Wednesday, December 25, 2013

All Around the Web - December 25, 2013

Ross Douthat - Ideas From a Manger
PAUSE for a moment, in the last leg of your holiday shopping, to glance at one of the manger scenes you pass along the way. Cast your eyes across the shepherds and animals, the infant and the kings. Then try to see the scene this way: not just as a pious set-piece, but as a complete world picture — intimate, miniature and comprehensive.

Because that’s what the Christmas story really is — an entire worldview in a compact narrative, a depiction of how human beings relate to the universe and to one another. It’s about the vertical link between God and man — the angels, the star, the creator stooping to enter his creation. But it’s also about the horizontal relationships of society, because it locates transcendence in the ordinary, the commonplace, the low. 

It’s easy in our own democratic era to forget how revolutionary the latter idea was. But the biblical narrative, the great critic Erich Auerbach wrote, depicted “something which neither the poets nor the historians of antiquity ever set out to portray: the birth of a spiritual movement in the depths of the common people, from within the everyday occurrences of contemporary life.” 

And because that egalitarian idea is so powerful today, one useful — and seasonally appropriate — way to look at our divided culture’s competing worldviews is to see what each one takes from the crèche in Bethlehem. 

Many Americans still take everything: They accept the New Testament as factual, believe God came in the flesh, and endorse the creeds that explain how and why that happened. And then alongside traditional Christians, there are observant Jews and Muslims who believe the same God revealed himself directly in some other historical and binding form.

The Atlantic - Why C.S. Lewis Never Goes Out of Style 
Last month marked the 50th anniversary of a bizarre day in history. Three men of significant importance each died on November 22, 1963: President John F. Kennedy, author Aldous Huxley, and author and scholar C.S. Lewis.

On that day, the developed world (appropriately) halted at the news of the assassination of the United States’ 35th president. The front page of The New York Times on Saturday morning, the day after the tragic shooting, read, “Kennedy Is Killed by Sniper as he Rides in Car in Dallas; Johnson Sworn in on Plane,” and virtually every other news service around the world ran similar coverage and developed these stories for days and weeks following.

Huxley’s death, meanwhile, made the front page of The New York Times the day after Kennedy’s coverage began. The English-born writer spent his final hours in Los Angeles, high on LSD. His wife, Laura, administered the psychedelic drug during the writer's final day battling cancer, honoring his wishes to prepare for death like the characters in his novels Eyeless in Gaza and Island. Huxley’s Brave New World depicts a haunting futuristic world where a sovereign, global government harvests its tightly controlled social order in glass jars; the Times obituary writer declared that Huxley’s well-known book “set a model for writers of his generation.”

Thom Rainer - Seven Habits of Joyful Pastors
  1. They read their Bible daily. Their time in the Word is above and beyond sermon preparation time or teaching preparation time. They make certain they read and study the Bible for their own edification and spiritual growth.
  2. They have a daily prayer time. All of them have quiet times alone with God. Many of them include their spouses in additional prayer times. They feel they cannot be the servants that God has called them to be unless they are in regular conversations with the God they serve.
  3. They put their family time on their calendars. I mean that literally. They make certain that their children and spouses have time with them. Most of them have regular dates with their spouses and specific plans for their children each week.
  4. They have a long-term perspective. These pastors understand that the criticism of today will be a non-issue tomorrow. They don’t feel the need to make disruptive changes because they have the luxury of an incremental pace. And they tend to develop rich relationships with members in the church because they plan to be around awhile.
  5. They love to work with and help other churches. They have no sense of competition with other churches in the community. Indeed, they willingly and gladly work alongside them. They have great relationships with fellow pastors who serve in the same ministry area.
  6. They have a great sense of humor. I have spoken to each of the twenty pastors on my list on numerous occasions. It is rare for our conversations to end without some healthy laughter. These pastors take their ministries seriously, but they don’t take themselves too seriously. They are willing and eager to laugh at themselves.
  7. They rarely blame others or their circumstances. These pastors never have a victim mentality. They take responsibility for their ministries and others. It is rare to hear them complain or engage in conversations about the inadequacies of others or the rotten situation they encountered.

Christianity Today - The Seven People Americans Now Trust More Than Their Pastor (2013)
Once again, Gallup has examined who Americans regard as the most honest and ethical person in their lives—and found that the answer is not their pastor, but their nurse or pharmacist.

In fact, recorded public trust in clergy has now reached an all-time low, with only 47 percent of Americans rating clergy highly on honesty and ethics (compared to 82 percent saying the same about nurses). The previous low since Gallup began asking the question in 1976: 50 percent in 2009.
However, clergy still ranked No. 7 out of the 22 professions studied. And confidence in the overall church as an institution improved over the past year.

CT reported the results of last year's survey, when 52 percent rated clergy highly on honesty and ethics. This still placed clergy within the top half of all rated professions in 2012 (No. 8 out of 22). Confidence in clergy has stayed relatively stable over time: ranging from 61 percent in 1977 to a high of 67 percent in 1985, but has been consistently in the low 50s in recent years.

In 2013, Americans rated six professions more trustworthy than clergy: nurses, pharmacists, grade school teachers, medical doctors, military officers, and police officers. Meanwhile, engineers, dentists, and college teachers—three professions which surpassed clergy in 2012—dropped below clergy in 2013. (Grade school teachers and military officers rose above clergy from 2012 to 2013, while nurses, pharmacists, medical doctors, and police officers topped clergy in both years.)

Business Insider - Obama's Current Approval Rating Is The Ugliest Since Nixon

President Barack Obama is ending his fifth year in office with the lowest approval ratings at this point in the presidency since President Richard Nixon, according to a new Washington Post/ABC poll released Tuesday.

Obama's approval rating in the poll stands at 43%. By comparison, President George W. Bush had a 47% approval rating at the end of the fifth year of his presidency. And all other Post-World War II presidents had approval ratings above 50% — with the exception of Nixon, who, amid the Watergate scandal, had a dreadful 29% approval rating.

The brutal numbers underscore what has been something of a lost year for the President. His approval ratings have been plunging recently as a result of the botched implementation of the Affordable Care Act. In the Washington Post/ABC poll, only 34% approve of how Obama is handling his signature health law's implementation.

Obama has also been hit by the damage of Washington's recent fiscal battles, including the 16-day federal government shutdown. His administration also experienced a number of setbacks throughout the year — the controversy over some of the National Security Agency's surveillance practices, the debate over military intervention in Syria, the controversy over the IRS' targeting of certain organizations for more scrutiny

Letting go of family rancor.




HT: Denny Burk
Post a Comment