Sunday, September 27, 2015

Francis and Trump: Opposites Competing for the American Soul

John ThatamanilABC Religion and Ethics 28 Sep 2015

Donald Trump and Pope Francis are incarnations of the kind of power to which they appeal. To choose between them is to make a basic human decision about the shape of a worthy life. Credit: Aristide Economopoulos / Sean Rayford / Getty Images

The two most popular figures in American life in recent weeks are polar opposites: Pope Francis and Donald Trump.

Trump is a favourite candidate of white nationalists and xenophobes. The Pope, by contrast, speaks tirelessly on behalf of the poor, the marginalized, immigrants and the planet - "our common home."

The Pope points away from himself and to the needs of others. Trump constantly points to himself. Trump has no platform save Trump. His core message is, "I am great. I will make the nation over in my own image, and so it too will be great again."


History and Bible: Do They Align?


Posted By: Greg Boyd

To begin, it is significant that when Jesus and the authors of the NT referred to their sacred writings as “God-breathed,” they were referring to the writings that had been handed down to them. So too, the text that the Church has always confessed to be “God-breathed” has been the canon she received. Never has the “God-breathed” nature of the text been affixed to oral or written versions of the biblical material that preceded the written text. For this and other reasons, I find that the “God-breathed” status and divine authority of Scripture attaches to its final canonical form. This alone is the text we are called to wrestle with, with the ultimate goal of discerning how any given passage bears witness to the faithful and merciful covenantal God who was definitively revealed in Christ.
This means, among other things, that our estimation of a passage’s “God-breathed” nature and/or its divine authority should not hinge upon anything like historical-critical considerations.


Friday, September 25, 2015

If Only Ann Coulter Had a Reason to worry

Patrick J. Deneen
By | September 25, 2015

The steady drumbeat of criticisms aimed at Pope Francis from the conservative American commentariat continue to accumulate. Following George Will’s scurrilous column of last week, Rich Lowry of America’s main conservative journal, National Review, similarly weighed in to condemn the pope’s poor grasp of economics, echoing a set of now well-worn talking points that lead one to suspect that a memo has gone out to leading conservatives in order to launch a coordinated attack.

The pope has not departed from longstanding Catholic teaching on the immorality of an economic system grounded in greed and self-interest, a position established  in 1891 with Pope Leo XIII’s first social encyclical, De Rerum Novarum.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Jesus Wants Us to be Served

Jesus Wants us to Be Served

Posted by Jared Byas on September 22, 2015 in Jared Byas Christian faith and life 2 Comments
Jail Cell

In a few days, a friend of mine gets out of jail. We and two other couples we are dear friends with, will be splitting up housing, meals, rides, and job hunting to support him over the next three months.
This seems pretty Jesus-y, yes?

“The Son of Man came to serve (διακονέω), not to be served.” –Matthew 20:28

Well, lately, I’m not so sure. Because there’s something that feeds my ego when I help. So I’ve been thinking about the context of this passage. Two of the disciples get their mama (at least we assume this by the reaction of the other ten) to ask Jesus if they can be in power when Jesus becomes King.
Jesus responds this way: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

In a culture that longer has the social stigma of slavery, the difference between serving someone and being a servant can be lost on us. I’ll speak for myself when I say, I want to have my cake and eat it too. I want to serve the slaves but I don’t want to be one. I want to help the less fortunate but I don’t want to be less fortunate. Serving takes my time and energy but being a servant takes my identity and social status.


Does Anybody Really Kknow What Time It Is?

          I’m dating myself, I know, by using an old song from the rock group Chicago as a title. But it still works, I think. Knowing what time it is, knowing, that is, who we are, where we are, and how we’re supposed to live in that time is crucial to living with coherence and integrity. And I contend that by and large the North American church has not and does not now what time it is for us.

          This is not primarily a sociological or historical question (though both are involved in various ways). No, it is a theological question. In fact, it is an apocalyptic question.

C. S. Lewis sets the context (or time) in which the church lives. “Enemy-occupied territory—that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage” [C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 2001) 45-46]. We, the church, living in the light of God’s great and final attack on the world and its godliness in Jesus Christ, are called to carry out the implementation and extension of his victory. Our time, as it were, analogous to the Allied Forces in Europe after the victory at Normandy determined the outcome of the war in that theater (D-Day) but before treaties were signed, weapons laid down, and hostilities ceased V-Day (almost a year later). We’re on the winning side but battles remain ahead before the peace is finally and fully established. Our time is that between the cross and resurrection of Jesus and his return in glory.

