CT Blog

Even for Christian Combat Veterans, No Easy Answers

What two recent films get right, and what they miss.

The recent films Unbroken: Path to Redemption and Indivisible center on spiritual responses to the personal toll of war. Those responses are, first and foremost, personal and individual. It would be a mistake to think that the transformations we see in the films can be generalized to all, most, or even a significant minority of war-zone veterans. But, however limited their perspectives, the films are helpful in that they show us two of the paths war veterans can take—two of the ways the Lord can meet veterans in their particular circumstances.

Unbroken (a follow-up to the hit 2014 biopic) tells the postwar story of Louis Zamperini, who survived nearly 50 days on a raft in the Pacific only to be imprisoned and brutalized by the Japanese. His first response to the hatred and nightmares that followed the war was alcohol. The more lasting answer was the gospel, preached at a Billy Graham crusade and responded to in the form of a traditional altar call.

Indivisible is also based on a true story—that of Darren Turner, an Army chaplain who discovered that Sunday school theology and the world of war don’t easily mix. Early in the film, we see an eager Turner anticipating a long deployment to Iraq, saying, “I signed up to be where the need is.” The film depicts him making a difference in some soldiers’ lives—not so much the result of his homilies, which seem to fall flat, but because of his personal example. Yet war wears on him and he unravels. Back home, a senior chaplain tells him, “I’m not sure there is faith without some doubt.”

I approach these films not as a movie critic but as one who over 20 years has interviewed hundreds of combat veterans. Much was familiar. Unbroken, ...

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When Conservatism Isn’t Enough

Necessary shifts beyond conservatism to find ecclesiastical orthodoxy.

Well-worn paths typically mark the desired way forward. The assumption is that others have walked that route and arrived at their desired destination. Unfamiliar travelers looking for a safe outcome would be foolish to take an alternate path.

The same is not true for missional leaders in our day. It can’t be. Many of us desire to arrive at a destination that’s been shared by kingdom travelers since the advent of the church. We want to see people come to saving faith in Jesus Christ. We long for robust disciples, healthy churches, transformed culture. This destination is fixed for those submitted to the Lordship of Christ and the authority of his Word.

But the path we take if we hope to arrive at this destination can’t be the same well-worn paths of our predecessors. It’s as if the path they took has been ravished by a horrific storm. The sociological, political, and cultural realties of our day have pushed trees over the path—they’ve marred our ability to walk the same way. And, they make it futile to try to walk that path anyway. Of course, we could climb over broken limbs and under hanging branches, but the journey would be slow, cumbersome, and unhelpful. Better to create a new path to the same, inalterable destination.

The Familiar Dichotomies

As I look at the challenges facing the church, I'm increasingly skeptical that our well-worn categories of liberalism and conservatism are a helpful distinction to describe faithfulness to Christ. This is the path marked by some in generations prior. The terminology and methodology that distinguished this path once seemed clear, but now it’s obscured by false dichotomies, harsh assumptions, critical stereotypes, and defunct methods. And ...

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These Pastors Loved America So Much, They Wanted It to Stay British

Why the Christian case against the Revolutionary War deserves better than mockery and neglect.

When a person dies, that person is usually forgotten as time advances. The Book of Exodus opens with the memorable saying: “Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph” (1:8, ESV). Let’s face it, when most of us are laid low by the sweeping of the dread sickle, the memory of our lives will be swallowed up by oblivion. The psalmist reminds us of this reality: “As for man, his days are like grass. ... The wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more” (103:15–16, ESV).

The same can be true for ideas. Many ideas die with those who strove, fought, and suffered for them. This is usually the case for the people and ideas that were on the losing side of some great controversy. If later generations do not forget them outright, they at least tend to remember them as inevitable losers, in part because the victors have reduced them to caricature.

Both dynamics seem to be true of the individuals who remained loyal to the British crown during the American Revolution. The Loyalists and their ideas are unknown to many, if not most Americans. And if they are known, they are too often remembered in simplified and distorted ways.

The living owe something worthier to the dead than forgetfulness or, worse, their misconstruing or mockery. We owe them our empathy and even, as historian Beth Barton Schweiger has recently argued, our love. And loving the dead means laboring to tell the truth about them in all its complexity. In God against the Revolution, historian Gregg L. Frazer considers the Loyalist clergy and their arguments against American rebellion and independence, giving their viewpoint a careful, comprehensive, and fair treatment.

Grounded in Scripture

This book ...

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Stepping Back Before Speaking Out

In solitude, we turn our face toward God who so loves this world.

The tears welled up in my eyes as the conversation continued. I felt angry, sad, and hurt. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to cause conflict or hurt relationships, but at the same time I had more to say. My husband caught my eye from behind the sofa where the other people sat. He smiled kindly at me and nodded toward the door. I understood. It would be best if I left the room because I was getting upset. I didn’t want to lash out in anger or say things I’d regret.

