Worth Reading - 5/19

Here are some links worth reading this weekend.

1. The Harvard Business Review published an intriguing argument that having multiple careers is beneficial to innovation and productivity:

When you work different jobs, you can identify where ideas interact — and more significantly, where they should interact. “It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing,” said Steve Jobs, who was the embodiment of interdisciplinary thinking.

Because of Hurricane Katrina, many musicians left New Orleans. In order to generate funds to help musicians in the city, I could have created a typical nonprofit organization that solicits people for money. Instead, I helped create a more sustainable solution: a brokerage for musicians that I described as Wall Street meets Bourbon Street. People wanting to book a musician for a party in New York could find a band on my organization’s website, which would then ask the booker to add a “tip” which would be allocated to a New Orleans-based charity. The booker (who in some cases were my corporate clients) easily found a band for the party, the New York City-based musician got a gig, and the charity in New Orleans got a small donation. Because of my time working at a bank, I was able to create a different type of organization, one which has since merged with an even larger charitable organization.

When you follow your curiosities, you will bring passion to your new careers, which will leave you more fulfilled. And by doing more than one job, you may end up doing all of them better.

2. A long-form essay from the Atlantic telling the story of the life of a household slave in America in the 20th century. It's a powerful story told well.

Lieutenant Tom had as many as three families of utusans living on his property. In the spring of 1943, with the islands under Japanese occupation, he brought home a girl from a village down the road. She was a cousin from a marginal side of the family, rice farmers. The lieutenant was shrewd—he saw that this girl was penniless, unschooled, and likely to be malleable. Her parents wanted her to marry a pig farmer twice her age, and she was desperately unhappy but had nowhere to go. Tom approached her with an offer: She could have food and shelter if she would commit to taking care of his daughter, who had just turned 12.

Lola agreed, not grasping that the deal was for life.

“She is my gift to you,” Lieutenant Tom told my mother.

“I don’t want her,” my mother said, knowing she had no choice.

Lieutenant Tom went off to fight the Japanese, leaving Mom behind with Lola in his creaky house in the provinces. Lola fed, groomed, and dressed my mother. When they walked to the market, Lola held an umbrella to shield her from the sun. At night, when Lola’s other tasks were done—feeding the dogs, sweeping the floors, folding the laundry that she had washed by hand in the Camiling River—she sat at the edge of my mother’s bed and fanned her to sleep.

3. Karen Swallow Prior penned a thoughtful plea for hospitable orthodoxy at Christianity Today. It offers one potential approach to public engagement on doctrinal issues.

Nor is it easy in a world so defined by a gnostic dichotomy between spiritual and physical to insist that the Incarnation and the Resurrection—God becoming man and dwelling among us, dying on the cross and rising from the dead—are facts as true as the law of gravity.

Yet, the Bible exhorts Christians to speak “the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). We are obligated to emulate the example of Jesus, who balanced in beautiful harmony the demands of both love and truth. Those of us concerned with not abandoning truth as we speak in love find the cultural waters today increasingly difficult to navigate.

Contemporary Christian discipleship, in particular, poses new challenges. A few months ago, one of my former students contacted me to express her concern about the state of women’s discipleship, specifically, and her desire to practice more discernment about the women leaders she follows. Some, she said, “are about ‘all the feels’ rather than rooted in truth.” She continued, “As a woman, I feel that we are particularly vulnerable right now because our culture is targeting us—politically and spiritually. Our votes, support, and opinions are being battled for.”

Now we are witnessing some of these battles over truth and orthodoxy being lost. While there is some debate about the precise definition, orthodox Christian belief consists of sound doctrine derived from a faithful reading of Scripture and informed by the millennia-long history of biblical interpretation, the witness of the early church, and the creeds. As I survey the lines demarcating Christian belief, I wonder if some of those who have drifted over to heterodoxy—both men and women—might have stayed with us if the contemporary church were better at a particularly powerful form of discipleship: hospitable orthodoxy.

4. This article about Andy Davis from First Baptist Church of Durham and his work in renewing that dead, liberal church is well worth your time to read.