          This time consists of an overlap of two ages: the defeated, decaying, and disappearing old age of sin and evil and the age of new creation dawned and moving toward noonday sun. Though the outcome is decided this time remains contested, ambiguous, dangerous, and requires all the commitment and community with one another we can muster.

          Knowing what time it is enables us to discern the perspectives and practices that make for effectiveness and integrity in that time. And that time is liminal. Between what we and the world have been and what we shall be. A time of experimentation and imagining new opportunities. A time in which the powers of evil are like a mortally wounded beast lashing out every which way in its death throes.

          US Marine Colonel Thomas Kolditz did a unique, long-term study on the nature of leadership in just liminal and extreme conditions. He distilled six elements necessary for leaders and communities negotiating them. In such times:

-leaders are inherently motivated because of the danger of the situations in which they’re working; therefore, they seek to equip the community to survive and thrive under pressure rather than resorting to use conventional motivational methods or cheerleading.

-leaders practice continuous learning, they and their communities need to rapidly assess their environments for the level of threat and danger they’re facing.

-leaders place themselves on the front lines with the community. They share the risk and even take on greater risks in the time in which we live.

-leaders share a common lifestyle with their followers…all leaders should consider how much they really have in common with the rest of their organization.

-Dangerous situations demand a high level of mutual trust. Leaders trust their community and are themselves trustworthy. 

-High-risk environments demand mutual loyalty between leader and followers...     Leaders should do everything they can to foster a culture of mutual loyalty.

These skills and dynamics Col. Kolditz has identified are just what the church needs too as leaders and communities carry out that “great campaign of sabotage” God has tasked us with and gifted us for.

A discussion yesterday on FB posed the question of whether “Mission Dei” (Mission of God) and “kingdom of God” resonated in local churches or not. The response was largely that these phrases did not resonate with local church experience. I suspect it is because much of the church does not “know what time it is” (as sketched above) that accounts for this disconnect. And if we do not connect with these key and vital biblical perspectives, how can we expect the church to make its way through this liminal time with integrity and coherence.

Monday, September 21, 2015

We are justified by faith - or so the story goes

We are justified by faith—or so the story goes

People who take the trouble to think of themselves as “Protestant”—as heirs of the Reformation—are likely to be of the view that the doctrine of justification by faith sits right at the heart of their religious identity. But what sort of thing is “justification by faith”? What does it look like? What does it do? In an interview on the Gospel Coalition website Tom Schreiner provides a standard definition:
Justification by faith alone means that we stand in the right before God by faith instead of on the basis of our works. In the classical Protestant formulation of the doctrine, justification doesn’t mean make righteous, but rather declare righteous…. The righteousness of Christ is imputed to us by faith so that our forgiveness of sins and righteousness are gifts of God.
The doctrine explains how a person is saved. It has no real application outside of this basic existential requirement. It doesn’t connect with anything else out there in the world. We may suppose, as Schreiner does, that the fruit of justification by faith is to be found in good works. But Reformed theologians generally take great care not to allow practical outcomes to intrude upon and disturb a formula which has the cosmic simplicity of e=mc2. You don’t meddle with the formula—it’s a matter of eternal life or death.

But let’s consider a very different way of using the language of “justification by faith”. We might say, for example, that the outcome of the recent Labour Party leadership election in the UK has justified the belief of Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters that his nomination was not in vain. Or that the small number of Members of Parliament who expressed confidence in him at the start of the campaign can now claim to have been in the right. This means, among other things, that they are likely to be rewarded by Corbyn—for example, they may be given a post in the shadow cabinet. Their faith has put them in a good relationship with him . . .


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Why "Applying" Christianity to One's Life Just Won't Work

The former (application) feels like we’re trying to add something to life from the outside-in. The latter (relationship) flows naturally from the inside-out.

The former follows only for pragmatic reasons. The latter is an expression of life.

The former doesn’t require relationship. The latter assumes it.

The former views principles as good things that will make life better – as in good advice. The latter views the story of Jesus as good news that changes the very course of one’s entire life.

The former picks and chooses principles based on personal preference. The latter sees the entire Jesus-story as an all-encompassing, ethos-shaping lifestyle.

