgusts them, and he needs to clean up his act. I would love to just hear one of them say that. If they support his policies, they also feel like they have to stay hush(ed) on his behavior and I just feel that it’s sending the wrong message to the world about what Christianity is and what Evangelicals are, or I guess, have become. — Jerushah Armfield

Jerushah Armfield is an evangelical writer, the granddaughter of the iconic evangelist Billy Graham, and Franklin Graham’s niece. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jerushahruth.

Source: Billy Graham’s granddaughter: Donald Trump needs to apologize – CNN

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Trump has cured what used to be called “the Moral Majority” of its moralism.

A belief in the connection between personal morality and fitness for office used to be a bedrock of Republican politics. Donald Trump has changed all that. Today, white evangelical Protestants are the least moralistic cohort of voters. Trump has cured what used to be called “the Moral Majority” of its moralism.

Source: Religious Right Now Judgment-Free, Thanks to Donald Trump

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Character matters: Some people are now OK with wrong as long as they get the guy on the right

Character matters for elected officials. At least that’s what Evangelicals used to think. When your ethics change based on wanting something to be one way or another (or one person to win or not), that’s the definition of selling your soul.

It would be one thing if those individuals said, “Integrity still matters, but, man, we are stuck with two people who have integrity problems, and I am going with ________ in spite of my integrity concerns.” That would be making a hard choice while keeping your beliefs. But that’s not what happened.

This is not about Donald Trump’s character or transgressions—now or prior—but about the character and transgressions of Evangelicals who change their views to suit the moment. If you find that you have overlooked or dismissed many of the morals and values that you have held dear in the past, then it just may be that your character has been Trumped.

Source: Evangelicals: This Is What It Looks Like When You Sell Your Soul For A … | The Exchange | A Blog by Ed Stetzer

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For a lot of people “evangelical” is just another cultural signifier, a tribal designation

It turns out that for a lot of people “evangelical” is itself just another cultural signifier, a tribal designation rather than a serious adherence to Christian teachings. They undoubtedly go to church from time to time and think of themselves as Christians [but] are being seduced by Trump’s crude nationalism and nativism, largely as result of religious leaders politicizing religion and turning it into a vehicle for their own secular power.

Source: Not keeping the faith: Donald Trump and the conning of evangelical voters – Salon.com

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Moral character DOES matter: Focus on the Selling Out of James Dobson

What has alarmed me has been the willingness of my fellow citizens to rationalize the President’s behavior. Yes, the rules have changed for the President. Character DOES matter. You can’t run a family, let alone a country, without it. How in the world can 7 out of 10 Americans continue to say that nothing matters except a robust economy? – James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, on the character of the President of the United States (1998)

Source: What James Dobson Said in 1998 About Moral Character and the Presidency | the way of improvement leads home

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Conservative evangelicals have forfeited moral authority and proved to be as fraudulent as the president they deify

Back in the ’90s, when Bill Clinton was sexually sinning, conservative evangelicals fulminated with outrage and insisted that a president’s most important trait was moral character. The word hypocrisy doesn’t begin to describe people who have forfeited moral authority and proved to be as fraudulent as the president they deify. Rev. Franklin Graham said that he loves Trump because this president has “a concern about Christian values.” This is the same Franklin Graham who contended, during the Monica Lewinsky scandal of 1998, that character counts, that a president’s private behavior can’t be separated from his public behavior. Michael Gerson, a principled conservative [said], “The priests have become acolytes … The gag reflex is entirely gone.” They’ve become just another special interest group in the partisan tribe. They’ve shelved their morals to serve a president of abysmally low character, in exchange for his ideological favors. For Trump, there’s all kinds of doctrinal flex. We’re getting the same riff [from] Jerry Falwell Jr., son of the Moral Majority movement founder, who calls Trump “a dream president,” [and] James Dobson, ex-leader of Focus on the Family, who lectured in the ’90s about the “profound moral crisis” of low presidential character.

Source: Hypocritical conservative evangelicals shelter themselves from Stormygate : National Interest : Politics & Policy : WHYY

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Franklin Graham epitomizes tribalistic hypocrisy at the core of the Christian right

Franklin Graham epitomizes the rank hypocrisy at the core of the Christian right, which preaches relentlessly about the importance of morality in our political leaders but still supports Donald Trump, to whom the entire concept of morality could not be less relevant. “I don’t think it’s hypocritical because he’s a flawed man, for me to try to support him and help him and pray for him,” Graham said. It wouldn’t be hypocritical if you applied the same standard to those who are not aligned with you politically. But you don’t. If this was Barack Obama, you’d be screaming bloody murder about how evil it is to support someone who had done such things. He supports him politically, so he applies a totally different standard. It’s pure, undistilled, tribalistic hypocrisy.

