1. “Conversionary Protestants” and democracy
Philip Jenkins, author of The Next Christendom and several other books about religion in global and historical perspective, has a fascinating new blog post on the connections between missions and democracy, drawing on a scholarly article by Robert Woodberry, a sociologist at the University of Texas:
Woodberry shows a strong correlation between Protestant missionary efforts and present-day democracy, and he successfully tackles any counter-claims suggesting that other features might be at work. Democracy did not just result from (for instance) successful economic development, rich natural resources, favorable climate conditions, or the successful planting of Western legal models: missions mattered crucially. He makes a bold case, and he fully justifies it, combining historical and sociological evidence in a sophisticated way.
2. Phoenix church design
Phoenix Magazine’s July issue features an article with photos and the stories behind Phoenix’s “flotilla of funky churches and stunning sacred sites.” Katie and I stopped by one of them a few weeks ago, and I got snapped some Instagrams (here, here, and here). We also drove around the Capstone Cathedral, the first one in the article, and I can assure you it’s just as creepy in person as its history would suggest.
3. Giving and receiving gifts
John Donaghy is a lay volunteer with the Catholic diocese in Santa Rosa de Copán, Honduras, and we recently got connected through our blogs. I’ve enjoyed reading his insights and reflections on life and ministry in Honduras, and have benefitted from his astute comments on some of my posts. This week he shared an important post about the question of well-meaning North Americans wanting to give stuff to people in communities characterized by poverty. He asks some often unasked questions and offers some solid principles based on his years of experience:
A number of people ask me what they can bring or send to help people here in Honduras? The obvious answer is money. But many people want to send something tangible. So people think of collecting stuff to send. And so the poor in Honduras are offered clothes, shoes, school supplies, hygiene products and much more. God knows how much material comes here, especially with more than 50,000 coming here on “mission” trips. But is there something wrong with this? Does this really help? Or is it just a band-aid or worse, something that has unforeseen negative consequences? Does this type of giving really keep the cycle of poverty going?
4. A Christian case for reading disturbing, dark, and secular fiction
Alan Noble writes at the Christ and Pop Culture blog that Christians have good reason to read novels by authors like J.D. Salinger (one might add Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Marquez to the list as well). I think his argument applies to reading nonfiction that tells the truth about our world’s brokenness as well:
Sometimes we have to read hard, ugly, offensive, depressing things to understand our world, and thereby love our neighbor. I’m obviously not saying that Christians need to read The Catcher in the Rye but I do think that the novel’s censors illustrate how we sometimes cut ourselves off from hard truths — truths we would ultimately agree with if we wrestled with them — by avoiding dark, depressing, or ugly works of art. Reading is hard work. It takes time, effort, and reflection. And as Christians, we have a beautiful work of art filled with hard truths, ugly scenes, offensive claims, and moments of darkness at the very center of our faith! So, can cultivating good reading habits by reading unsettling novels help us become better Bible readers? I think so.
5. Love Light and Melody
Central America blogger Mike shared a video from Love Light and Melody (founded by Dispatch band member Brad Corrigan), a nonprofit that “uses music and the arts to rebuild, restore and bring healing to communities ravaged by extreme poverty.” The group has been involved in La Chureca, the garbage dump in Managua, Nicaragua. A local pastor showed me around La Chureca during my visit to Nicaragua a couple years ago, and introduced me to some of his church members. Before and after the visit I heard a lot about Corrigan and LLM’s work. I’d encourage you to learn more here.
Repaso is intended as a thought-provoking compilation of news and commentary from the past week related to the intersections of faith, development, justice and peace. As always, I welcome your thoughts on any of the links and ideas in this roundup!
[Photo credit: Love Light and Melody]