The former can lead to moralism that demands we follow a system of rules and obligations. The latter leads to adopting a posture of grace and mercy towards oneself and others.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Why the Gospel is Way Better than Better than We Ever Imagined

  1. We don’t confuse the basis of the gospel with its benefits.

    The gospel is the announcement of Jesus victory through cross and resurrection over the powers of sin, evil, and death which distorted God’s creation and creatures into deathly parodies of what they were intended to be. This is the “good news”! Forgiveness, new life, assurance, reconciliation – are the benefits of the gospel which we receive only on the basis of the gospel.

    In other words, the gospel is that “Jesus is Victor” (Karl Barth) not that we can have our sins forgiven and be assured of our place in heaven. Confusion here results in a false gospel, a truncated vision, and stunted Christin existence.

  2. It’s not about our going to heaven but heaven coming to earth.

    The dualism of spiritual (immaterial) and material which privileges the former as better than or superior to the latter which weigh’s down, hinders, is inferior to, temporary, or not as important as the former has no place in the Christian gospel. Jesus’ victory restores creation as the place of God’s eternal home and fellowship with humans. Heaven comes down to the new earth and the two become one again as they were in the beginning. And best of all we will live there with God enjoying the life God always intended us to have.

  3. It’s about a people not individuals.

    God dreams big! The gospel is not about plucking individual “souls” out of sin and death for eternal life with God in heaven (see #2). Rather the gospel is about God’s rule over all that reclaims and restores everyone and everything to God’s good purposes for them. Israel and the church signal God’s purpose to work with communities for the salvation of communities and peoples (Mt.28:18-20 – the Great Commission is about nations!). A whole creation and all its creatures reclaimed and restored to their original design and purposes – to dream and live as if God’s purposes embrace less than that is to settle for too little and believe in a God who is too small.

  4. It’s about here and now more than then and there.

    In the Synoptic gospels the emphasis is that in Jesus God’s Kingdom is here; in John eternal life is spoken of primarily in the present tense; for Paul, “now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor.6:2); for the author of Hebrews, “Today” is the day to hear and respond to God’s voice (3:7); and for the Seer of Revelation, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever” (11:15).

    The past is irretrievably gone (its reality not its influence), the final end is secure in God’s hands, the present is the time in which our agency, response-ability, and responsibility as God’s people is highlighted. We do not wait until the end to exercise and enjoy God’s life. Not at all, we begin to do that here and now even in the midst of an old age which is decaying and passing away. That’s why we struggle with confusion and conflict. But even more that’s why our lives here and now are invested with eternal significance. All that we do now in and for Jesus Christ will, once purified by judgment, somehow be used by God in constituting the New Jerusalem of Rev.21-22. Far from simply marking time till we die or Christ returns, the kingdom, the eternal life, and the salvation of God breaks into and out of our present life marking us as God’s people and making known God’s gracious reality and presence in the world! Quite a vocation, huh?  

  5. The Gospel makes us Christians or, better, human (for the first time)!

    Fallen humanity is subhuman (Rom.3:23: for all sinned and fall short of the glory of God). We can never blame our failings and fallibilities by saying, “Well, we’re only human after all.” Jesus is not only the true image of God, he is also the true image of humanity.

    -He is what we are supposed to be like (in a derivative not original sense).
    -He is our standard of humanity.
    -It is his image to which we are being conformed (Rom.8:29).

Our aim is not to become better or nice people. It is to become like Jesus Christ!      That’s God aim and the Spirit’s work in and on us. What do you expect God to do in your life?

Friday, September 11, 2015

A Refugee Crisis Made in America

Will the U.S. accept responsibility for the humanitarian consequences of Washington-manufactured wars?

On April 29th, 2008 I had a Saul on the Road to Damascus moment. I had flipped open the Washington Post and there, on the front page, was a color photo of a two year old Iraqi boy named Ali Hussein being pulled from the rubble of a house that had been destroyed by American missiles. The little boy was wearing shorts and a t-shirt and had on his feet flip-flops. His head was hanging back at an angle that told the viewer immediately that he was dead.

