Worth Reading - 4/6

1. Utah has made provision that ensures "free range" parenting will remain legal. This post by Joe Carter reminds us that free range parenting is the way things used to be.

My parents should have been jailed for child neglect.

At least that’s what would be their fate if I were growing up today. Fortunately for them (and for me), I was a child during the 1970s, a time when kids were (mostly) free to explore the world.

At age seven I was allowed to wander a mile in each direction from my home. By age nine I was exploring the underground sewers and drainage system of Wichita Falls, Texas. When I was a 12 I was given a .22 semi-automatic rifle and allowed to roam the woods all day. I had almost total freedom as long as I agreed to one condition: I had to take my younger brother along with me.

We didn’t have cellphones to serve as electronic leashes; we merely had the setting sun as a guide to when we had to be home. Until dusk, our parents rarely knew where on the planet we were.

2. An article about kids from impoverished backgrounds finding their way through top level universities and struggling to find their identity in light of the privilege around them

As these brilliant children of housecleaners and bus drivers move through the higher-education system, they are struggling to reconcile what it means to go from being poor to being privileged: Low-income students who are the first generation in their families to go to college now represent about 15 percent of top college enrollments. Many feel an acute pressure to succeed. Many are conflicted about whether to go for a platinum paycheck or save the world. More broadly, many are struggling to navigate one of the most difficult transitions in a modern, developed society – moving from one socioeconomic class to another.

As Brown puts it with simple mathematical precision, “I am trying to work through what it means to be who I am.”

The most exalted schools in higher education don’t come with warning labels: This will change your life. Your relationship with your family. Even how you identify yourself. For generations of privileged students who filled these campuses, after all, the environment was familiar. It was what was “normal,” comfortable.

3. This post in the Chicago Tribune reminds us that poverty has changed a lot for the better thanks to capitalism. Also, the narrative that poor people go liberal is a myth.

Last week, in her State of the Union response, Joni Ernst mentioned going to school with bread bags on her feet to protect her shoes. These sorts of remembrances of poor but honest childhoods used to be a staple among politicians — that’s why you’ve heard so much about Abe Lincoln’s beginnings in a log cabin. But the bread bags triggered a lot of hilarity on Twitter, which in turn triggered this powerful meditation from Peggy Noonan on how rich we have become — so rich that we have forgotten things that are well within living memory.

I am a few years younger than Noonan, but I grew up in a very different world — one where a number of my grammar school classmates were living in public housing or on food stamps, but everyone had more than one pair of shoes. In rural areas, like the one where Jodi Ernst grew up, this lingered longer. But all along, Americans got richer and things got cheaper — especially when global markets opened up. Payless will sell you a pair of child’s shoes for $15, which is two hours of work even at minimum wage.

4. A thoughtful post from Tim Challies asking what constitutes a "gospel issue."

I believe Carson summarizes the matter well: “To affirm something is or is not a gospel issue is not a transparent expression. It is likely to be clearest among those who share a common confession as to what the gospel is. It is useful only when it means something more stringent than that X can be tied in some way to the gospel: one must show that without this X the gospel itself is seriously threatened.” This is key: “It is always wise to recognize that some topics are hugely important on grounds other than gospel issues and that our choice of topics is generated in part by our perception of the threats and errors of our own age.” In other words, it’s not necessary to demand a doctrine is acknowledged as a gospel issue in order to affirm its importance.

Speaking personally, I have probably used the phrase “X is a gospel issue” from time to time, but have been trying not to. I want to find more helpful, more accurate, and more time-tested ways to distinguish between issues that are absolutely central to a right understanding of the Christian faith and those that, though still important, are peripheral. I especially want to ensure I’m not labeling my pet doctrine a gospel issue simply as a means to prevail in arguments. After all, if everything’s a gospel issue, I guess nothing’s a gospel issue.

5. Recently, the ERLC and TGC combined forces to host a celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life, 50 years after his death. This interview by Russell Moore of John Perkins is worth your time.