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Signs and Wonders

Dave_Brubeck_NotesRemembering Dave Brubeck. This week we mark the anniversary of both the birth and death of jazz great Dave Brubeck. He died on December 5, 2012, just one day short of his 92nd birthday, December 6. Jazz fans and others who know anything about him remember his1959 album “Time Out,” the first ever million-selling jazz LP. He was the first modern jazz musician to be featured on the cover of TIME, on Nov. 8, 1954. However, only his most ardent admirers know that Brubeck had a late-in-life conversion to Christianity and he also left a robust body of sacred music. To learn more about Brubeck, check out an appreciation I wrote about him for WORLD when he died four years ago.
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Here Goes -- I Mean Amen

the_last_battleI am a lifelong Narnia fan. I treasure these books, constantly refer to them, and still mysteriously get something in my eye when Aslan explains the Deeper Magic from Before Time. C. S. Lewis was simply a master world-weaver, and Narnia is Lewis par excellence. So I don’t make this confession lightly. But I’ve stayed in the closet (wardrobe?) for too long. Here goes:

I’ve always found “The Last Battle” disappointing.

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Priorities

ThinkstockPhotos-497544355“Astronomy,” Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “taught us our insignificance in Nature.”

Many people believe this, and on one level, it’s hard to blame them. The size of the universe overawes any who contemplate it.

According to scientists’ best estimates, the cosmos is 91 billion (that’s 91,000,000,000) light years in diameter. A light year, you may recall, equals, give or take, about 6 trillion (that’s 6,000,000,000,000) miles. Multiply 91 billion by 6 trillion and you get a round trip of 546 billion trillion miles. It’s incomprehensible.

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Signs and Wonders

keith-kristyn-getty-irish-christmas-celebration-90Cuba Libre. A lot of ink has spilled regarding the death of Fidel Castro in the past few days, but if you want a fairly comprehensive and relatively unbiased account of his life, I recommend the Miami Herald’s obituary. It is, of course, no surprise that Leftist ideologues have praised Castro’s brutal reign, but I must confess some surprise that the award for cluelessness would go to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who had the worst assessment of Castro I’ve seen. Trudeau said Castro “made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation,” a ridiculous and demonstrably false statement. Trudeau’s statement caused Sen. Marco Rubio to tweet: “Is this a real statement or a parody? Because if this is a real statement from the PM of Canada it is shameful & embarrassing.” To read an interesting interview with Cuban dissident Armando Valladares, an interview that brings the real Cuba into focus, click here.
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Signs and Wonders

ThinkstockPhotos-531454680Dealing with Prodigals. Even great Christian families have troubles. That’s the reality of living in a fallen world. Or perhaps you have a friend who has walked away from Christianity. How do you continue to love that person without compromising your own beliefs and emotional health? These are some of the questions Dave Harvey and Paul Gilbert deal with in “Letting Go: Rugged Love for Wayward Souls.” I commend the book to you, but if you’re one of those who like to sample before you buy, WORLD has published a chapter as part of its “Saturday Series,” a weekly offering of “long form” reads on its website. You can read that chapter here.
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Internally Displaced Person

ThinkstockPhotos-509483224I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that’s real
The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything


In the weeks and months preceding the vote on Colorado Ballot Proposition 106, which legalized physician-assisted suicide in the Centennial State, John Stonestreet pointed to the wave of suicides among Colorado teenagers and rightly argued that a “yes” vote on 106 would send the wrong message to vulnerable kids. Sadly, two thirds of his fellow Coloradans didn’t agree or didn’t care.

As it turns out, teenagers aren’t the only people in the state experiencing a suicide epidemic. A recent story in the Washington Post tells the story of an increase in suicides among white women in La Plata County, in the southern part of the state.
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Signs and Wonders

Brantly_Mask_5x7Making Families Great Again. All this talk of “making America great again” reminds me of something Allan Carlson has been saying for a while: that the health of America’s families has gone through cycles of ups and downs over the years, and we are headed into an upswing in that cycle. Basically, he says that civilizations can tolerate sexual promiscuity and family breakdown for only so long before they either disintegrate or self-correct. Throughout American history, we have had a tendency to self-correct, and Carlson believes we are at the beginning of a period of self-correction now. You can read more about his theory in an interview I did with him at last year’s World Congress of Families.

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Internally Displaced Person

ThinkstockPhotos-498915290By the time this column is posted, the election results will be, in all probability, in, and we will have moved into the recrimination and handwringing phase.

Some more thoughtful Christians will be trying to figure out how to heal the wounds this electoral season has created. As the Emperor of the Colson Center John Stonestreet—I thought that, for all he has to put up with, he should be called “Emperor of the Colson Center” at least once in print—has pointed out on several occasions, the issue is how Evangelicals who have exchanged heated words over whom to vote or not vote for will partake of the communion table.

But there’s another divide that this election season has exposed that is getting much less attention, even though it’s arguably more portentous: the demographic divide.