This occurred at a weekend with our small group from church many years ago. They were talking negatively about some people I knew. I’d initially tried to speak up for them but did not feel heard. As I stood outside in the dark on the cabin’s balcony, I cried in frustration.

We each face situations like this in which we feel caught between a rock and a hard place. When we care deeply about people or issues or circumstances, we struggle because we want so desperately for others to understand and share our viewpoint. But because speaking the truth in love can be so challenging (Eph. 4:15), we tend to either speak truth with harshness or say nothing in so-called “love.” My experience that night long ago planted within me a desire to explain important things calmly and clearly when I believe God is directing me to speak up.

Stepping Back

Over the years I’ve learned that becoming a person who stands up for people and issues wisely and effectively begins with stepping back. Without times of reflection in which we interact with God in quietness, contemplation, and solitude, we may unconsciously attack people. But by taking time and finding space to be with God, we can process volcanic thoughts and emotions and begin ...

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Interview: Four-Star General: Military More Cautious About Faith

General Roger Brady (USAF, Ret.) thinks soldiers are becoming more religious but the armed forces are more uncertain about religious expression.

The issue of religious tolerance has created challenging times for the United States military. All the service branches are trying to protect the rights of both those with religious beliefs and those with none. The choices made by military leaders exist in a pressure-packed environment framed by their oath of service, the Constitution, military guidelines, public opinion, and their own personal beliefs.

Recently, Brig. Gen. E. John Teichert, commander of Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California, became the focus of a Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) demand for an official investigation into his conduct, specifically a personal website that calls the nation to pray for itself and its future. The MRFF, led by former Air Force captain and activist attorney Michael L. (Mikey) Weinstein, alleges that Teichert is violating the Defense Department policy concerning religious proselytizing.

Retired Four-Star Gen. Roger A. Brady has had discussions with Weinstein regarding these kinds of religious issues and pressures. He was once the personnel director for all Air Force personnel, and he finished his 41 years of duty in 2011 as 33rd commander of all US Air Forces in Europe and led the joint NATO Allied Command from Ramstein, Germany. General Brady is a longtime Christian who now sits on the board of trustees for Mid-Atlantic Christian University and serves as the deacon over adult education at his local congregation of the Church of Christ.

Brady led the 2005 inquiry into whether religious intolerance and discrimination were occurring at the United States Air Force Academy. Brady’s team found no outright or intentional religious discrimination, although it did discover some overzealous evangelism and a lack of ...

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Making Room at Your Table for International Students

Jesus taught his followers that welcoming strangers is the equivalent to welcoming him.

The U.S. Lausanne Committee, also known as the Mission America Coalition (MAC), recently concluded its annual national gathering in Dallas, Texas. During the gathering, President/CEO Nick Hall announced MAC’s new name as The Table Coalition.

But why “table”? The Table Coalition leaders shared various analogies of a table, including “a place to gather, listen, and share. Tables make room for all kinds of people, and everyone has something to offer or receive. A table is a place to be nourished, and then go out with strength.”

Strategic collaboration may occur around a table. Cru’s President, Steve Douglass, told the story of how mission and ministry executives seated at a conference about unreached and unengaged peoples decided over Table 71 to partner together in reducing the number of remaining unengaged people groups down to zero.

The cross is readily noticeable in The Table Coalition’s new logo, featuring a horizontal rectangular table positioned in between two chairs above and below it. The coalition seeks to answer the question, “Who is missing from the table?”

Hosting International Students

How might we invite all peoples and all nations to the table of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb? One way is to invite people from other nations whom God has sovereignly brought to our communities, campuses, and churches to join us at our own supper tables.

We are all admonished to practice hospitality, and surely there can be mutual blessing from sharing, receiving, and learning from those from other cultures and countries. Hebrews 13:2 reminds us that hosting internationals may be a way to receive God’s angelic messages from strangers and foreigners.

While hospitality is still ...

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Pepperdine Student, Cal Lutheran Grad Among California Shooting Victims

“Our students are resilient, but the burden is great.”

Two California Christian colleges are mourning losses after a deadly shooting at a country and western dance hall last night.

A Pepperdine University freshman and a recent alumnus of California Lutheran University were among the 11 people killed as a shooter launched smoke bombs and fired bullets across the crowd at an 18-and-up college night at Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California.

A sheriff’s sergeant and the gunman, identified as 29-year-old David Ian Long, also died in the shootout. At least 18 others were injured.

School officials said that 16 Pepperdine students, including from Seaver College and the School of Law, were known to be at Borderline on Wednesday. Among them was 18-year-old Alaina Housley, who didn’t make it out of the bar when her friends escaped through a broken window.

On Thursday morning, her uncle—former Fox News correspondent and Pepperdine alumnus Adam Housley—told news media that her iPhone still showed her location as inside Borderline. By the afternoon, her family’s worst fears were confirmed. At least two other Pepperdine students were injured in the attack; they were released from the hospital today.

