Christianity is the Most Inclusive (and exclusive) Religion

As our nation celebrates the memory of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., many of us will hear his speeches broadcasted, attend lectures or rallies, visit memorials, and consider his impact. In a pluralistic America, the place of Rev. King’s Christianity can be debated and even hidden. Was it merely a facade for him to unite the country around a civil religion? Was it one of many religions he could have trusted in order to work for equality and peace? Or was it essential to his confidence and cause? It’s commonplace to hear accusations against Christianity for being too exclusive. It’s too preachy, it focuses too much on beliefs, and its beliefs tend to divide and exclude, rather than unite; it talks too much about its own uniqueness, and not enough about what it shares with all other religions. It has been a historical force for conflict and strife, rather than peace. Many of these types of accusations have their historical justifications, from which Christians can humbly learn. T

Is Religious Zeal the Problem?

This question continues to come back to me - whether through conversation, the media’s coverage of terrorism, or personal reflection - is religious zeal the problem? Ever since 9/11, religious zeal in general has been identified as the source of our world’s problems. Whether it’s the “New Atheists” - men like Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris - and their jeremiads against religion, or the “common sense” milieu of our age that takes for granted the value of moderation in all things, most especially religion, religious zeal appears as an obvious evil. Can we question this assumption? I not only want to question it, I want to actually advocate for religious zeal, properly understood.   First - questioning our assumptions. Consider the coverage of either today’s “Islamic” extremists or the stereotypical knowledge of the medieval Crusades, and you will in both cases discover that our culture denounces them for the same reason - they were too zealous, too certain, and violence became the na

Don't Be Yourself: 6 Reasons for a Better NYR

As many of us relax during the holidays, reflect on our lives, and even make New Year’s Resolutions, it’s important to be aware of our society’s cult of authenticity. How often do we tell ourselves or others, “be yourself” or “you do you.” I love our cultures shift from the cold, distant, emotion-less facades of previous generations, and absolutely see the value in being authentic. But we have gone too far. Here’s why I think so: 1. Feelings are liars Well, not always. Sometimes they are insightful for a situation or a relationship. But other times, they are just plain wrong, or wrongly interpreted by us. Your feeling could just be the bad burrito you had for lunch! I encounter a lot of people, myself included, who start from the assumption that feelings should be the driver of what we do and why. If I don’t feel comfortable doing something, then I shouldn’t do it, and you shouldn’t make me. When we realize this, it should strike us how feeble of a life we would have. Our emotio

4 Ways Pluralism Serves the Rich and Powerful

Pluralism has become the central uniting factor in much of our society, yet I wonder if many people have considered its implications. If pluralism truly means ALL views are welcome to the table, is that the best means of securing freedom and tolerance? And if not “all”, what authority do we appeal to for the boundary? The state? Popular opinion? As pluralism increasingly becomes America’s new dogma, it’s important we realize the ways it will inevitably serve the status quo of the rich and powerful. 1. If truth and morality are relative, we can’t say “no” The greatest measure of freedom is not our ability to choose or define ourselves, but our ability to say “no” to the majority or ruling class. Ironically, as pluralism becomes the assumption more and more in our society - with regard to moral foundations, worldviews, religion, identity, gender, etc. - then we lose the ability to defend the defenseless in our society. What was intended to include the defenseless actually undercuts

A Christian's Angry Love

In the midst of such public scandal, anger, and division, I am compelled to ask what ought to be different about a Christian’s response. Though not always necessarily unique among political or social responses, the world-shattering claims of the gospel of Jesus Christ should make a difference in how a Christian reacts. This summary of the gospel is my starting point - in Jesus Christ, (1) we learn that the depths of our sin require a perfect divine substitute, (2) yet we encounter a love and hope in God we can scarcely dare to imagine, (3) which births us into a new trans-cultural and trans-historical community to show forth that love and hope. Several implications for responding to our cultural moment flow directly from this gospel. A Christian should have deeper moral outrage than the angriest partisan By living in the shadow of the cross, it is right for a Christian to hate sin - both in themselves and in the world - because we see what it cost God on the cross. The New Testa

America is Not a Christian Nation

Full disclosure: I’m a Christian pastor who believes in the traditional gospel that, as far as I can tell, has generally been believed by Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox for 2,000 years. For many Christians today and throughout history, this statement that “America (or fill in your country) is not a Christian nation” - is basic and non-controversial. For others, it’s a necessary and critical reminder. 1. There’s no such thing! If there is a quintessential American “heresy”, surely it is taking out of context the biblical promises about the church - “you are a city on a hill” and a “holy nation” that will never perish from the earth - and acting as if they apply to America. To say the obvious, those promises were made in the 1st Century to the Church, because it is the body of Christ on earth. Regardless of the faith (or lack thereof) of America’s founders, the Constitution, the demographics of America, or even the faith of America’s legislators and president, there will onl

Please Don't Just Tolerate Me!

Is Christianity a religion of love or of hate? Both! And I don’t just mean that there are some Christians who do a lot of loving things, other Christians who do a lot of hateful things, and the latter are wrong. Well, that’s true in one sense, but is also very boring and obvious. There are some Buddhists, Jews, and Zoroastrians who love well, and others who hate terribly - the question is what does that say about the essence of Buddhism, Judaism, or Zoroastrianism, not just the empirical fact that it’s true.   When it comes to genuine Christianity, it has always been the case that the greatest saint is also filled with the greatest outrage. That is why the same person can be stirred to melodramatic (to our senses) bewailing of their own sins as well as moved to kissing the feet of the bloody criminal. Christians are freed to both hate death, and yet celebrate death’s own defeat in Christ, seeing what it cost him and revelling in its final victory. Love drives out fear, but not hat