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Signs and Wonders

ThinkstockPhotos-587789666Calling Elections. It’s popular in politics to tout the polls when your candidate is ahead, but to say the polls are flawed when your candidate is behind. So on this election day, I share a few final polls so that tomorrow and the rest of the week you can see whose polls really were reality-based, and which were biased. Real Clear Politics has Hillary Clinton winning by 3.2 percent in the popular vote and with 272 electoral votes. Nate Silver’s 538 Blog doesn’t predict the popular vote, but gives Clinton a 71.6 percent chance of winning with 302 electoral votes. Online oddsmakers OddShark and almost all the other online betting services have Clinton winning. Let me add, with emphasis: I’m not sharing these predictions in order to endorse or un-endorse one candidate or the other, but merely so that later this week we can see who called it and who didn’t. But from where I sit today, it’s pretty obvious that if Donald Trump wins, the “conventional wisdom” will have a lot of explaining to do. On the other hand, if Clinton really does win, many of us may have to admit that perhaps the polls are not so biased after all.
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Priorities

Bundesarchiv_Bild_194-0798-29_Dsseldorf_Veranstaltung_mit_Billy_GrahamEver since I knew what the word meant, I’ve been a proud, card-carrying evangelical—even when such a label hasn’t been popular.

Several years ago, I wrote a book that explored the questions that Jesus asked in the New Testament. It received mostly four- and five-star reviews on Amazon and glowing endorsements from evangelical stalwarts such as Joni Eareckson Tada and Jerry Jenkins. But one reviewer dismissed it with a single star:
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Signs and Wonders

Rosaria_ButterfieldAiring Grievances. Starting today, if you use Airbnb—and tens of millions of us do—you must sign a new “Community Commitment” that forbids discrimination of any kind. The statement says, “You commit to treat everyone—regardless of race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or age—with respect, and without judgment or bias.” This doesn’t sound so horrible until you consider that if you are a Christian trying to make a few extra bucks with your spare bedroom, you will now have to allow gay couples to rent your home. Whether you agree with the rule or not, some are objecting to the fact that Airbnb just made the decision public on Saturday, and it goes into effect today. Daniel Pipes, founder of the Middle East Forum, tweeted, “I just got nanny @Airbnb’s obnoxious ‘Community Commitment’ telling me how to think. No thanks. I will book my overnight stays elsewhere.” Pipes told WORLD, “I don’t disagree with the sentiments [of the Community Commitment], but I find it unacceptable that to use the services of this conventional company, I have to make a pledge. I have not done that for any other service in my life. Not buying a house, not going on an airplane, not getting hotel rooms, not buying food, or all the other purchases I’ve ever made, I’ve never had to sign a commitment. This is politicizing the commercial marketplace in a way that’s unacceptable.” Airbnb feels, however, that it can afford to make this demand. The room-sharing service said its number of users had grown from 47,000 in 2010 to 30 million in 2015.
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Signs and Wonders

ThinkstockPhotos-500136172A Prophetic Speech. I’m in New York City this week for the annual Erasmus Lecture, hosted by First Things magazine. Russell Moore gave a magnificent speech last night on the topic “Can The Religious Right Be Saved?” His conclusion: It can, but it will take humility, new or repentant leadership, and a return to biblical “first principles,” including a renewed concern for sound doctrine. Rod Dreher wrote an entertaining summary of Moore’s speech, though I think Dreher’s headline, “The Religious Right: A Eulogy” misses the spirit of Moore’s address. It would be a mistake to say that Moore is advocating Dreher’s “Benedict Option” or James Davison Hunter’s “faithful presence.” Moore acknowledged the good intentions and the need for the activism of the old Religious Right. But Moore was unblinking in his insistence that the current leaders of the Religious Right had succumbed to the temptations of money and power, thereby losing the moral high ground in our cultural conversation. This generation-defining lecture is online, and I encourage you to see it for yourself.

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Internally Displaced Person

the-walking-dead-season-7-rick-lincoln-michonne-gurira-cci-key-art-1200x707-1In the Daily Beast’s estimation, “The Walking Dead,” which began its seventh season October 23 on AMC, “just isn’t fun anymore.”

They have a point. The show may have once been an over-the-top, cartoonish, violent bit of escapist fantasy, but as soon as the second season, it became clear that behind all that award-winning makeup and special effects lay a nihilistic heart. As one character told Rick, the protagonist played by Andrew Lincoln, “I can't profess to understand God's plan, but Christ promised the resurrection of the dead. I just thought he had something a little different in mind.”

This nihilism, and not the violence, is why (as I told BreakPoint listeners via Eric Metaxas) I gave up on “The Walking Dead,” along with “Game of Thrones.” Gratuitous violence, and to a certain extent, nudity, can be dealt with, albeit imperfectly, with your fast-forward button. But, to paraphrase St. Paul, against a story steeped in nihilism there is no remote control.
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Signs and Wonders

WodehouseProdigal Press. For those who doubt the media’s advocacy of pro-LGBT ideology, I offer two examples from this week alone. The Dallas Morning News recently published an article by a gay man who was appropriately, lovingly, and biblically asked to leave the church when he refused to submit to the church’s authority on the matter of homosexuality. The man’s letter and the Dallas Morning News’ treatment of it grossly misrepresented the church and its efforts to restore this man to full fellowship. The only good news is that a couple of days later the paper allowed Pastor Todd Wagner to respond, which he did with grace and truth. Also this week, The Charlotte Observer, in a huge front-page story, attempted to paint a local church as the villain and a lesbian church attender as a victim when the church would not recognize the woman’s same-sex marriage. The theme of both stories is the same: Christians can believe what they want, but outside the four walls of your church, you need to conform to the values of the world.