Justin Meek, a graduate from nearby Cal Lutheran, was also killed. The school canceled classes Thursday and Friday.

Christians have tweeted their prayers for both campuses and all the victims.

“Many are burdened by a sense of certain loss for many in the Borderline shooting…,” said Pepperdine president Andrew K. Benton. “May God grant comfort to all impacted by this senseless tragedy. Our students are resilient, but the burden is great.”

Benton joined fellow campus leaders expressing grief and anger over the shooting at a prayer ...

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The Uncertain Future of Pro-Life Democrats

Mixed results in the 2018 midterms leave questions on partisan strategy over abortion.

Some pro-life Democrats insisted that the only way their party would bring a “blue wave” in the midterms was if it wooed disenchanted Republican voters—including evangelicals—with candidates who took more moderate positions on abortion.

If 2018 was a test of this theory, as reported by Politico, the results are too few and too mixed to assess whether they were right. Barely any pro-life Democratic candidates emerged in this year’s elections; and in almost every case, they struggled.

So the question remains over the future of pro-lifers in the typically pro-choice party. Will Democrats strategically expand to become a “big tent” on the issue of abortion, or will they double down on a commitment to abortion rights?

The issue is particularly apt for evangelicals, who have long considered abortion a political priority. Recent analysis of the 2016 presidential election indicated that a politician’s stance on abortion matters more than party for Americans with evangelical beliefs; three-quarters of pro-life evangelicals said they’d be willing to “vote for a candidate who was truly pro-life, regardless of political party.”

While Republicans easily offer voters a more consistent pro-life position and lobby to tighten restrictions on abortion access, Democrats who fall outside the typical pro-choice default of their party tend to brand themselves as “pro-life for the whole life,” bringing in positions against capital punishment and for poverty relief as well—issues that can appeal to some Christian voters.

Michael Wear, who conducted faith outreach for the Obama White House and serves as a Democrats for Life board member, suggested that fellow believers ...

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Interview: A New Guild Aims to Equip Women and Amplify Orthodoxy

An interview with Pelican Project members Karen Swallow Prior, Kristie Anyabwile, and Tish Harrison Warren.

Two years ago, Karen Swallow Prior started fielding phone calls from women who all expressed the same desire: to find community among women united in their orthodox belief. “I kept hearing the same kinds of things from women—whether egalitarian or complementarian or otherwise—who wanted a space that was theologically rooted and rigorous but that was also robustly pro-female,” says Prior, “a space where they could be honest about what they believed, where women of different ethnicities and denominations could come together around common beliefs and commitments.”

A few months later, about 20 women from across the country met together to talk and pray about how to practice orthodoxy in the public square and how to equip the church to better disciple women in their midst. The group launched publicly this week as The Pelican Project.

Along with Kristen Anyabwile and Tish Harrison Warren, Prior spoke recently with CT about the formation of their group and why it matters to the cultural moment.

Does the church need yet another collective, group, guild, or parachurch ministry?

Prior: That really is an important question, isn’t it? A couple of years ago, when this idea began to germinate, I wouldn’t have thought so. But then I got an email from a stranger, a conservative pastor leading a conservative congregation. He reached out to me because he sensed that the women in his congregation were withering because of a lack of robust theological training and engagement. He recognized that in his conservative circles (which are mine, as well) the de-emphasis or watering down of women’s discipleship isn’t the result of our theology but rather the failure to properly apply it in whole. ...

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Love and Marriage Goes Together Like….

A few thoughts on the keys to a good marriage.

Love and marriage is a topic that always seems to be trending.

Many people, particulary when they are young, look forward idealistically towards marriage, as if their partner will complete them and fulfill them in fairytale-like ways.

I love being married. Donna challenges me to grow and loves me unconditionally in many ways. But marriage is not the perfect picture many grow up and dreaming.

After 30 years of marriage, I have found that marriage is both better and harder than I expected.

A few minutes ago, Donna and I came back from a lunch date. We talked about the challenges and blessings of marriage. As we talked, we did find that our challenges tended to be in a few key areas. Maybe they might be of help to you.

Communication

One of the key areas of marriage that is both better and harder than I expected is communication. It is essential in a healthy marriage to be in clear communication with your spouse. But this communication may not always come naturally. You may have different preferred methods of communication.

Sometimes your spouse may mean one thing in what he or she says and you may receive it as something completely different. Or you may even have different ideas about what needs to be communicated.

For example, I’ve been very busy lately with my new role at Wheaton College and with Mission Group. We have grown our team so that I now have about about 60 people on my different teams and in different roles. It requires a lot of delegation. My wife mentioned to me a few months ago that it felt as though I was delegating tasks to her the way I delegate tasks to my team.

Now, I think I delegate well to my team, so that’s not the point.

But I asked her to tell me more. I listened, because after decades of marriage ...

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