Four days later on May 3rd a letter by a Dunn Loring Virginia woman named Valerie Murphy was printed by the Post. Murphy complained that the Iraqi child victim photo should not have been run in the paper because it would “stir up opposition to the war and feed anti-US sentiment.” I suppose the newspaper thought it was being impartial in printing the woman’s letter, though I couldn’t help but remember that the neocon-dominated Post had generally been unwilling to cover anything antiwar, even ignoring a gathering of 300,000 protesters in Washington in 2005. Rereading the woman’s complaint and also a comment on a website suggesting that the photo of the dead little boy had been staged, I thought to myself, “What kind of monsters have we become.” And in truth we had become monsters. Bipartisan monsters wrapped in the American flag. Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once said that killing 500,000 Iraqi children through sanctions was “worth it.” She is now a respected elder statesman close to the Hillary Clinton campaign.

I had another epiphany last week when I saw the photo of the little Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach like a bit of flotsam . . .


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Mary Magdalene - 21st Century North American Christian?

Institutionalism and irrelevance are two charges regularly levied against the church in our time in North America. Without the proper nuancing here, let me accept these charges as by and large legitimate. I came of age in the sixties and seventies when our basic institutions and arbiters of the “American way of life” were subjected to withering suspicion and critique. And they have never recovered from this crisis of legitimacy.

We cannot live without institutions. Nor, it seems, can we live with them. With the flowering of individual autonomy in the sixties and seventies a perpetual anti-institutionalism was (and is) inevitable. Even if we believe in theory that it takes a village to raise a child, in reality we resist submitting to or acknowledging the influence of the village with everything in us. To this degree anti-institutionalism is a function of North American hyper-individualism and a view of freedom gone to seed.

However, there comes a time when institutions fail to nurture any longer the life that gave rise to them. When the –ism, the ideology that sustains and tends toward the perpetuation of institutions, the institution’s will to survive (one of those “principalities and powers” Paul talks about) subverts the life that gave rise to it and remakes it in its own image, another power that distorts and diminishes the life it was meant to express and nurture.

Irrelevance is the chief fear of an institution bent on self-preservation. If it loses its hold on the people who have attended and supported it, and they abandon it for something or nothing else. The institution doubles down pursuing relevance like there’s no tomorrow. In all sort of forms and different sorts of ways the church has pursued the kind of relevance that will enable it to sustain the institutional form it has taken in the country.

This works for a while in fits and starts. But before long the novelty wears off and there remains the void that even the most sophisticated and winsome pursuit of relevance cannot fill.

Other churches respond by a frantic pursuit of excellence in what they have always done. They work harder, hire consultants, plan better, acquire the best materials, etc. This too, fails to breathe new life into the old forms. And the hemorrhage of people and money continues on.

At heart, a longing for life, inchoate in many cases but none the less real, that has been snuffed out by the institution seeking its own preservation by relevance or excellence in programming keeps people voting with their feet. And the verdict they render is “Not here, not now, not ever.”

Life, however, God’s life, follows the pattern of death and resurrection. In John 12 some Greeks to meet Jesus. Jesus, however, ignores their request and announces, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain, but if it dies it bears much fruit” (vv.23-24).

What if Jesus is speaking to us in this text? What if he is telling the church in North America that it needs to die? We don’t even have “Greeks” coming to us to find about Jesus anymore. Though we are not single, yet we are solitary. Increasingly isolated from the very people we hope to share Christ’s love with. Because they won’t come to our services and programs despite our best efforts to attract them.

-But what if we were to give it all up?

-What if we frankly acknowledged that the structures and institutions we have built and inherited have at this time in history played us false and used our best insights and energies to sustain itself rather than serve Christ any longer?

-What if we gave up our “life in this world” (v.25) to die in hope that perhaps this death to might yield new life and new forms for faithful witness to rise up and inhabit?

-What if we choose to “serve Christ” where he is, and where he is at the grave dying in his people, calling us to pronounce a benediction over this death?

“Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.” That’s how Jesus ends this episode in John.

What if serving God in this time and place means to suffer and even embrace the death of the institutional forms that have brought us to this moment. We can honor them for the form they gave to God’s life in the past, even while through tears confessing that that life needs new forms and expressions. Forms and expressions of church that meet people where they are, listen to what they say, love even the most unlovable and objectionable of people, and gather them into communities in which we together learn how resist and witness to the other “powers that be” that seek to “squeeze us into their mold” (Romans 12:2, J. B. Phillips translation)?

