Worth Reading - 3/30

1. Nicholas Kristof defends evangelical Christians in this weekend's New York Times:

Today, among urban Americans and Europeans, “evangelical Christian” is sometimes a synonym for “rube.” In liberal circles, evangelicals constitute one of the few groups that it’s safe to mock openly.

Yet the liberal caricature of evangelicals is incomplete and unfair. I have little in common, politically or theologically, with evangelicals or, while I’m at it, conservative Roman Catholics. But I’ve been truly awed by those I’ve seen in so many remote places, combating illiteracy and warlords, famine and disease, humbly struggling to do the Lord’s work as they see it, and it is offensive to see good people derided.

2. Aaron Earls takes a more detailed look at the hyperventilation over boycotting Indiana for protecting religious freedom. Here is a helpful analysis of what the RFRA bill actually entails and what you will have to do to be consistent if you decide to boycott Indiana:

After Indiana governor Mike Pence signed a state-level Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), many people are calling for a boycott.

The NCAA, headquartered in Indianapolis, is “concerned” about the ramifications. The NFL is “studying” the bill. Other groups have already decided it’s time for a all out boycott of the entire state. But they might want to reconsider that response.

While I understand the desire to be passionate about your closely held beliefs (ironic since that’s what the RFRA is designed to protect), a boycott of Indiana will not be enough. In order to be consistent, protestors will have to stretch that boycott far beyond the Hoosier state.

Currently, 19 states, including Indiana, have passed RFRA laws (AL, CT, FL, ID, IN, IL, KS, KY, LA, MO, MS, NM, OK, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, and VA). Seeing Texas on the list, is the NFL planning on taking the Super Bowl away from Houston in 2017?

In addition, there are 10 other states where courts have interpreted their laws to provide the same type of religious protections (AK, MA, ME, MI, MN, MT, NC, OH, WA, and WI). If they want to be consistent, I guess the NCAA has to be “concerned” about the 2019 Final Four in Minneapolis.

3. The lament of a parent and educator over the process of education as it now stands:

My seventeen-year-old son has just completed fifteen examinations in the course of two weeks. They varied in length – some in excess of three hours, with a half hour break before the next exam – and we are still feeling the fallout from this veritable onslaught. These were not ‘the real exams’ – the ones that ‘counted’ – the ones that will help to discriminate between the sheep and the goats, who gets into university (and which ones of course), and who will be left outside the doors. Theoretically, then, the pressure on him should not have been so very great, at least not as pronounced as it will be a few months from now.

Not only as a mother, but as an educator, I cannot help but wonder about this process. Looking at my son, increasingly silent and exhausted, it is hard not to feel that formal education – at least at this particular juncture in his life – is anything but a stimulus to thinking in a deep and creative way about the world around him. As a young child he was nick-named ‘What if’, always posing questions about how the world might be transformed. It will be a miracle if that sense of curiosity and wonder is not beaten out of him by the time he graduates.

4. How not to read the Bible if you want to remain a Christian. An interaction with John Dominic Crossan's recent book.

The God of the Christian Bible is a God of perfection. A God who deals with sin in the crucifixion of Christ since we could not bear the weight of his law ourselves. As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, he came not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. On the cross, Jesus experienced the retributive justice of God on behalf of his people. God’s wrath was poured out on Christ, and the resurrection proves that he satisfied that wrath. Christians look forward to God’s restoration of his creation, the day when all things will be perfect again.

Crossan doesn’t have any faith that God will restore things. It’s up to us. Crossan says in an interview, “We invent a Second Coming because we cannot tolerate the first one, which is the only one.” In Crossan’s understanding of the Incarnation, Jesus came to tell us to share and to avoid violence, and it’s up to us to follow his advice. Jesus the Messiah becomes Jesus the kindergarten teacher. Crossan thinks this message of nonviolence is so urgent because now we have nuclear weapons, and he suggests that some fool fundamentalist will use these nukes to bring about the Apocalypse. But this won’t be a Biblical apocalypse of judgment that ends in restoration. It’s just the end of evolution. It’s somewhat amusing to see that Crossan hasn’t outgrown his generation’s fear of nuclear winter.