CT Blog

Finding My ‘True Self’ As a Same-Sex Attracted Woman

In my young-adult struggle with sexual identity, both legalistic condemnation and progressive license left me floundering.

This week marks the second anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the majority opinion states that the right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples according to the 14th amendment. Recent Pew Forum research indicates that support among Americans for same-sex marriage has grown from 31 percent in 2004 to 55 percent in 2016. Most notably, the percentage of those who identify as Christian (whether evangelical, mainline Protestant, or Catholic) who have also come to accept same-sex marriage has increased at nearly identical rates as the general population.

As Christians debate homosexuality in the context of our current culture, the church—like the rest of our country—is experiencing growing division and is now sharply polarized over an issue that few of us discussed at all 15 or 20 years ago. Groups on both sides of the debate often fall short in balancing the age-old tension between law and grace. Progressive Christians have to complete some relatively impressive theological gymnastics to work around the Bible’s consistent prohibition of same-sex activity and relationships, and hyper-conservative Christians have yet to explain how disowning children or rejecting fellow parishioners with same-sex attractions can possibly fall under Jesus’ instruction to love our neighbors as ourselves.

So how can we better hold law and grace in an effective tension that allows us to maintain our convictions and also show love toward those who do not?

This question is of particular significance to me as someone who grew up struggling with same-sex attraction and found no safe place to confide and sort out those feelings. From early on, I was drawn to other women in a way that felt different. ...

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Effective Partnering: The Church and Cross-Cultural Worker On-Task Together

A good church-field partnership takes work and lots of communication.

Read Effective Partnering: The Church and Cross-Cultural Worker On-Task Together, Part One (Case Study; The Cross-Cultural Worker’s Checklist).

The Church’s Checklist

1. Enlarge the church’s vision to include all nations. Initial steps might include a sermon series, a missional book or study, local outreach to internationals, or hosting a cross-cultural worker. The question is not if God wants you involved; the question is when and where.

2. Communicate. Talk to sending organizations. Reach out to church members’ cousins, acquaintances, etc. who are serving overseas. Attend a large church’s world missions conference or similar event and be intentional about spending one-on-one time with cross-cultural workers there.

3. Entertain the possibilities. Dream big; God can do it! What story connects with the heart of the church leaders and will motivate the church to respond in obedience? Is it Mexico or Mongolia? Israel or Indonesia? Deaf people? Muslim college students? European agnostics? Perhaps geography will be the key factor, but instead you may be drawn to a certain religion, culture, social condition, or special need. Do not question it or try to over-explain it. If God presses that group or place into your heart, there is a reason.

4. Communicate. Go on a vision trip or two and ask lots of questions. What role does the worker envision for partnership teams? What expectations does he or she have regarding the team’s level of engagement? Be honest about finances and feasibility, but know God may do far more than you currently expect through your church! If a connection is made, continue, but remember that not every church is suited for every field. We cannot force a partnership where God is ...

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Judge Halts Deportations of Detroit Christians to Iraq

Court order gives 100-plus Chaldeans two weeks to make their case.

More than 100 Iraqi Christians arrested in immigration raids earlier this month will get to stay in the United States—at least for another two weeks, according to an order issued yesterday by a federal judge in Detroit.

Judge Mark Goldsmith halted the immediate deportation of the recently detained Iraqi nationals for 14 days, while he decides whether the district court or an immigration court has jurisdiction over their case, Hamama v. Adducci.

The court described their plight:

Petitioners state that because of their having resided in the United States and their status as religious minorities—many are Christian, others are members of oppressed Muslim sects—they are likely to be persecuted, tortured, or killed by members of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the de facto government in many parts of Iraq.

The written order follows outcry from the Detroit area’s Chaldean Christians, who were shocked when officials detained scores of them on June 11. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has defended the detainees, who were identified by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) because of their past criminal records.

“The court took a life-saving action by blocking our clients from being immediately sent back to Iraq,” stated Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, who argued the case. “They should have a chance to show that their lives are in jeopardy if forced to return.”

The order prevents the government from deporting the Iraqi Christians, along with a few others from minority sects, before a court can hear their case. It applies to “all Iraqi nationals within the jurisdiction of the Detroit ICE field office with final orders ...

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In ‘Cars 3,’ Humility Finishes First over Generational Conflict

The classic Pixar franchise returns with a refreshing look at what it means to pass the torch onward.

Cars 3 opens in the same way as the original Cars, with Lightning McQueen, the central character, sitting in his trailer before a big race. As usual, McQueen is prepping for the race with a little motivational self-talk: “Focus. Speed. I am speed,” he says to himself. “One winner, 42 losers. I eat losers for breakfast.” After this line, however, the scene goes in a different direction; McQueen follows up with, “Wait. Did I really used to say that?” It’s as if he still can’t believe that he used to be such a jerk.