What if we linger long enough at the graveside, as did Mary Magdalene in John’s account of Jesus’ resurrection, to meet the Risen One there, hear him call us by name, and send us forth to tell the astonishing news of his resurrection?

What if?

What if?

What if?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Father, Son and Michael Jordan? Gatorade's Image of the Trinity

by Adam Johnson on September 8, 2015

You have likely heard several bad images of the Trinity. Ice, water and steam are one in that they are all water, but three states. There are three leaves to a clover, but one clover…. There are any number of such images, each offering an incomplete and largely unhelpful instance combining threeness and oneness. Ultimately, of course, each of these images depends on one or more largely heretical assumptions which undermine the benefit of the image. The reason for this is twofold. On the one hand, the Trinity cannot be explained by creation. On the other hand, the Trinity is what does the explaining–it is the basic reality, the living premise, which serves as the foundation for understanding everything which it has brought into existence.

All that changed, however, in 2002, with Gatorade’s foray into the doctrine of the Trinity, offering us what I take to be the most complete and helpful image for the doctrine currently found under the sun.


Living in the Tragic Gap

Living in the Tragic Gap

September 2, 2015

A sermon on Romans 8 preached at Wine Before Beer
21 July, 2015

How did they hear it
those early followers
of Jesus?
The ones who lived in Rome,
as slaves to the wealthy.
The destitute stoneworkers,
tile workers,
women and men,
some homeless,
some housed, just.
Jews from the ghettos.
the few Greeks from the hillsides,
with slaves of their own.

How did they hear
the gospel of Jesus?
The words of new life,
life in the Spirit?


Monday, September 7, 2015

What Happened to the Moral Center of American Capitalism?


Posted on Sep 7, 2015
By Robert Reich

This post originally ran on Robert Reich’s website.
An economy depends fundamentally on public morality; some shared standards about what sorts of activities are impermissible because they so fundamentally violate trust that they threaten to undermine the social fabric.

It is ironic that at a time the Republican presidential candidates and state legislators are furiously focusing on private morality – what people do in their bedrooms, contraception, abortion, gay marriage – we are experiencing a far more significant crisis in public morality.

We’ve witnessed over the last two decades in the United States a steady decline in the willingness of people in leading positions in the private sector – on Wall Street and in large corporations especially – to maintain minimum standards of public morality. They seek the highest profits and highest compensation for themselves regardless of social consequences.


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Is Progress Good for Humanity?

Rethinking the narrative of economic development, with sustainability in mind

The stock narrative of the Industrial Revolution is one of moral and economic progress. Indeed, economic progress is cast as moral progress.

The story tends to go something like this: Inventors, economists, and statesmen in Western Europe dreamed up a new industrialized world. Fueled by the optimism and scientific know-how of the Enlightenment, a series of heroic men—James Watt, Adam Smith, William Huskisson, and so on—fought back against the stultifying effects of regulated economies, irrational laws and customs, and a traditional guild structure that quashed innovation. By the mid-19th century, they had managed to implement a laissez-faire (“free”) economy that ran on new machines and was centered around modern factories and an urban working class. It was a long and difficult process, but this revolution eventually brought Europeans to a new plateau of civilization. In the end, Europeans lived in a new world based on wage labor, easy mobility, and the consumption of sparkling products.

Europe had rescued itself from the pre-industrial misery that had hampered humankind since the dawn of time. Cheap and abundant fossil fuel powered the trains and other steam engines that drove humankind into this brave new future. Later, around the time that Europeans decided that colonial slavery wasn’t such a good idea, they exported this revolution to other parts of the world, so that everyone could participate in freedom and industrialized modernity. They did this, in part, by “opening up markets” in primitive agrarian societies. The net result has been increased human happiness, wealth, and productivity—the attainment of our true potential as a species.

Sadly, this saccharine story still sweetens our societal self-image . . .



  • Thursday, September 3, 2015

    You Don't Mean a Thing



    I have continued to meditate this past week on the quote from Stanley Hauerwas that I shared previously:

    The project of modernity was to produce people who believe they should have no story except the story they choose when they had no story. Such a story is called a story of freedom – institutionalized economically as capitalism and politically as democracy. That story, and the institutions that embody it, is the enemy we must attack through Christian preaching.

