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Nuclear-Bomb-Mushroom-Cloud

There’s been a recurring theme on this blog early in 2013. In my very positive review of Ken Wytsma’s Pursuing Justice, I put forward a gentle critique of the optimistic way he talks about “changing the world.” Soon afterwards, I offered some thoughts on James Davison Hunter’s sobering assertion that Christians would do well to practice “faithful presence” rather than thinking that changing the world is particularly within grasp. Then, in the pages of a book on faith and learning by Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., I thought I found a sort of middle ground.

16211575Then along came the timely and much discussed book by Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, The World Is Not Ours To Save: Finding the Freedom to Do Good (IVP). Wigg-Stevenson leads the Two Futures Project, an evangelical movement aimed at abolishing nuclear weapons. If there ever was a “world-changing” undertaking, this is it. Yet Wigg-Stevenson, a dedicated activist, wants to tell us that the world is not ours to change, or at least it’s not ours to save. And he insists this is good news.

It’s good news because God is the one saving the world. If, like the man in the book cover illustration, we feel that the weight of the world is on our shoulders, we won’t last very long. The task is simply too burdensome. Rather, for those of us who confess that Jesus is Lord and that he is making all things new, we experience a freedom and a hope unattainable to activists who insist on carrying the weight themselves.

We can do good without demanding that our good works immediately usher in the kingdom. We relinquish the control and, to a certain extent, the results. In exchange we get to participate in a mission whose ultimate outcome is sure.

Wigg-Stevenson tells a bit of his personal story, including how he got involved in anti-nuclear activism and lessons he’s learned along the way. He winsomely weaves reflections on scripture together with his own experiences around the world, from naked peace marches in San Francisco (note: the author remained fully clothed) to heartbreaking experiences in the Holy Land.

For a guy whose life mission is abolishing nuclear weapons, the book sure doesn’t read like a PR piece for a particular cause. Rather, it seems Wigg-Stevenson – who does have a Master of Divinity degree – is sincerely intent on offering a bit of pastoral care for a younger generation still hyped up on its inflated chances of saving the world. That hype will inevitably waver and the vision will surely fade. And when it does, young activists will find in this book a treasure trove of good news. Will they listen before their lives depend on it? I hope so.

[Image: theorysmith.com]

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest thoughts.

1. What does a CEO with integrity look like?
Michael Lindsay, president of Gordon College, had an op-ed yesterday in the New York Times about Gerard Arpey, the American Airlines CEO who just walked away after 30 years out of a belief that filing for bankruptcy — a procedure that’s become standard in the airline industry — is wrong. That he is a man of integrity is worth celebrating; that he is a rare exception among CEOs, though, is lamentable. Lindsay writes:

Over the last eight years, I have interviewed hundreds of senior executives for a major academic study on leadership, including six airline C.E.O.’s. Mr. Arpey stood out among the 550 people I talked with not because he believed that business had a moral dimension, but because of his firm conviction that the C.E.O. must carefully attend to those considerations, even if doing so blunts financial success or negates organizational expediency. For him, it is an obligation that goes with the corner office.

2. Culture wars and Pentecostalism in Brazil
The days of the Religious Right might be mostly behind us here in the US, but in Brazil, it seems to really be catching on. The New York Times has a profile of Silas Malafaia, a televangelist with a massive following who is known for his polarizing views, and takes a look at the rise of Pentecostals and other Protestant groups in Brazil:

About one in four Brazilians are now thought to belong to evangelical Protestant congregations, and Pentecostals like Mr. Malafaia are at the forefront of this growth. In a remarkable religious transformation, scholars say that while Brazil still has the largest number of Roman Catholics in the world, it now also rivals the United States in having one of the largest Pentecostal populations. Not everyone in Brazil is enthusiastic about this shift.

3. Evangelicals rethink nuclear weapons
Members of the National Association of Evangelicals board of directors have written a piece for Washington Post’s “On Faith” column that’s worth prayerful consideration:

Christians hold that all people bear God’s image (Genesis 1:27).Therefore, human life and freedom are precious and should be defended from injustice and tyranny. Nuclear weapons, with their capacity for terror as well as for destruction of human life, raise profound spiritual, moral and ethical concerns. We question the acceptability of nuclear weapons as part of a just national defense. The just war tradition admonishes against indiscriminate violence and requires proportionality and limited collateral damage. New scientific studies reveal that even a limited nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan would have profound global consequences, harming billions of innocents. The very weapons meant to restrain evil could potentially destroy all that they were intended to protect.

