Category Archives: culture

Coming (Back) to America: Coming Back to Commercials

I can’t believe it’s been over 25 years since Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall teamed up in the movie Coming to America. Murphy plays an African prince who divests himself of his royal prerogatives and moves to Queens to find a bride that would accept him for who he is and who he can respect for her strength, intelligence and independence. It’s Murphy and Hall in their prime and it’s worth watching again just for the barber shop scene.

With the  move back to the States after eight years of living in Grand Cayman, I’ve toyed around with the idea of starting a blog called “Coming (Back) to America.” I daydreamed about writing lots of posts full of Bill Bryson-style insight and humor about what America is like (or I’m like) after eight years in another culture. Alas… I’m not that creative or observant. So rather than a blog, I’ll try my hand at a couple of posts sprinkled here and there.

Here’s the first thing I notice about living in the States again: commercials. Well, truthfully, I didn’t notice them. My seven year old son Titus noticed them. All of them!

Here’s the thing: In Cayman we never had cable or watched network television. We relied on DVDs, Netflix, or something on Apple TV. This meant commercials never interrupted our programming–not even during the annual commercial feast called the Super Bowl. Since Titus was born in Cayman, his entire seven years of life have been lived in our commercial-free Siberia.

But coming back …

Also posted in Cayman Islands, community | | 10 Comments

Are Christians Prone to Over-Compensate for Cultural “Losses”?

Is the state of the culture a report card for the church?

I think I first heard Kevin DeYoung and John Piper ask and answer that question. They both concluded “no.” I think I agree with them. There is no direct relationship between the effectiveness of the church and the broader unbelieving culture.

Yet, it seems most Christians tend to assume a relationship. If the church was doing _____ then the culture wouldn’t ______. Because the church is weak in _____ the society is experiencing ______.

Many Christians too readily draw these kinds of conclusions. I think it’s well-intended. What Christian doesn’t want to see the church have a lasting positive impact on their society?

But I’m concerned that this thinking, especially among preachers and pastors, might be contributing to some unhealthiness in the church. I don’t know if I’m right about this, so you all chime in with your perspective. But it seems to me that some well-meaning leaders who use the state of “the culture” as a report card for the church sometimes end up hurting the church.

The church hurt comes from an overcompensation. My wife has chronic shoulder pain. It probably got started when our children were young and needed rear-facing car seats. She would very often stretch and contort her shoulder to reach and adjust a pacifier or pick up some toy that fell in the back seat. Pretty soon she had sharp pains in her shoulder. Being an excellent doctor but not a very good patient, she refused to …

Also posted in Christianity and politics, church practices, pastoral ministry | | 9 Comments

Usually I Hate TV Commercials

Most television commercials merely interrupt the regularly scheduled programming. When I do watch television, it’s the programming I want to see, not the incessant enticements to part with my money. Usually they bore me or offend me with appeals to sinful desires.

But every once in a while I find a commercial that actually moves me, that edifies me, and maybe even contributes to my life. Then those 30 seconds seem like an investment with big return. The “Unsung Hero” commercials of Thai Life are the latest surprise for me. They’re actually three minutes that are so well done they don’t feel any longer than the typical 30 second slots. Simple. Poignant. Real. Sweaty with life. Hopeful. Surprising.

Take a look:

I love the line, “He witnesses happiness.” Oh, may it be so!

Here’s another one:

This one rocked me:

I was touched by the devotion in this one:

Then I had to go to bed after this one!

You can find a good number of these commercials if you search youtube for “thai insurance commercials.” Usually I hate commercials, but I love these. In an age of entertainment and advertising characterized by either titillation or banality, there are few things that really move us. These 3-minute commercials show that it can be done, on low budgets, with a little honesty about what matters in life.

Of course, there are lessons here for preaching, too. Less very often is more. While the preached work can’t paint a picture the same way video can, we preachers can work to paint …

Also posted in communication, video | | 4 Comments

Communicating Authentic Love by Not Resorting to Unhelpful Comparisons

This is a guest post by Joani, devoted wife and mother of five adventuresome boys aged 7-16. A former homeschooling mom, she now serves as Assistant Director/Client Services Director at East Texas Pregnancy Help Center and studies at Liberty University. She is eternally grateful for her Saviour who redeemed her life. She is as kind a woman you will ever meet, and she also plays a mean violin! In this post she continues to evaluate different ways of speaking about abortion. You can read her first post here.