    There is an assumption within our contemporary world that the life we bring into this world doesn’t mean a thing, at least, not at the start. Meaning is something the individual must create for himself/herself. It is, we think, a version of freedom. We are told that if we come into this world with our meaning already established as a given, then we can never be free. Autonomy, being “self-ruled,” is the heart of our contemporary delusion. We have seen this taken to extremes in the recent past. Fundamental givens in life, such as gender and race, are now seen by some as subject to choice. Self-definition (“how I identify”) has become the latest demand in the Modern Project.


    Tuesday, September 1, 2015

    The Trump Appeal: Why Immigration May Be the Definiinf Issue of the 21st Century


    REUTERS/Ben Brewer

    Karl Barth's Three Words to Atheism

    Posted by W. Travis McMaken

    The first “word” is “The Word of God in Jesus Christ” (p. 272). This has to do with Christian particularity. Bender reminds his readers – by way of Barth – that any Christian response to atheism must be properly Christian, and not vaguely theist: “Theism may appear as a proper response to a growing atheistic secularism, but for Barth, such was fool’s gold. Theism may be an appealing alternative to a generic secularism for those who lament the loss of so-called Christian culture, but generic theism is helpless before a true idolatry” (p. 273).
    The second “word” is “A Word of Judgment” (p. 273). Here Bender draws on Barth’s criticism of religion to make the point that atheism is “but a new form of religion, which is itself a very old form of idolatry” (p. 273). This is why the proclamation of Christian particularity is the only proper response, i.e., because a programmatic apologetics “always takes unbelief more seriously than it takes revelation and faith” (p. 276). Bender is quick to note, however, that rejecting programmatic apologetics is most definitely not the same as rejecting “a hearty polemics within the dogmatic task” (p. 278).
    The third “word” is “A Word of Grace” (p. 278). Barth’s doctrines of election and christology, whose consequences reverberate throughout Barth’s thought, mean that there is a “Yes” to be spoken to atheists by God and attested by Christian theology insofar as atheism “is not left to itself to decide its own meaning” (p. 278). Rather, “God has eternally chosen to be with humanity in Jesus Christ and thus to be God for us despite our unbelief and rebellion” (p. 278).

    Bender’s chapter concludes with some helpful clarity on Barth’s stance vis-à-vis atheism, especially as expressed in society through secularism:
    Barth . . . did not see secularism so much as a threat but as a clarifying reality of postwar Europe that forced the church to confront the problems created by its having become wedded to culture and serving as its handmaiden. . . . For Barth, secularism was the shadow side of the church being the church, the lesser of two evils, the greater one being the conflation of church and culture. Therefore, as with atheism, Barth was less threatened by secularism than his contemporaries. . . . The great threat in Barth’s estimation was not the secularization of culture but the secularization of the church, whereby the church sacrificed its unique identity in merging with the society around it. (p. 280)

    A Purpose-filled Life

    The project of modernity was to produce people who believe they should have no story except the story they choose when they had no story. Such a story is called a story of freedom – institutionalized economically as capitalism and politically as democracy. That story, and the institutions that embody it, is the enemy we must attack through Christian preaching. 
    Stanley Hauerwas, “Sanctify Them in the Truth,” 197-198.
    The chart I am sharing with this post came to my attention through my newsfeed on social media. It is an outstanding example of how the modern world understands the meaning and role of the individual. It is, on its surface, a guide towards “purpose.” And, as can be seen, purpose is composed of the intersection of what we love, what the world needs, what we’re good at, and what we can pay for. It is a map of a “responsible” version of the American Dream. It is also an illustration of the false understanding of what it means to be human upon which our culture is built. This, Stanley Hauerwas would say, is one of the “enemies we must attack through preaching.”

    Our modern world (dating from the late 18th century) set the task for itself of redefining what it means to be a human person. This was in reaction to various forms of classical Christian civilization that had come before. The new man was to be the crowning achievement of the Enlightenment. Freed from the superstitions of the past, he would discover a new freedom and dignity in the world that was being created.

    The result was the birth of individualism and the rise of freedom and self-determination. Free of the shackles of Church and tradition, the new man was free to choose how and whom he would worship, if he worshipped at all. He was free to choose his path in life without regard to station or his father’s last name. This march towards freedom was not clearly meant for all – at first. But with time the notion of equality extended the same freedom of choice to others – to women, to blacks, to minorities of all persuasions. Humanity was a blank slate and modernity empowered each with his/her own chalk and eraser.