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Priorities

ThinkstockPhotos-496546048Study after study indicates that divorce is associated with bad outcomes for children. According to a summary of studies compiled by Focus on the Family:

  • “Children from divorced homes suffer academically. They experience high levels of behavioral problems. Their grades suffer, and they are less likely to graduate from high school.
  • “Kids whose parents divorce are substantially more likely to be incarcerated for committing a crime as a juvenile.
  • “Because the custodial parent’s income drops substantially after a divorce, children in divorced homes are almost five times more likely to live in poverty than are children with married parents.
  • “Teens from divorced homes are much more likely to engage in drug and alcohol use, as well as sexual intercourse, than are those from intact families.”
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Here Goes -- I Mean Amen

John-Writing-Epistles1038x762It’s tough to express how strange it is seeing pastors and columnists hawk theological liberalism as the solution to Christianity’s troubles. Why? Because we’re standing in the ruins of theological liberalism.

The new soup de jour is luring Christians away from the Bible and doctrine, toward a way of living allegedly modeled after Christ’s. But “Christianity as lifestyle,” or the increasingly popular “living the Gospel,” isn’t a new idea. It’s just warmed-over late 19th-century mainline Protestant gruel. And it’s being served up everywhere. Nicholas Kristof gave us a heaping helping last month in the New York Times.
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Signs and Wonders

ThinkstockPhotos-86487819Standing Firm. Pope Francis reaffirmed a biblical understanding of gender identity on Sunday. He called the teaching of gender identity in schools "war against marriage." Also, he said that transgenderism is “against nature. It is one thing when someone has this tendency . . . and it is another matter to teach this in school. To change the mentality—I call this ideological colonization." In August, the Pope said it was “terrible” to teach gender identity in schools. "Today, in schools they are teaching this to children—to children!—that everyone can choose their gender," Pope Francis said.
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Signs and Wonders

T_S_Eliot_Simon_FieldhouseFiddling While Charlotte Burns. Talk about straining out gnats while swallowing camels. Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts was the darling of the LGBTQ community because she championed the transgender bathroom bill. This was just the latest in a long history of pro-gay advocacy. Roberts has promoted herself as a champion of tolerance and inclusion, and for her efforts the LGBTQ community (and the local and national media) have rewarded her with political contributions and positive press. However, over the last few years, she may have been fiddling while her city was about to burn. While she was attending everything from black-tie events to parades held by pro-gay organizations, race relations in her city were crumbling. Last night, a furious crowd attended the Charlotte City Council meeting on Monday night, some of whom called for her resignation. Even the liberal and normally pro-Roberts Charlotte Observer has been critical of her handling of the issue.
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Signs and Wonders

ThinkstockPhotos-488536262The Electoral College and the Depravity of Man. If you think we’re going to elect a president on November 8, you’re wrong. In fact, the Electoral College will meet to elect the president about three months from today and a couple of weeks after the general election. Over the years, especially in the late 20th century, we’ve debated whether to keep the Electoral College. Personally, I’m in favor of it. It is a safeguard our nation’s founders put in place to protect us from mob rule on the one hand, and the concentration of power in the hands of the elite on the other. It is not an exaggeration to say that the separation of power we see codified in our Constitution is a response to a theological understanding: that man, though made in God’s image (with rights endowed by our Creator) is nonetheless broken and therefore wicked because of the Fall. That’s why we have three branches of government, and why we have an Electoral College. For a thoughtful defense of the Electoral College, listen to my interview with Trent England of the organization Save Our States. You’ll be better equipped to talk about the Electoral College next time someone asks why we have one.
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Here Goes -- I Mean Amen

ThinkstockPhotos-81714357In 2005’s “Hitch,” Will Smith’s title character gets into a conversation with a buddy at a bar about relationships. His friend, recently married, gushes about how the love between his wife and himself is on a different level from the philandering these guys once enjoyed. “You know what your problem is?” the friend asks. “You’re all about the short game.” As two attractive women stroll by, Hitch smiles and retorts that married life isn’t for everyone: “Just leave me to my hot, sweaty, totally varied, wildly experimental short game.”

To be fair, the movie ends with Smith’s character swearing off his womanizing ways and settling down with the girl of his dreams. But you don’t have to look far to find movies, TV shows, bestselling novels, and political organizations touting no-strings-attached sex as the good life. It’s fun, exciting, and so much better than being stuck with the same person night after night. Casual sex on screen is the purview of sophisticated, attractive, career-focused urban socialites. Everyone has a good time, goes to work the next day, and laughs about it over cocktails come Friday. At least, that’s how it goes in the movies.
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