Committing to verse-by-verse preaching makes challenging topics unavoidable when they arise through the course of a book, but it also prevents pastors from owning a bully pulpit from which to address hot-button issues and speak out against internal strife. Taking another cue from Calvin (who, after being forced out of Geneva, returned in 1541 and picked up where he left off in his exposition of Psalms), Davis avoids speaking on church conflicts. When Davis lost an early battle in 2001 to change the church bylaws to clarify male-exclusive leadership, he showed up the next Sunday and continued preaching through Romans. This approach hasn’t changed, even when a growth in new membership allowed for the bylaw change to pass decisively a year later.

But Davis has found secularism an abiding threat. When he preached on biblical marriage from Hebrews 13 at the end of a two-year sermon series on the book, a local woman who visited that Sunday organized a protest outside the church the following week.

“If you faithfully preach the Word and you don’t shrink back from those controversial, pointed topics, you’re going to have a hard time,” Davis said. “I think it’s going to get worse in our culture. I think Christianity is going to become more and more controversial and Satan is going to try to marginalize. Christians are going to have to learn to be winsomely countercultural and stand up and make hard arguments.”

5. Aaron Earls hits on an important topic of people being sorry they (or others) are parenting in "times like these." His point is simple, but appropriate: God chose times like these for us to parent.

Christian parents don’t need your pity. They do, however, desperately need your prayers.

Pray for the parents in your life. But do so to encourage us, to strengthen us in the faith, not because these days are so much different from others.

Don’t lead us, through your pity, to cast our eyes on the wind and waves swirling around us. Remind us, pray for us to fix our eyes on Jesus.

The same One that guided previous generations of Christian parents seeking to raise Christian children is the same One we need today.

He is not taken by surprise by those of us who are parents. My wife and I brought four kids into this wild and crazy world, but we did it through the gracious, sovereign hand of our good Father.

We need your prayers to help us constantly be mindful of this fact. Your pity only encourages us to turn our gaze elsewhere.

Instead of responding to a parent with, “I don’t know how you do it,” you’d be serving and encouraging us much more by saying, “In Christ, I know you can do it. I’m praying for you.”

Worth Reading - 5/5

1. Timothy George's article at First Things on Harry Emerson Fosdick is a great piece of history and an enjoyable read.

Albert C. Outler once said that the story of Fosdick’s life was the biopsy of an epoch. It is certainly true that Fosdick cut a swath across the twentieth century, including both world wars and the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy in between. By the 1920s, Fosdick had emerged as the major Progressive voice in the American Protestant pulpit. Millions were listening to his voice each week on the “National Vespers Hour,” and thousands were crowding to hear him speak. In 1924, a newspaper carried the headline: “Crowd Smashed Door: Near Riot to Hear Fosdick.” In response to such outpourings, John D. Rockefeller spent four million dollars to construct the Gothic Riverside Church as a marquee preaching venue for Fosdick. Fosdick was pastor of Riverside from its opening in 1930 until his retirement in 1946. Long before Norman Vincent Peale had developed his own distinctive brand of therapeutic preaching, Fosdick perfected his pulpit performance, a style of preaching defined as “personal counseling on a group scale.”

2. I haven't seen a fidget spinner and certainly don't have any in my house, but this essay in the Chicago Tribute opposing them is a humorous critique of the latest fad among kids.

I don’t know who planted these devices in our country, but it was clearly a malicious act intended to distract us from more important issues, like the latest versions of smartphones and foreign countries itching to invade America.

Many fidget spinners are manufactured in China — I know this because my extremely focused son recently bought a pack of 10 spinners from a Chinese distributor. (I wish I was making that up.) So I suspect China is behind this so-called fad.

At the rate things are going, the Chinese military could overrun the West Coast and our children would be too distracted with their fidget spinners to notice anything, and we adults would be too distracted by our annoyance with fidget spinners to care. There have been times lately, amid the incessant whir of spinners and the occasional yelp of a sleeping dog struck by a dropped spinner, when a Chinese invasion would have been downright refreshing.

3. Occasionally when I travel, I've been known to get on public WiFi. Usually it is to check weather, find out about my departure time, or something routine like that. This article in the Harvard Business Review makes me want to avoid even that at all cost. 

It isn’t hard to see that a few moments of online convenience are far outweighed by your money or financial information being stolen, or by suffering the embarrassment of your personal information being publicly released. According to a recent opinion poll, more people are leery of public Wi-Fi networks than of public toilet seats (a promising sign). But an interesting experiment, conducted at the 2016 Republican and Democratic National Conventions, showed attendees’ true colors. At each convention, private entities provided visitors with free public Wi-Fi networks (for social science purposes). Around 70% of people connected to the nonsecure Wi-Fi networks at both conferences.

