Thursday, June 9, 2016

Spiritual Coffee: Young Men Isolated in a Virtual Online Tribe - Knowing You're No Better than Unbelieving Friends May Help Save Them - Russell Moore Challenges Justice Advocates to Stop Being Selective

Mid-week roundup of three resources for Christian thinking and reflection. Prior collections are tagged under Spiritual Coffee.

Seeking the Living Among the Dead, Rod Dreher (The American Conservative)
What kind of virtual culture and religion have young men encased themselves in through online interactions? When you consider how much time they spend connecting virtually with people, through streaming video, social media, and online gaming, it becomes clear that this amounts to a self-designed reality that occupies more of their lives than ordinary community and culture. And that reality is missing some important pieces. Rod Dreher always brings an extra depth of thoughtful and insightful examination to what he discusses. This time, he shares at length from Edward Hamilton, who teaches at a small conservative Christian college in Texas. His observations about how young adults - mostly young men - are shaped by this virtual reality give us a lot to consider in repairing a healthy community. For example: these virtual webs of interaction are largely devoid of anything resembling church or Christian practice (not necessarily by intention, but simply by indifference); the content and material tends to be focused on feeding cravings, instead of building ideas or relationships; and the virtual YouTube circles and gaming clubs and social media become a sort of tribe that takes the place of church and community.

The Myth of Moral Superiority: When You're No 'Better' than Your Agnostic Friend, Jen Pollock Michel (Christian Living, TGC)
This tackles a very present problem for many of us with unbelieving friends: how do you display the need for the Gospel to people who don't have any big and obvious sins in their lives? Especially to those who sometimes seem to be better parents and spouses than you feel you are, leaving you feeling almost silly in trying to point out their subtle sins?
"Many of my non-Christian friends and neighbors don’t easily fit the snarly, selfish caricatures of the godless. They are good neighbors and good parents. In Lisa’s case, they are great neighbors and admirable parents.
"And this evident morality leaves me a little stumped in terms of evangelism. What does it look like to share the gospel with friends who fail the obvious narrative of “wretch,” a term with which converted slavetrader John Newton described himself? If I am the student—and my non-Christian friend sometimes the teacher—have I failed my heavenly assignment from God? Shouldn’t I be better than them?"
"Even the most morally upright person, Christian or non-Christian, falls short of God’s glory. In fact, the gospel exposes the depths of my depravity—that of all the pedophiles and pornographers, drunks and derelicts, I am chief sinner among them (c.f. 1 Tim. 1:15). And maybe this is the biggest difference between Lisa and me: not that I outperform her in virtue, but that I outrank her—by virtue of gospel self-awareness—in vice.
"The gospel doesn’t make me better. But it does make me eager to admit my debts and deficits, grateful to receive God’s good gifts from whomever’s hand they come."  

Russell Moore to Justice Conference: Don't Be Silent on Unborn, Sexuality, and Hell, Chelsen Vicari (Juicy Ecumenism - Institute on Religion and Democracy blog)
It's encouraging to hear that Russell Moore was invited to speak to a gathering like this, which usually features social justice pioneers and leaders who are more politically leftist. Christians are too often divided down liberal and conservative lines on doing justice, each side leaving something out. Moore is just the man to tackle this subject with wisdom and clarity, being fair to both sides.
"The annual gathering of young evangelicals is described as 'one of the largest international gatherings on social and biblical justice' and is a project of World Relief. The Justice Conference customarily invites members of the Christian Left to Champion issues related to social justice. For example, last year’s keynote speaker was Dr. Cornel West, liberal political activist and Union Theological Seminary professor. So it’s a bit surprising that this year, wedged on the schedule between Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo, was Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission."
"He tackled issues ranging from racial injustice, human trafficking, and refugees. But it was his mention of the sanctity of unborn life, sexual ethics, and the reality of Hell that had some in the room squirming uncomfortably in their seats.
"Too often, Moore said, Christians are tempted to solely focus on the social issues that their peers or 'tribe' approve. 'When I’m speaking to people in my tribe of conservative confessional evangelicalism,' explained Moore, 'I often have to say you are pro-life, and rightly so, but because you recognize the image of God and the humanity of God in the unborn child and in his or her mother, you must also recognize the humanity and dignity of God in people who might not be politically popular with you right now: with prisoners, with refugees, with immigrants. And that works the other way too.'
"The bulk of Moore’s discussion urged his audience to recognize the dehumanizing of the unborn as equally unjust as the dehumanizing of other vulnerable groups more popular among younger Christians."

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