Source: Franklin Graham’s Hypocrisy on Supporting Trump

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Pope Francis denounces “fake news” as evil and urged reporters to rediscover the “dignity of journalism” and search for the truth

Spreading fake news can serve to advance specific goals, influence political decisions, and serve economic interests. It grasps people’s attention by appealing to stereotypes and common social prejudices, and exploiting instantaneous emotions like anxiety, contempt, anger and frustration. The tragedy of disinformation is that it discredits others, presenting them as enemies, to the point of demonizing them and fomenting conflict. Fake news is a sign of intolerant and hypersensitive attitudes, and leads only to the spread of arrogance and hatred. There is no such thing as harmless disinformation. Even a seemingly slight distortion of the truth can have dangerous effects. We can recognize the truth of statements from their fruits: whether they provoke quarrels, foment division, encourage resignation; or, on the other hand, they promote informed and mature reflection leading to constructive dialogue and fruitful results. ensuring the accuracy of sources and protecting communication are real means of promoting goodness, generating trust, and opening the way to communion and peace.

Source: LII World Communications Day, 2018 – “The truth will set you free” (Jn 8:32). Fake news and journalism for peace | Francis

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The right has not sought greater fairness in mainstream institutions; it wants tribal information.

In [Rush] Limbaugh’s view, there is only zero-sum competition between tribes, the left and right. Only one’s own tribe can be trusted. Over time, the right’s base has become increasingly homogeneous and like-minded. Under a steady diet of radicalizing media and tribal epistemology, their traditionalism has hardened into tribalism. The right’s view that the institutions lean liberal is hyperbolic, but not without foundation. Science, academia, and journalism do tend to draw their personnel from left-leaning demographics. But the right has not sought greater fairness in mainstream institutions; it has defected to create its own. The right sees the game itself, its institutions and norms, as the enemy. What the right wants is not better, fairer, more scrupulous information referees. It wants tribal information. Right-wing media took an audience already inclined to traditionalism and deliberately played on its fears and anxieties, pushing it further and further into tribalism, reinforcing the shared worldview of readers and shielding them from journalism that challenge[s] it.”

Source: Donald Trump and the rise of tribal epistemology – Vox

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The American ‘Christian Persecution Complex’ Gets in the Way of Loving Our Neighbors

When white evangelicals become obsessed with controlling the government, there isn’t much room left for sharing Christ. And there’s even less chance that non-believers will want to hear from Christians who are openly trying to dominate and control behavior through force.

To put the government of United States of America at the center of the gospel story, and then to feel psychological pain when that vision doesn’t come true, is simply a modernization of the Zealot movement, which Jesus rejected. — Seth Tower Hurd

Seth Tower Hurd is the host of Neighbors Again, a podcast featuring a human spin on divisive topics. Connect with him on Twitter @sethtowerhurd

Source: The American ‘Christian Persecution Complex’ Gets in the Way of Loving Our Neighbors – RELEVANT Magazine

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Chaplaincy programs proliferating

Chaplains and spiritual caregivers sit with people in distress, support the grieving, care for the dead, and coordinate local religious leaders — all in the face of the kind of suffering that leaves most of us at a loss for words. While total enrollment has been declining steadily since the early 2000s in Christian graduate theological schools in the U.S. and Canada, we find chaplaincy programs proliferating. Today’s chaplains need to have skills such as deep listening, thinking through ethical and theological questions from multiple religious and scientific perspectives, and responding to crisis and trauma.

Source: Spiritual Care in Changing Times: Initial Glimpses from Theological Education | HuffPost

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Every word that a president utters projects American values around the world

When a figure in power reflexively calls any press that doesn’t suit him “fake news,” it is that person who should be the figure of suspicion, not the press. Mr. President, every word that a president utters projects American values around the world. — Senator, Jeff Flake (Jan 2018)

Source: Read Sen. Jeff Flake’s speech criticizing Trump – CNNPolitics

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Spotting “Gospel Escapism” in Evangelical Circles

“Gospel escapism fails to see in any deep way how Jesus speaks to the troubled life of the sinner in any way other than deliverance into another world. It’s the pill we take in order to remain hooked up to the matrix of an Evangelical dream state. Our blessed hope becomes our escapist dream when we make what Jesus will perfect an enemy to what we can improve.” — Thabiti Anyabwile

Thabiti Anyabwile (MS, North Carolina State University) is a pastor at Anacostia River Church in southeast Washington, D.C, and a Council member of The Gospel Coalition.

Source: Spotting “Gospel Escapism” in Evangelical Circles

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