Security consultants often find that sex can be an attention-grabbing metaphor to get a client’s attention. When we lecture businesspeople about cybersecurity, we compare the dangers of using public Wi-Fi to the risks of having unprotected sex. In both cases, not taking the necessary precautions can lead to lasting harm. For mobile devices, the harm is digital: the theft of your personal data, such as passwords, financial information, or private pictures or videos. You’re rolling the dice every time you log on to a free network in a coffee shop, hotel lobby, or airport lounge.

4. This article from The Gospel Coalition is an impressive testimony of God's faithfulness, the courage of some of his servants, and a powerful account of gospel redemption:

But Starr kept coming back. “It took us six months to build any sort of trust,” she said. “Now I understand why trust is so hard for them. It’s hard to believe in God when everybody on earth has failed you.”

Buoyed by her success, Starr approached another club, then another. She began sending teams of two or three Christian friends out to each club with a meal every Thursday night. They’d stay for a few hours, serving either in the dressing room (“It’s a good way to build relationships, because they’re doing their hair and makeup and don’t have to pretend to be somebody else”) or on the floor (“It’s a great witness to everyone who walks in the club”).

Within a few weeks, some of the women began asking for help. One was addicted to heroin. Another was homeless and living in her car. Another really wanted to go back to school.

Starr couldn’t refer them to anyone else—“I could count on one hand the number of organizations [across the country] doing similar work.”

So she started investing in one person at a time. The first was an 18-year-old who wanted to go to culinary school. Starr, who at one point made wedding cakes as a side job, was immediately empathetic.

And when Starr helped her carry her bags up to her attic apartment one night, she was heartbroken to discover “the only thing she had in there was a princess sleeping bag. She used her dance duffel bag as her pillow.”

5. I had hoped the story was fake news, but all signs point to it being real. A jewelry company will make custom jewelry out of the corpses of children rejected after IVF. Aaron Earls deals carefully, but thoughtfully with how horrifying this is.

At least one company is incinerating living human embryos in order to create jewelry. This is a thing that is happening.

I am not questioning the intent or heart of the Staffords, Baby Bee Hummingbirds or anyone else, but I am saying that intent is not all that matters.

Stafford, like the unknowing mother bird who sits on her chick until it suffocates, has destroyed her children in an effort to show her love for them.

I don’t pretend to know the pain that comes with infertility and the relief it brings to have children when you thought it impossible. That has not been the path for my wife and I.

But I do know the pain of losing a child before they are born. I also know that every human life is created in the image of God and should not be destroyed—even by a mother who loves her children and wants to keep them with her. Especially by a mother who loves her children.

Again, I am not attempting to deny Stafford’s feelings. I’m arguing she should not follow those feelings because of the harm it does to other human lives.

Worth Reading - 7/22

1. Bernie Sanders is right. The economy is rigged. However, a recent article at Vox argues that the rigging of the economy is more a function of union protectionism and licensing boards than a corporate conspiracy.

Dentists rig the system against dental hygienists by working to make it illegal for hygienists to clean teeth without totally unnecessary supervision by dentists. Taxi medallion oligopolists rig the system against regular folks with cars who would like turn a buck giving people rides. Beauty school cosmetologists rig the system against hair braiders and sidewalk hair-clipper artistes. "Massage therapists" rig the system against anybody with strong hands who might want to give back rubs for cash.
About 30 percent of all jobs in the United States today require some sort of occupational license, up from 5 percent in the early 1950s. This rather dramatic shift is evidence that the economy has indeed become increasingly rigged — which is really just another word for "regulated."
But the rigging of the economy is not just the story of occupational licensing. It’s also the story of big-city gentrifiers who block construction projects that would reduce the cost of housing by expanding its supply, which has the effect of rigging the economy against workers who can no longer afford to live where the best jobs are.

2. Alan Noble, editor at Christ and Pop Culture and Star Wars aficionado, recently wrote a piece that calls for a different sort of culture in churches, including youth groups. There needs to be a space for struggle, and a reason for hope.