It’s a clear signal from the start that, all these years later, McQueen remains a nice car. The lessons he learned in the original film are still with him. Free of ego, he has the same rundown sponsors and lives in the same rundown town (the economic boom viewers saw in Radiator Springs at the end of Cars having apparently been a passing one), yet he is at the top of his industry—a racing superstar.

The problem that McQueen has in Cars 3 has less to do with the out-of-control ego of the original and more to do with something far more intractable: He is getting old. A good percentage of his demographic can relate, as many of the parents who took their kids to see Cars when it was first released in 2006 are now approaching middle-age right along with McQueen himself.

Getting old isn’t fun, whether you are a human being or an animated racecar, and it’s not long before McQueen’s legacy is threatened as he is outrun by the next generation of cars. Thanks to enhanced technology and data-driven training, these cars are fast, and McQueen doesn’t have a chance against them. In short, then, Cars 3 turns out to be a story about millennials and ...

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Here’s a Resolution: Denominations Should Stop Shooting Themselves in the Foot

The world is watching.

Dwight McKissic called the most recent SBC drama a “24-hour roller coaster ride.”

I called it shooting yourself in the foot. Again. Publicly.

What could have been a Tuesday condemnation of racism became a Wednesday mea culpa.

So, what really happened on Tuesday when the Southern Baptist Convention Committee on Resolutions offered nine resolutions on various topics but passed over Pastor McKissic’s resolution condemning the alt-right? As I conversed Tuesday night with some of the players, everyone knew that Dwight McKissic had brought a resolution, as he often does. With him regularly bringing resolutions, perhaps the Resolutions Committee had been predisposed to pass this one by—and some of the language in the resolution may have added to that.

But it’s time we see that decisions like this are more than just what happens in a room in Phoenix.

The Context

Let’s step back and look at what it means to exegete the national cultural context.

Here comes a well-publicized resolution on racism (of the alt-right, in this case). It had similarities to resolutions overwhelmingly approved in years past. But a national context is not built on the doctrine of “once-passed, always-passed.”

The number of resolutions passed on the issue of abortion (or alcohol!) testify to this. Things happen in culture that lead us to discern that we may need to speak up again.

If you’ve passed literally dozens of resolutions on alcohol, when everyone already knows where you stand, maybe another resolution on rasicm might help address some history and stereotypes. (Right now, the SBC resolutions mention alcohol four times for every one mention of racism—it’s not bad to close that gap.)

In addition, ...

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Should Christians Join Muslims in Breaking Ramadan’s Daily Fast?

In the Middle East, Christians even host iftars.

For most American Christians, Ramadan is a novelty; something heard of, but rarely seen. For Middle Eastern Christians, it is everywhere.

For some, it is an annoyance. The month-long fast from sunrise to sunset can make for a cranky Muslim neighbor. Productivity tends to slow. Religiosity tends to rise.

But for other believers, it is an opportunity.

“The Evangelical Church of Maadi wishes all Egyptians a generous Ramadan,” proclaimed the flowery banner hung in the southern Cairo suburb. Such signage is not uncommon (and Muslims also display Merry Christmas wishes for Christians). But saluting “all Egyptians” is a statement.

“I want our brother Muslims to feel that we are one [as Egyptians], and it will make him happy in his heart,” said pastor Naseem Fadl. “We both celebrate Ramadan.”

Beside the need to have good relations with Muslims, Fadl also emphasized his biblical obligations. “Our faith tells us to love everyone,” he said. “And when we reach out to others, we teach them about ourselves.”

Across the Middle East, Christians join in the festive spirit—often by hosting an iftar, the traditional fast-breaking dinner. They also refrain from eating and drinking in front of Muslims, said Rafic Greiche, a priest and spokesman for Egypt’s Catholic community.

Catholic churches often join in the tradition of Ma’idat al-Rahman, providing public community meals for the poor, he said. The “Table of the Most Merciful” employs a favored Muslim name for God, emphasizing the importance of charity.

In Palestine, the iftar provides opportunity for better understanding, said Salim Munayer, executive director of the Musalaha reconciliation ministry. ...

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Evangelicals Tell Trump: Don’t Deport Christians to Face Genocide in Iraq

As outcry over fate of 199 mostly Chaldeans continues, so do ICE arrests.

With the fate of 199 Iraqi nationals on hold while a Detroit court hears a lawsuit, a group of evangelical leaders has sent the Trump administration a simple message: Don’t deport Christians into genocide.

“We write urgently and with grave concern that Christians will be removed from the United States to face potential persecution, and even death, in the Middle East,” begins an open letter addressed to Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and signed by the seven leaders of the Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT).

The letter calls on the Trump administration to “exercise the discretion available under the law to defer the deportation of Chaldeans who pose no threat to US public safety to Iraq.” It also asks for the same considerations for Iraqis of other faiths.

