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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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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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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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Resisting the Poison Green Dragon?

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Some Christians in San Diego recently hosted a conference to protest what they see as pernicious environmentalist trends (conspiracies, even) to undermine the Christian faith and the general welfare of American society. The language and images employed throughout were strident, confrontational, and designed to alarm. The conference featured a keynote public lecture entitled “Resisting the Green Dragon: One-ist Environmentalism and its Noxious Influence on the Church.” We are dismayed that any Christians would take such a message seriously, and we’ll tell you why.

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Quanxi and the Image of God


China

 

Yesterday I had the unusual privilege of attending a business management conference in Shanghai. It was sponsored by the Euro-China Centre for Leadership and Responsibility (ECCLAR), and its purpose was to explore the “Practical Wisdom for Management” present in the Chinese classical traditions—especially Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism. A speaker said something that got me thinking about a conversation I had years ago with one of my young (at the time) daughters about the pros and cons of killing a dog. I should probably explain.

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The Canary in the Gulf of Mexico


China Recycling

 


At the moment the world is fixated on the video-cam of oil spewing up out of the earth to defile the Gulf of Mexico. Everyone is hoping and praying that a technical solution will be found to stabilize this environmental holocaust. Should this occur in the near future, we will breathe a collective sigh of relief. Inevitably there will be resolutions to tighten up oil drilling safety standards and improve emergency response strategies, but perhaps the greater tragedy will be if in a few weeks or months we resume our same dangerous and unsustainable way of life. If this disaster proves to be of sufficient magnitude that it will not be possible thereafter to revert to business as usual, the tragedy itself may end up a “severe mercy.” We may look back on it as the moment when “the canary died in the coal mine.” It may be our chance to break out of something that is otherwise going to kill us all.

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A Russian View of Sexuality


Last week we set off for a brief vacation up at Yosemite in California’s Sierra mountain range. On the way up, in the wickedly hot central valley around Fresno, we stopped into a Borders bookstore for some light reading material, and I came across what looked like an interesting collection of short stories. Even better, the volume was on sale that day. But I wasn’t prepared for what it contained.

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It All Starts with a Child

We have entered the Advent season once again. The Sunday before Advent was the final one in the annual church calendar—Christ the King Sunday. The whole cycle culminated in a celebration of Christ’s final victory and glory. It ended on a high note. But now with Advent it starts up all over again. We begin at the beginning. The story we rehearse is a journey toward glory, but it gets there only by way of Good Friday, the cross and suffering. In biblical imagery it is the Lamb that is upon the throne—the one who suffered and died was vindicated by God and now has a name that is above every name.

But Advent is a reminder that the one who became King of Kings began his journey as a child—as one without power or clout, as a dependent who was obliged to submit to earthly parents during his growing-up years. The story begins with the Eternal Son’s acceptance of the identity and place of a child. The first Adam hit the deck running as a mature adult, but the second Adam—the one who symbolized a new beginning for humanity—began not as an adult, but as an infant, a dependent.

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