Worth Reading - 3/30

1. Christians often celebrate the goodness of conversion, but de-conversion is becoming another prominent theme where previously professed Christians disavow their earlier faith. This article at Reformation 21 continues an earlier discussion on the theme.

Apostasy often begins by avoiding worship, including the preaching and teaching of the Word. Hebrews’ unknown writer warns his audience against, “neglecting to meet together ...” ‘Neglect’ is too weak; it should read, “To utterly forsake...” Christ’s Church. It’s not sleeping in a couple snowy Sundays a year!

People fall for various reasons. Some find the teaching too strong, too hard, or too mainline Biblical for their taste. Whatever their reasons, they wish their minister would dish up a different spiritual diet. Jesus had followers who found His teaching too ‘hard’, so they “no longer walked with him.” (Isaiah 30:9-11, John 6:60-66)

Or perhaps being seen with ‘those eccentric Christians’ was embarrassing, compared to those in their office or social circles. Or perhaps they rebelled against Biblical morality.

Again, maybe they mouthed the words too long. One day, they ask themselves, “Do I really believe this?” Or they succumb to American individualism, thinking of it as “finding my own space.” So they ease up when they should go deeper.

For whatever reason, apostates abandon the churches they once knew and loved. Some adopt a distorted ‘Christianity’, crafted to suit themselves. They attend ‘alternative Bible studies’. They often say, “Well, that’s what you believe, but I like to think of God as....” They think Almighty God is amenable to their definition of Him.

2. I generally don't engage in the gun control debate, because it is fruitlessly circular. This article from the left-leaning New York Magazine argues for gun control, but points out that there is not an epidemic of school shootings and it is unwise, dishonest, and unhelpful to argue there is one.

By keeping the national spotlight on the mass murder at their high school — and calling on their peers across the country to walk out of their schools, so as to “no longer risk their lives waiting for someone else to take action to stop the epidemic of mass school shootings” in the United States — the theater kids of Marjory Stoneman Douglas have built the broadest public consensus for gun-safety measures that America has seen in a quarter-century.

But they’ve also (inadvertently) triggered a moral panic about the safety of America’s schools that has little basis in empirical reality — and which is already lending momentum to policies that would increase juvenile incarceration, waste precious educational resources on security theater, and bring more guns into our nation’s classrooms.

On Tuesday in Tallahassee, Republicans in Florida’s state legislature advanced a law that aims to put one police officer — and ten gun-wielding teachers — into every public school in the state. The $67 million “school marshal” program would provide teachers who volunteer to be emergency gunslingers with a $500 stipend, a background check, drug test, psychological exam, and 132 hours of training. In total, the bill’s school safety measures come at a price tag of $400 million. One piece of that package — an increase in funding for mental health counselors — is laudable. The rest are either unnecessary or actively dangerous. The average salary for a teacher in Florida is nearly $10,000 less than the national mean; its public school system consistently ranks among the bottom half of U.S. states. This is not a place that can afford to misallocate hundreds of millions of dollars in educational funds.

3. Some proponents of increasing the size of the welfare programs in the US argue that absolute, abject, or extreme poverty is a major problem in the US, with millions in that state. This article from National Review argues that the statistics used by some advocates of redistribution ignore the existing benefits from welfare programs, which significantly reduces the reality of poverty in the US.

The omission and undercounting of welfare aid is particularly troubling. For example, in 2016, federal, state, and local governments spent $223 billion on cash, food, and housing benefits for low-income families with children, an amount three times that needed to eliminate all official poverty and ten times that needed to wipe out deep poverty among them. But the Census Bureau’s income surveys counted only $7.6 billion of this spending for purposes of assessing poverty or deep poverty.

A more accurate picture of the economic resources of low-income households can be obtained from the Consumer Expenditure Survey (CEX), collected by the U.S. Census Bureau and published by the U.S. Department of Labor. This survey contains detailed, self-reported household expenditures for each month and indirectly captures much of the income and many of the benefits missing in income surveys. The CEX routinely shows that low-income households spend $2.40 for every $1 of income that the Census Bureau claims they have.

Our analysis of the CEX shows that the number of Americans living on less than $4 per day is effectively zero. Since 1980, the CEX has reported on the annual consumption expenditures of 222,170 households. Of these 222,170 cases, 175 reported spending less than $4 per person per day. That’s one household in 1,270.

4. Recently Planned Parenthood (which is apparently not all about abortion, except when it is all about abortion) Tweeted they wanted a Disney princess who had had an abortion. Anne Kennedy takes on that macabre idea with wit and grace.

Reality does have a habit, though, of bashing its way in. The truth for most girls in no way resembles the cartoon. There is no prince charming. There are no pinks and purples. You have to grow up, and if you can avoid being groped by the rich, the famous, the politician, the sex trafficker, you can probably get a desk job somewhere and work and work and work. Maybe you do have a run in with planned parenthood at some point. But you don’t mince breezily in with little twittering birds lighting your way. You drag your feet. Sometimes your boyfriend drags you, or your mother. And when you come out you’re not dancing, you’re limping. I know because I stood by and watched and prayed sometime ago. The rich and famous who vaunt their abortions are not like the young women facing a gray hopeless life, caught in systemic poverty and family dysfunction that never seems to have a door that opens out. Planned Parentood promised to be the door, but turned out they didn’t even have a lock into which to put a key, and they have no key.

5. I've appreciated Andrew Peterson's music greatly over the past few years. Trevin Wax just published an annotated guide to the music of Andrew Peterson.

No contemporary songwriter has had a greater effect on my life than Andrew Peterson. His first album appeared the year I moved to Romania as a missionary student, and since that time, his songs have become part of the soundtrack for my life and faith.

Andrew’s work resonates with me for several reasons.

First, Andrew expresses a childlike wonder toward this world and our place in it, waking us up and seizing our imaginations until we see—truly see—the wonders of existence. I gravitate toward music and books that lead me in the way of wonder.
Second, Andrew’s albums are steeped in biblical allusions and Scriptural imagery—all of which grow more powerful the more you study Scripture and the more you put his songs on “repeat.” There’s a richness to his lyrics that rewards the contemplative listener.
Third, Andrew’s songs bear the mark of authenticity, giving voice to a faith that is firm in its grasp of the truth and yet honest in its experience of doubt or suffering. The result is a compelling portrait of Christianity in all of its messy glory.