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God-talk Miscellany IV

Here's what I've picked up over the last week:

1. Stephanie Simon’s (a fav of this blog) God’s Call Comes by Cell Phone looks at the changing face of the church and its use of technology in evangelism, which includes this example: “An evangelical church in Granger, Ind., put up billboards a few months back showing a rumpled bed, entwined feet and the address That site linked to an artsy mini-movie with shots of a seedy motel and a man sunk in morning-after regret. "Is your sex life a bore? A chore? … Why does it seem like everyone else is having all the fun?" the text asked. As the movie ended, viewers for the first time saw the logo of Granger Community Church, which was sponsoring five weeks of sermons on sex, lust and porn. The tagline: 'We're not afraid to talk about it.'" Apparently church attendance shot up 70% when Pastor Mark Beeson preached "The Greatest Sex You'll Ever Have." Later? “Six weeks after the series ended, weekly church attendance still topped 6,000, up from 5,000 before the ad campaign.” Good article. If you are into the different ways of doing church, read it.

2. The Washington Post reports that Religious Liberals Gain New Visibility. According to this article, religious liberals focus on issues like the environment and poverty as opposed to religious conservatives, who focus on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. Who’s a part of this movement? “According to John C. Green, an expert on religion and politics at the University of Akron, and others, the religious left cuts across almost all denominations, drawing in black churches, liberal Roman Catholics and mainline Protestants as well as Jews, Buddhists, Muslims and people who say they are "spiritual" but not affiliated with an organized faith.” The article also counts among the group some “theologically traditionalist Christians,” a term they use to introduce a 28-year-old student “at Catholic University who attends Washington Community Fellowship on Capitol Hill, an evangelical church affiliated with the Mennonite denomination.” Wow. That’s a wonderful combination of theological heritages! I myself grew up in a Mennonite home, joined a couple of churches and worked for several years among the Mennonite Brethren (an evangelical-Anabaptist denomination), am now a member of an evangelical United Methodist church, and count among my foundational spiritual mentors Catholics like St. John of the Cross and Thomas Merton. But I’m not sure I would call that “theologically traditionalist Christianity.” But I could be mistaken. (And don't misread me on this: I, too, think the Christian evangelicals' focus on social and environmental issues is far, far too narrow. Respect and care for the environment, immigration and poverty are three areas where evangelicals fall woefully short. But I’m a bit perplexed by the writer’s description of "traditional" theology. Perhaps this is another example of the main stream press not getting religion? Heh, but maybe I’m being a little too nitpicky.)

3. Great new maps are available illustrating everything from what country exports the most vegetables to who gets the most toys. To get there, I followed this rabbit trail: Leaving Munster’s Anabaptist Aggregator to Radical Pie to BLDGBLOG (who highlights some good ones) to WorldMapper (where you can get them all). One I found interesting in light of this blog’s interest in immigration is this one, which shows “over half of the territories in the world are currently experiencing net emigration. More people are leaving them than are coming to them. Territories with net emigration generally are poorer than those with net immigration. Mexico is the country with the highest net emigration, with a net loss of 8.8 million people in 2000. Mexico is in North America, the region whose territories have the largest net immigration. The United State's high immigration rate is linked to Mexican emigration. Were the United States and Mexico combined to be one territory then this movement of people would not be recorded as immigration nor emigration.” Thought-provoking.

4. Speaking of immigration, the NY Times ran an interesting review of the two years leading up to our current immigration situation in Immigration, from a simmer to a scream.

5. Heads up, Andrew Jones (whose TallSkinnyKiwi blog is a fav of this blog) writes about putting movement back into worship in Worship Leader.

6. A few days ago, I ran across a story on BeliefNet reporting that Iran’s parliament was considering legislation that would require all non-Muslims in that country to wear badges. Later, dozens of media outlets reported that the story wasn't true. Instead, the rumor seems to have spawned from a draft law (which is still disturbing to me) requiring a stricter adherence to Islamic dress. The AP reports, “A draft law aimed at encouraging Islamic dress raised fears Saturday that Iran's hard-line government plans to re-impose veils and head-to-toe overcoats on women who have shirked the restrictions for years, letting hair show and wearing jeans and shapely outfits. The looser social rules and dress codes are one of the few legacies left from Iran's once-strong reform movement.” Sigh. Last year I read Reading Lolita in Tehran (one of the top books I’ve ever read), which poignantly and disturbingly portrays the struggle of women in Iran. Though from a very secular point of view, it has much truth in it and challenged me as a Christian in many ways. So, why the concern about Iran on this blog? Rules like this will affect the Christians living there, who have a hard enough time as it is. Something worth following.

7. The UK’s TimesOnline ran this interesting little piece on gene screening. Issues like this have staggering implications, as this blog has touched on before.

8. Last, but certainly not least in my book, is a new blog I’ve discovered off the UMPortal: Questing Parson. This fellow’s voice reminds me a lot of Wendell Barry’s Hannah Coulter or Marilyn Robinson’s Gilead. Go take a look.

Until next time. Blessings.

(Image: by Mike D on