Citizenship, Culture, and the Church

Citizens_SermonSeries GraceChurch

I have lots of thoughts on this week’s sermon, Citizens: Identity. If you haven’t seen it, you can watch below:

It’s important to remember the context of this message, that the sermon is primarily for Christians, the body of Christ. Likewise, virtually all of the Bible was written to those who follow God, or at least say they do.

As the pastor (Matt Williams) said:

“We have to train a culture of Christians to think courageously, and look at the Scriptures and apply them to us.”

Therefore, none of what I say here should be taken as “Those people should do this,” or, “What if someone else (not a Christian) wants such-and-such?” Those may be valid points and worthy of discussion. It’s just not the focus here.

What IS the focus? Click here to keep reading…


Confederate Flag Controversy: What’s Your Worldview and Identity?

confed_flag SC_Statehouse getty miaden_antonovA few weeks ago, I had to apologize to someone in my church. This wasn’t an insignificant apology, like, “I’m sorry I forgot our appointment.” This was an issue when I deeply wounded someone in the body of Christ.

A whole bunch of thoughts were going through my head, as I walked into this mediated apology session:

  • Through my pride, I hurt someone who God cares about deeply.
  • I didn’t deserve forgiveness, but I needed to ask for it.
  • I sinned against this person, against others who were involved, and against God (Psalm 51:4)
  • God values peace, and I needed to do everything I could to make that happen.

But one thing I wasn’t thinking: I never thought that I could walk into this meeting and demand forgiveness. I wanted reconciliation, but I would have understood if this person wasn’t ready to give it to me. (Thankfully, they were a lot more gracious that I would have been, and I was forgiven immediately.)

Even though God commands us to forgive each other, just as we have been forgiven (Ephesians 4:32), I couldn’t insist on being forgiven. Forgiving is a choice of one who has been offended.

The Question at Hand

I am writing this blog post to my brothers and sisters in Christ, especially my white southern friends. Other people are invited to read this post, but I don’t think you’ll fully grasp where we are coming from. (Truth be told, I don’t fully understand these complex issues, but I’m working on it.)

Shortly after a recent racism-motivated massacre in Charleston, SC, many people were calling (once again) for the removal of the Confederate flag from the State House grounds in Columbia. Others said that people were using this tragedy for political reasons, and it was not the right time to bring this issue up. (But exactly when is a good time to discuss this? It’s been an issue for at least 20 years. Thankfully, Governor Nikki Haley has bravely called on the SC Legislature to remove the flag from the Capitol grounds.)

So, this is the issue: Should Christians support the removal of the Confederate Flag from our State House grounds? And if we want to take it further, we can ask: Should Christians freely display this flag?

Click here to keep reading…

Thinking Strategically About Education in South Carolina

richard riley statehousereport

Recently, former South Carolina Governor and U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley gave remarks to the S.C. House Education Task Force. The context was a State Supreme Court decision in favor of more equitable funding for high-poverty, rural school districts.

His remarks are worth reading in full, but here are my take-aways:

  1. “Don’t get boxed into a construct that making positive change is too expensive, too complicated, and can’t be done.”
  2. “Have a sense of urgency. Recognize that now we are catching up. . . . Over the course of 20 years [when this case was brought before the Supreme Court], our State policies left behind 25 percent of our children.”
  3. Attract and retain effective teachers and leaders. (I agree, and agree.)
  4. Focus on early childhood education. (I agree again.)
  5. “Raise the expectations of 7th and 8th graders through pre-career, technology, occupational and college exploration opportunities.
  6. Provide engaging after school and summer learning programs. (And of course I agree.)
  7. “Art and music are a part of a high-quality education.”

Click here to read Mr. Riley’s entire statement.

Related Links:

How to Solve Global Poverty

elephant_chainsxchu_siewlian1Don’t you wish it was that simple? Don’t you wish someone could come up with a solution to global poverty, in just a few easy steps.

We know that if solving poverty was simple, it would already be done. Still, we do not need to despair. Way-smart people have some great thoughts on this matter. We should all take heed.

In The Poverty of Nations, Wayne Grudem and Barry Asmus describe “79 factors that will lead a nation to prosperity.” You can read this book (it’s on my list), or you can read this summary article on the Crossway blog. And if you don’t even want to read that (lazy!), just know that the main take-away is “work hard.”

Or, as a friend (who has read this book twice) notes, “The phrase repeated continually throughout the book is ‘a nation must produce more than it consumes.'”

Seriously. Read the book, or the article.

Another Option

Are 79 factors too much for you? Than you may prefer this video of Dr. Jay Richards. He boils down those 79 factors into 10 tough steps to ending poverty. (The video is 90 minutes long — 60 minutes of his lecture, followed by 30 minutes of Q&A. It’s totally worth it.)

I didn’t agree with all of his ideas. But that doesn’t mean I’m right. I like being challenged with new ideas, to help me either to confirm what I believe or to grow in my knowledge.

Here are Dr. Richards’ principal requirements for a nation to be prosperous:

  1. Rule of law
  2. Government must focus only on maintaining the rule of law
  3. Property ownership that is accessible and consistent
  4. Economic freedom and free-trade
  5. Stable families and other important private institutions
  6. A belief in the truth that the universe is purposeful and makes sense
  7. The right cultural mores (delayed gratification, willingness to risk, respect others, etc)
  8. A proper understanding of the nature of wealth and poverty
  9. A focus on your comparative advantage
  10. Hard work

My other main take-aways from this presentation:

  • Get away from continuous foreign aid, although “aid can help around the edges” (idea of the poor gleaning from fields in the Old Testament).
  • “People get wealthy in a free society largely by serving other people, by producing things for other people that they want and that they’ll buy.”
  • “The number one predictor of childhood poverty in America is whether the father lives in his home or not.” (see principle #5)
  • These 10 principles are all immaterial things, and not based on a nation’s access to natural resources.

Dr. Richards makes a good case that these principles apply at all levels — from whole nations to smaller communities. Which, for example, explains why Nasha Lending is working to enable individuals to become producers.

And remember, all these ideas are worth nothing unless we mobilize ourselves to put them into action.
Related Links:

**image courtesy of siewlian via