“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22)

We all can recount in our own individual lives memories of past suffering.  Deep hurts.  The type of hurt that makes you desperate to see a light somewhere, the pain that makes you wonder if you will ever recover, and the anguish that gives you sleepless nights…. and the taunting belief that you’ll never feel “ok” again.  My friend sat before me, tears streaming down her cheeks.  A choice stared her in the face bleakly, as she struggled to cope with what seemed impossible.  Alone.  Scarred.  Betrayed.  Now here she sat, left with an unplanned pregnancy, heartbreak, and a life deteriorating disease.  The choice was actually, dare I breathe again?    Memories flooded my mind as a reminder of emotions that I had experienced with my own crisis pregnancy that actually brought me to the doors of an …

Also posted in Christianity and politics | | 3 Comments

CHH: “Christian Hip Hop” or “Controversial Hip Hop”

I’m just back from a refreshing and edifying time with saints at New Word Alive. New Word Alive is a family Bible conference held each year in North Wales. If you’re in the U.K.,  I can’t recommend it enough for its focus on the word of God, evangelism, and Christian fellowship. It was a joy to take part.

Of course, spending a week at a largely internet-free campground in North Wales means you’re a little out of the loop when it comes to the goings ons of the Christian world. And when it’s the world of Christian hip hop, the cultural black hole is even more pronounced. I loved the saints at New Word Alive, and the worship was wonderful, but there wasn’t much boom-bap happening.

So, I was a little surprised to see some of the internet brouhaha over shai linne’s new single, “Fal$e Teacher$.” In the single, shai takes aim at a host of prosperity gospel and word-faith teachers. It’s not the first time he (or others for that matter) has critiqued such teaching in his music. In response to the single, Bradley Knight, son of Paula White, posted an open letter to shai in defense of his mother’s ministry. Christianity Today picked up on the issue. Lisa Robinson at Parchment and Pen offered reflections based on her years inside prosperity congregations. Mark at Here I Blog added some source support for the song’s denunciations. Those were the first 4-5 entries in my quick google …

Also posted in Gospel, hip hop, Prosperity Gospel, Shai Linne | | 29 Comments

A “Black and Tan” Round-Up

For the past couple of weeks, Douglas Wilson and I have carried on a discussion of his book, Black and Tan. The book and its prequel, Southern Slavery As It Was, triggered controversy that’s lasted these last ten years or so. Our exchanges have been charitable and frequent. I thought it might be good to include a post-by-post round-up for anyone wishing to follow the discussion as it evolved. I think I’ve gotten them all, but there have been a lot of posts, sometimes seemingly posted only minutes after one or the other of us have hit “post.” So, if I missed one or more, please charge it to my head (and eyesight) not my heart.

Why Respond Publicly to Douglas Wilson’s “Black and Tan”? (TA)

A brief post explaining how I became involved in this discussion and listing five reasons I think it wise to proceed with a public discussion rather than a private one.

Douglas Wilson’s Views on Race, Racism, Slavery and the Bible (TA)

I attempt (successfully, according to Wilson) to summarize the main argument and points included in Black and Tan. I quote at length Wilson’s comments rejecting racism and slavery, and attempt to summarize Wilson’s motivation for writing Black and Tan.

Does the Driving Logic of “Black and Tan” Hold Up? (TA)

I attempt to address three basic aspects of the book: (1) the underlying logic guiding the entire book, (2) the exegetical case for slavery as a permissible institution, and (3) the historical claim that the South as a nation …

Also posted in books, Christianity and politics, race, Slavery, Uncategorized | | 53 Comments

Why Respond Publicly to Douglas Wilson’s “Black and Tan”?

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything on the blog. After nearly two weeks in Israel and a few days at Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church for their annual missions conference, I’m finally coming out of a brief internet hiatus.

I wish I were returning to the blogosphere under different circumstances. But last week I got myself involved in one of the periodic internet spats that happens among God’s people. Someone on twitter asked me what I thought about Bryan Lorrits’ lament over Douglas Wilson’s book Black and Tan, and I responded honestly. Here’s the exchange:



In return, Doug Wilson responded to Bryan Loritts, Anthony Bradley, Eric Mason and myself with this post. So, my 280-character tweet with three retweets has triggered another round of comments regarding Wilson’s Black and Tan.