The signatories include Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; Scott Arbeiter, president of World Relief; Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; Shirley V. Hoogstra, president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities; Jo Anne Lyon, ambassador and general superintendent emerita of The Wesleyan Church; and Hyepin Im, president and CEO of Korean Churches for Community Development.

The letter comes a week after scores of Iraqi Christians living around Detroit were plucked from their homes and cars—some on their way to church—and shackled by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers. A similar story unfolded at the same time among Iraqi Kurds around Nashville. Within a few days, more than 100 Iraqi nationals were detained, ...

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The Case for a ‘New Christian Zionism’

Gerald McDermott challenges simplistic thinking about Israel’s past, present, and future.

Christians have never been certain about what to do with Israel. This is certainly the case today. On the one hand, many mainline Protestants treat the nation of Israel as an international pariah. They pass resolutions urging boycotts and international sanctions, all while calling attention to the plight of Palestinians who have allegedly suffered at the hands of an oppressive Israeli state. For the most part, their posture echoes that of the political left.

On the other hand, in some expressions of evangelical folk theology, especially among older generations, Israel can seemingly do no wrong. The Jews are God’s chosen people, God will bless those who align themselves with Israel, and Israel’s enemies are God’s enemies. These supporters often believe that American flourishing depends in part on US foreign policy aligning with Israel’s interests. Their approach tracks closely with that of the political right.

In Israel Matters: Why Christians Must Think Differently about the People and the Land, Anglican evangelical theologian Gerald McDermott cuts through the simplistic platitudes of both the Christian left and right, offering a third way. McDermott is part of a group of scholars who identify with the “New Christian Zionism” movement. Their goal is to convince contemporary believers that Israel is not the backstory of the church, but a key part of the future of the faith. In Israel Matters, McDermott makes a nuanced case for the centrality of Israel in redemptive history—past, present, and future.

Against Supercessionism

The key enemy in McDermott’s crosshairs is supercessionism, the idea that the church has replaced Israel in God’s redemptive purposes. He argues that supercessionism ...

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Why Each Day Matters: What Emerson and Mister Rogers Have Taught Me About Life & Gospel Opportunities

How are we using our days to point people to Jesus?

In one of his landmark essays, poet Ralph Waldo Emerson writes, “The years teach much which the days never know.” The first time I read these words, I fell in love with them, but I wasn’t sure why.

And then I had children. I have a 3 and a 5-year-old. My 5-year-old recently had her first ballet recital. As I looked in my rearview mirror and saw her all dressed up in her glittery tutu and hair up in a bun, I shuddered. It seemed as though it was only yesterday I was changing her diaper. I blinked and lost five years.

In the book of Ecclesiastes, we track with the author as he continually cries out, “Vanity of vanities!” and ponders the meaning of life and our existence in it.

Time. Perhaps it’s something we all want more of, and yet it eludes us. Even Psalm 144:4 reminds us, “Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.” Time. It’s something we try to hold tightly and yet too often we get lost in such busy-ness that in the blink of an eye, our day, our week, our month…is gone.

There is no place where I feel the passing of days so acutely as in my desire to share Jesus with others. Those “days” which Emerson so poignantly talks about are the necessary ingredient to lead to the “years” that will teach us much. How are we using our days for God’s honor and glory? How are we using them to point people to Jesus?

The Bible is oddly silent on many of the days and years of Jesus when He walked this earth. But in the middle of one of these times of silence, we read, “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40).

These are the days we seek to have, aren’t they? ...

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Our July/Aug Issue: The Upside of Disruption

How unwelcome change can lead to a fuller life.

Even when we should see them coming, layoffs tend to arrive like a thief in the night. Mine came on Election Day 2008. I was sitting at my desk that morning, still wearing my “I Voted” sticker, when my boss entered my office with a look of forced nonchalance.

For just over a year, I had poured my sweat and my soul into my employer, an international ministry. But my work was no match for changing donor behaviors and the promised efficiencies of a looming organizational merger. My job—and within months, the jobs of many coworkers—was gone.

Job loss is scary and can be profoundly disorienting—even for Christians, as our cover story on tech-related unemployment acknowledges. Yet disruption is a tool God uses with frustrating frequency for the good of those who love him (Rom. 8:28), and even for those who don’t.

Recall that Jesus posed an existential threat to the status quo. Uninterested in political power, he nonetheless attracted great crowds, upended livelihoods (Matt. 21:12), and announced a new kingdom was at hand (Mark 1:15). That’s an unsettling combination if you were blessed with status and a plush job in the power structures of Jesus’ day.

But the disruption Jesus wrought was not punishment for misguided leaders any more than my layoff was a punishment for poor performance. It was disruption so “that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). This was Jesus’ mission, undermining oppressive systems that had outlived their purpose and replacing them with a new covenant by which all of creation could flourish.

Of course, disruption brings real losses that must not be trivialized or dispatched with truisms. But the loss is not the whole thing.

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