4. “Our voice, our memory”
Mike at the Central American Politics blog shared this 30-minute documentary about the 36-year civil war in Guatemala, which, according to the makers of the film, meets the international criteria to be considered genocide. Needless to say, it’s not for the faint of heart, but is important for the understanding of history, as well as what you might call “the roots of the present illness.” It’s in Spanish, too, by the way.

5. How free music makes more than sense
Derek Webb, one of my favorite artists who started NoiseTrade (a great place to get free music legally!), has a new reflection on the state of the music industry and what it means for those who make and listen to music (hint: he’s not a fan of Spotify):

There has never been a better moment to be a middle-class or an independently thinking artist making and performing music than right now. The costs and complications of creating, recording, manufacturing, and distributing music are at an all-time low, enabling more music to be made and more artists to make a living than ever before. If your ego can bear not being rich and famous, you can make a respectable and sustainable living as a blue-collar musician.  The problem used to be access; now it’s obscurity. And this brings with it a completely new set of problems and opportunities.

6. Andy Crouch on Christianity and culture
If you haven’t read Andy Crouch’s Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, you really should. But if you don’t want to do that, here’s a 50-minute podcast about Christianity and culture, the big themes of that book. If even that is too much to ask, at least take a listen to the four and a half minute snippet about how cultural change can — and often must — start small.

7. Good economic news from Latin America
The BBC reports:

Poverty in Latin America is at its lowest level for 20 years, the UN’s regional economic body, Eclac, says. From 1990 to 2010, the rate fell from 48.4% to 31.4%, which means 177 million people currently live in poverty… “Poverty and inequality continue to decline in the region, which is good news, particularly in the midst of an international economic crisis,” said Alicia Barcena, Eclac’s executive secretary. “However, this progress is threatened by the yawning gaps in the productive structure in the region and by the labour markets which generate employment in low-productivity sectors.”

8. Top 100 global thinkers
Foreign Policy has released its latest list of top global thinkers for the past year. A number of the leaders of the Egyptian revolution are atop the list. I was especially interested to see that Yoani Sánchez, Cuban dissident blogger, and Dr. Paul Farmer, medical anthropologist with a long history in Haiti, made the cut as well.

9. And justice for all [infograhic]
GOOD and Column Five Media have produced an interesting infographic on how the US is doing in terms of income equality and providing all citizens with access to the market economy (click on the image below to view the full-size infographic).

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!

1. Latino roundtable with President Obama
The president hosted a roundtable the other day where he fielded questions from Latino journalists and citizens about the issues that matter most to their communities. He tackles questions about illegal immigration on a national level, relations with Cuba, the 11% unemployment rate among Latinos, and the ongoing investigation into Arizona’s treatment of immigrants. The White House website has the full video, which is almost an hour.

2. Bill Easterly: Aid grump?
During grad school we read development economist Bill Easterly’s book White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good and had some lively discussions about it, to say the least. If you’re not familiar with Easterly, this recent interview by Tom Paulson at the Humanosphere blog is a great introduction.

3. John Piper on his own racism and the gospel
This is a two-minute trailer for a 20-minute documentary coming soon, supplementing Piper’s new book Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian. A bold book about the evils of racism isn’t necessarily the sort of book you might expect from Piper, but it looks really good.

4. A word to hymn writers from Fernando Ortega
Last Friday evening I went with Katie and my parents to a Keith & Kristyn Getty concert in Lancaster. The Gettys have been writing and composing songs for the Church for only a decade but they have already contributed so many songs that really transcend the so-called worship wars (and I suspect many of these songs will stand the test of time). Here, Fernando Ortega, a New Mexico-based singer/songwriter and worship leader, has a word to those who would write songs for worship in churches:

Be specific when you write songs about God. Avoid cliché. Avoid convenience. Avoid an obsession with the consumer. Avoid the temptation to make commercial success your central goal. Write with intelligence, employing all the craft, skill, and experience with which God has endowed you.

5. Gospel or justice, which?
Russell Moore from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary writes that despite assumptions to the contrary within evangelicalism, evangelism and public justice are not mutually exclusive:

The short answer to how churches should “balance” such things is simple: follow Jesus. We are Christians. This means that as we grow in Christlikeness, we are concerned about the things that concern him. Jesus is the king of his kingdom, and he loves whole persons, bodies as well as souls.

6. Know Shelter
The Two Futures Project is a movement to abolish nuclear weapons. I know some people love their nukes, but I’m generally agreeable to the abolition idea. Here’s a video on preparing for a nuclear attack, which will hopefully never happen, but unfortunately isn’t outside the realm of possibility.