Friday, December 13, 2013

Three Views: Why Confess Sins in Worship When It Seems So Rote?

he value of corporate confession comes simply from the fact that we are doing it with people—those we've been glad to share ministry with, and those we find more difficult to appreciate. A person in the next pew may have slighted us; we may have just learned that a person across the aisle was insulted by something we said. Corporate confession is a time to air it all out and reflect on our regrettable tendency to harm one another. It is a great equalizer, reminding us that we are all guilty of sinful actions and omissions, and that we all need forgiveness.

In his classic rule for monastic living, Benedict recommends that the community recite the Lord's Prayer together several times a day to help uproot the thorns of contention that spring up in community life. I believe that corporate confession on Sunday mornings can work in much the same way.

Of course, anyone can sleep walk through confession. You may begin to pray with good intentions, and may even be painfully conscious of having done something regrettable, when suddenly you are preoccupied with whether or not you took out the dinner rolls to thaw.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Q+A: Why Rowan Williams Loves C.S. Lewis

To many American readers, it probably doesn't seem strange that a British Christian leader would write a book about C.S. Lewis's Narnia. But as former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams himself notes, Lewis's children's stories have always been more popular in America than in Britain, especially among intellectual elites. Williams has published several significant volumes of theology and poetry, but earlier this year he released a relatively slim volume on how the Narnia books can reinvigorate readers' understanding of the Christian message. While working as CT's editorial resident, Melissa Steffan interviewed Williams as she reported a separate story on new interest in Lewis in the UK. (Meanwhile, the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College is today hosting a conference on why Lewis has had more influence in the U.S. than in his own country

Monday, September 09, 2013

Waiting with Our Response

Choosing life instead of death demands an act of will that often contradicts our impulses. Our impulses want to take revenge, while our wills want to offer forgiveness. Our impulses push us to an immediate response: When someone hits us in the face, we impulsively want to hit back.

How then can we let our wills dominate our impulses? The key word is wait. Whatever happens, we must put some space between the hostile act directed toward us and our response. We must distance ourselves, take time to think, talk it over with friends, and wait until we are ready to respond in a life-giving way. Impulsive responses allow evil to master us, something we always will regret. But a well thought-through response will help us to "master evil with good" (Romans 12.21).-

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Chaos and Grace in the Slums of the Earth

or the first time in history, one of every two people lives in a city. Some 860 million of these city-dwellers reside in slums—uncertain, cramped, and frequently cruel. Most are there by necessity.

A small number of Christian missionaries live in slums too. They are there by choice.

About 100 of them, mostly from the United States, New Zealand, and Australia, met near Bangkok this past April. They gathered under the banner of "New Friars."

The New Friars don't seem to merit high-profile attention. Their efforts to alleviate poverty are small next to the work of many missionary and nonprofit groups and the problems they address.

Yet we do well to listen to the New Friars, because of the way they themselves are listening to God and neighbor, to suffering and hope on the crowded margins of society. They address vital questions about missions today, and about how all Christians might practice our vocations with sacrifice, devotion, and hope.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Is Family Decline Behind Religious Decline?

very pastor knows that having kids has a way of bringing young parents inside the church doors. Or, at least, every pastor used to think so. Today, it's less clear. There was a time when you could almost count on young people whose attendance had dropped off after they left Mom and Dad's watchful eyes to return when they became parents themselves. But increasingly, young people who leave aren't coming back. What's going on? According to Mary Eberstadt, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, it has a lot to do with the fact that fewer young people are getting married and having kids.

And if they do finally settle down to start a family, it's much later than it used to be. For Eberstadt, there's an intrinsic link between faith and family, and the decline of the family in Western society has a lot to do with the shrinking size of our churches. In fact, that's How the West Really Lost God, as the title of her new book puts it. "As the family goes," Eberstadt argues, "so go the churches." In North Atlantic societies, the family has not done well in recent years, and to her mind that's been the single most important factor driving secularizing trends in the Western world

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Mystery of Original Sin

egend has it that G. K. Chesterton, asked by a newspaper reporter what was wrong with the world, skipped over all the expected answers. He said nothing about corrupt politicians or ancient rivalries between warring nations, or the greed of the rich and the covetousness of the poor. He left aside street crime and unjust laws and inadequate education. Environmental degradation and population growth overwhelming the earth's carrying capacity were not on his radar. Neither were the structural evils that burgeoned as wickedness became engrained in society and its institutions in ever more complex ways.

What's wrong with the world? As the story goes, Chesterton responded with just two words: "I am."

His answer is unlikely to be popular with a generation schooled to cultivate self-esteem, to pursue its passions and chase self-fulfillment first and foremost. After all, we say, there are reasons for our failures and foibles. It's not our fault that we didn't win the genetic lottery, or that our parents fell short in their parenting, or that our third-grade teacher made us so ashamed of our arithmetic errors that we gave up pursuing a career in science. Besides, we weren't any worse than our friends, and going along with the gang made life a lot more comfortable. We have lots of excuses for why things go wrong, and—as with any lie worth its salt—most of them contain some truth.