I needed to be told that God loved me and that whatever “authentic self” I was so desperately trying to piece together and display for all my peers to approve of, I would never really find it and I didn’t need to try to. I needed—and still need—a church that has space for sadness, fears and anxiety, depression and mental illness. I also need a church that doesn’t let me continue to believe the lie that my life is meaningless until I achieve something, or am loved by someone, or I craft some impressive identity.
All along, my identity was hidden in Christ’s finished work on the cross, an act of unmerited love that objectively grounded and sustained my being in the world regardless of how I felt or what I thought about myself.
The funny thing about working to make yourself good enough to be Christian is that you inevitably end up more self-absorbed and less assured of God’s love for you. If we are not careful, our youth groups and churches can easily develop a culture of image-making—Christians striving to define themselves, especially according to some Christian cultural norms, instead of resting in Christ’s definitive work. The gospel frees us from these endeavors and gives us the space to be fully human, with doubts and anxieties and loves, but also with the grace and love which flows from a heart unburdened by identity and committed to others.

3. Aaron Earls, author in residence at Wardrobe Door, explains that Christians need to embrace the role of villain in contemporary culture.

We are the villains.
Look at our culture’s obsession with radical personal autonomy. Society encourages us to be completely self-absorbed—look out for “number 1,” take care of you and yours.
While everything around us is saying your personal preference should be the deciding factor for every important decision, Christianity is asking us to put that aside for the sake of others.
Instead of getting our way and living how we want to live, we are asked to pick up our cross and die to ourselves. Following Christ means you should be interdependent with others. You should use your gifts to serve the church, working with others who are doing the same.
When others see this lifestyle, it—like our sexual ethic—seems odd and out of place in modern culture. In one sense, it seems too traditional. In another, too extreme.

4. From the New York Times, efforts at advancing renewable energy sources are pushing attempts to curb climate change off course. This includes the devaluing and shutting down of nuclear power, which is the best reliable, low-carbon energy source available.

In Southern Australia, where wind supplies more than a quarter of the region’s power, the spiking prices of electricity when the wind wasn’t blowing full-bore pushed the state government to ask the power company Engie to switch back on a gas-fired plant that had been shut down.
But in what may be the most worrisome development in the combat against climate change, renewables are helping to push nuclear power, the main source of zero-carbon electricity in the United States, into bankruptcy.
The United States, and indeed the world, would do well to reconsider the promise and the limitations of its infatuation with renewable energy.
“The issue is, how do we decarbonize the electricity sector, while keeping the lights on, keeping costs low and avoiding unintended consequences that could make emissions increase?” said Jan Mazurek, who runs the clean power campaign at the environmental advocacy group ClimateWorks.
Addressing those challenges will require a more subtle approach than just attaching more renewables to the grid.

5. Egalitarians have taken to smearing all complementarians with caricatures of abuse. One wife in a complementarian marriage answers some of a recent, vocal critic's questions on her blog.

Jesus condemned a personal-power view of authority. He condemned men who exercised authority in a selfish, domineering manner. He said, “It must not be like that among you!” (Mark 10:43-45)
The misuse/abuse of authority is an abomination to God. He wants leaders to be shepherds after His own heart. (Jeremiah 23:2; Ezekiel 34:1-4; Zechariah 11:17). Some of the Bible’s most scathing condemnations are directed toward leaders who fail to exercise authority in a godly manner. The Lord’s anger burns hot against them (Zechariah 10:3).
According to the Bible, a wife’s submission is her choice alone. A husband does not have the right to force or coerce her to do things against her will. He does not have the right to domineer. He does not have the right to pull rank and use strong-arm tactics. He does not have the right to make his wife submit. No. According to the author of our faith, it must not be like that among us!

6. From BBC, Switzerland is the nation that hates to be late. A fun, interesting read.

Whenever I visit Switzerland, I go through several stages of punctuality reaction. At first it delights me, especially if I’m coming from neighbouring Italy or France with their rather more flexible approach to timekeeping. By contrast, life in Switzerland is sturdy and dependable, like a Saint Bernard dog. If someone says they will meet me at 2 pm, they arrive at 2 pm not 2:05 (or 1:55, for that matter). I like this. For a while.  

Then it annoys me. The extreme punctuality strikes me as a kind of stinginess, and I find myself agreeing with the English writer Evelyn Waugh who said that “punctuality is the virtue of the bored.”

That is unfair though, and finally, invariably, I come to appreciate Swiss punctuality for what it is: a deep expression of respect for other people. A punctual person is a considerate one. By showing up on time – for everything – a Swiss person is saying, in effect, “I value your time and, by extension, I value you.”