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The Exploitation of Billy Graham

My previous blog was a warning against mixing pulpits and politics. I feel even more strongly so this week. A few days ago an aged Billy Graham allegedly came out in support of (Mormon) presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, calling all Christians (read evangelicals) to vote for him in the upcoming election. There are so many things wrong about this. Frankly, it just doesn’t sound like something the Billy Graham we have come to know and admire would do or say, especially in this final season of his very long life. I’m guessing that the 93-year old evangelist and his reputation are being exploited by right-wing politicos and certain key family members. Whatever is really going on in the backrooms, it is further proof of the Republican captivity of the contemporary evangelical church.
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Go Green, $ave Green

I’ve got a great new book to recommend to you, but first I have to set it up. Patience, please! Here we go. We know our planet is in peril. The growing human population of the earth, combined with the consumerist habits of this ever-increasing population, means that our current way of life is unsustainable. Either we change direction or we are all going over the cliff. This assessment, while not pretty, is beyond dispute among rational people.

Against this backdrop, Christians are finally beginning to pay attention.  More of us are thinking about the environment, and wondering whether we have an obligation to do something about its ominous degradation. This is indeed worth considering carefully. After all, Christianity is the world’s largest religion. The inferences we twenty-first century Christians draw from the wellsprings of our faith will have an enormous effect, constructive or destructive, on how the global environmental crisis will play out.
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Sad for Alberta

 

Alberta

 

Tar Sands

 

Alberta is just one of Canada’s ten provinces, but it has always held a special place in the national mythology. I am grateful that I was among the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who escaped from drab Toronto, and eventually found my way to this great province. That’s why I’m so sad about what’s happening there today. I am speaking, of course, of the moral and environmental disaster of the Alberta tar sands.

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Why the Keystone Pipeline Is a Bad Idea

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The Keystone XL Pipeline is part of an ambitious plan to bring down from Alberta, Canada massive amounts of liquified tar to be refined into fuel to supply America’s appetite for energy. Like many Americans and Canadians, I am opposed to the Keystone Pipeline project. Like brushing your teeth with bleach, it is a bad idea.

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Fixing the Moral Deficit

 Fixing Deficit

America has a serious budget deficit. But at its root it is a moral deficit. Ron Sider, the gracious provocateur, has done it again. His Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger (IVP, 1977) challenged the complacency of affluent North American Christians concerning the plight of the poor in America and overseas. The prolific president of Evangelicals for Social Action has just published Fixing the Moral Deficit: A Balanced Way to Balance the Budget (2012). It’s a timely and prophetic proposal to a nation paralyzed by its politicians and a potentially fatal inertia. America’s root problem, argues  Sider, is a moral one. And the really disturbing thing is that most of us are part of it.

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Mixed Messages about Disability

 China Boy

I have been trying recently to make sense out of three isolated incidents related to persons with disability. One is a shocking denial of services to a child in desperate need of a kidney—because she was disabled—right here in the USA. Another is the blatant declaration by a Christian university that no one with serious physical disabilities need apply for their posted position in theology. And the third, which gives me hope, comes from someone serving cast-off boys and girls (especially girls) with disability in China in the name of Jesus.

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Debt, Ethics and a Seminary Education

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I am pleased to offer this provocative “guest column” by Bethel San Diego seminarian Matt Jeffreys. It is an abridgment of a research paper Matt recently wrote for a seminary ethics course.

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A recent New York Times article described a successful financial advisor who was losing his home due to excessive debt.   He said that processing what had happened raised profound ethical questions.  Americans have slowly come to accept debt, even extreme debt, as a normal way of life.  And Christians appear to be the same.  Believers seem to borrow just as much, and just as fast for everything from cars and houses, to furniture and vacations.  Churches are now filled with, and led by, people who are often drowning in debt and struggling to think about much else.  Even closer to home, debt has reached crisis proportions for those of us who venture to study at America’s expensive seminaries on our own dime. Maybe this is just wrong.

 

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Love Wins

Northern Ireland

The son of a prominent American judge, Rob Bell is a young (born in 1970, now 40 years old), media-savvy and very “cool” dressing graduate of Wheaton College and Fuller Seminary. He is a rock musician, and now an evangelical pastor who founded and leads a large, new church (Mars Hill Bible Church) in suburban Grand Rapids, Michigan—the American Midwest home of numerous evangelical publishing houses.

 

Rob Bell is a captivating speaker who has attracted consistently large crowds to a number of well-organized national and international speaking tours. His innovative short video clips on spiritual themes circulate widely, and since 2005 he has written an impressive list of books that until just recently were almost all published by Zondervan, one of the larger evangelical presses right in Grand Rapids. He has a gift for arresting titles, which include Velvet Elvis and Sex God. But his most recent book, Love Wins (2011), published for a more mainstream market by HarperCollins, Zondervan’s big market parent company, is by far his most important and already his most controversial.

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Judgment Day May 21?

Judgment

I was down at San Diego’s Earth Day a few weeks ago, helping to staff a booth run by Christians for Earth Care, and took a break to browse the area. The atheists were there in full force, exposing what they believe to be the idiocy of religion and people of faith. I stopped to chat with them for a bit; it became immediately apparent that they weren’t the brightest bulbs in the chandelier, but on some points they were relatively coherent . . . and they were enjoying lots of traffic.Then I spied the Day of Judgment guy.

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Financial Debt and Religious Freedom

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A profound social transformation has been taking place right in front of us, and we have barely noticed. Very quietly a revolution in attitude has occurred. It is simply this: debt has been normalized. As a professor I see it every day where students preparing for the (generally underpaid) Christian ministry blithely assume enormous debt to finance their seminary education. They are in effect committing themselves to long-term financial hardship. In some cases their only hope will be to declare chapter 7 bankruptcies. But this is simply a reflection at the personal level of a much larger national disposition. America is staggering toward its own bankruptcy, and we cannot seem to get a handle on the problem. This week I discovered another reasons why our growing debt should be a particular concern for Christians. It came out of a news report from China.

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