Now, it’s almost a matter of evangelical orthodoxy that disagreements ought to be handled privately and that critics should contact the folks they’re critiquing before they say anything publicly. No doubt some reader has already thought that perhaps Loritts’ and my tweets should have never occurred without the prerequisite private confab. Since that sentiment seems popular …

Also posted in Bible, biblical theology, books, Christianity and politics | | 94 Comments

Learning to Be the Moral Minority from a Moral Minority

In recent weeks the evangelical world has found itself reeling from cultural setbacks it once took for granted. The re-election of President Obama, state passage of “gay marriage” initiatives, the uninviting of Louie Gigglio to the Inauguration, and even last night’s Super Bowl have signaled to some that Christians and Christianity have lost their welcome place in the public square. For the first time, some evangelical conservatives feel like an oppressed minority in the country.

As I’ve watched the chatter mixed with laments and jeremiads, I couldn’t help but think of Jerry Falwell’s “Moral Majority,” founded in the late 70’s and defunct by the late 80’s. For nearly a decade, the Moral Majority exercised its political voice largely in southern states.

It seems to me that the very notion of a “moral majority” rested on two assumptions that some evangelicals no longer find tenable. First, it assumed the basic morality of most of the country. It assumed basic “Judeo-Christian principles” shaped and framed the moral reasoning of the average citizen, making your “average Joe” basically friendly to the aims and concerns of conservative Christians. Second, it assumed privilege. The very notion of “majority” suggests strength in numbers, a perch from which to rule for no other reason than outnumbering one’s opponents. The last couple months have upturned both of those long-standing assumptions and some evangelicals find themselves at a loss for how to handle it, claiming to be “persecuted,” “rejected,” and “shut out” from the public square. Many who …

Also posted in Christian living, Christianity, Christianity and politics, persecution, perseverance | | 38 Comments

Around the Blog in 80 Seconds: Kicking Off Black History Month

It’s February. The shortest month of the year. That must mean it’s Black History Month.

Yet, as Trillia Newbill has written at DG, Black history is an every day thing. And more than just Black history, it’s the history of all people willing to be enriched by the wisdom and experience of others.

In honor of this time of celebration, a number of folks have offered useful reflections. The following are links to just a couple I read yesterday and this morning:

Jemar Tisby offers five reasons we should celebrate Black History Month.

Charles M. Blow pens a NY Times OpEd, “Rosa Parks, Revisited.” In it he reports a few tidbits from a new biography on Mrs. Parks, a biography that aims to shift our image from a tired, docile domestic to a strong-minded, purposeful advocate.

Bob Kellemen begins a look at “heroes of the Black church” with an excerpt on the life of Bishop Daniel Alexander Payne from his book, Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African-American Soul Care.

The Nation reprinted a June 23, 1926 essay from Langston Hughes entitled “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain.” Hughes offers his thoughts on Negro self-hatred and class aspirations, and the impact they have on the ability to perceive and artistically express Negro beauty. It is an important essay for understanding some of the themes and tropes that have shaped Black artistic, intellectual and social production since the Harlem Renaissance. These words have application to more than just …

Also posted in African American church, history, race | | 3 Comments

A Few Reasons King’s Vision for America Remains Unfulfilled

Across the United States, persons will commemorate the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Rightly so. God used Dr. King to save America from her fratricidal hatred of her darker brothers. In an unanticipated and much longed for historical moment orchestrated in the councils of Divine Providence, God raised Dr. King onto the national scene as the visionary, orator and martyr for Civil Rights. Before the Montgomery Bus Boycott, full civil rights seemed distant and nearly impossible to achieve. After roughly 20 years of public ministry and agitation, the denial of full Civil Rights seemed unthinkable. What happened in between must surely be one of the most remarkable records of God’s deliverance of any people in any place.

At least one writer contends that Dr. King is or was the only American hero of his time. He writes:

Have we, in America, had a hero in our time–that is, since World War II? I can think of only one man with a serious claim, Martin Luther King. The theme was high, the occasion was noble, the stage open to the world’s eye, the courage clear and against the odds. And martyrdom came to purge all dross away. King seems made for the folk consciousness, and the folk consciousness is the Valhalla of the true hero–not the gossip column. King may even, someday, enter into the folk consciousness of the white world, which may yet underlie, at what depth it is hard to guess, the Culture of Blab (Robert Penn …

Also posted in Barack Obama, Christianity and politics, politics | | 11 Comments