Midweek Thoughts (and Links) on a Frigid Day

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It’s Wednesday. The thermometer reads -6ºF.

If that’s not enough to make you philosophical, I don’t know what is.

So here are various unrelated thoughts, opinions, helps, and factoids to warm up your brain, even if the rest of you is longing for a space heater.

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I recently wrote about Christianity Today‘s Book of the Year, God’s Forever Family: The Jesus People Movement in America.

A few things in that book that struck me:

1. The Jesus People movement, at first, was comprised mostly of unchurched hippies. When they became believers, they read the Bible and believed that anything was possible for God, because He could do anything or make anything seemingly impossible become reality. It was only later, after more traditional church people started discipling the Jesus People methodically, that the idea that God can do anything and that Christians were not limited or restrained started to vanish. I don’t know about you, but I see that as a sobering indictment of faithlessness—not among the hippies, but among the church people who discipled them.

2. The book notes that one of the primary social realities that doomed the Jesus People Movement was marriage and family. Once the Jesus People paired up and had kids, the movement died. Curiously, the Apostle Paul predicted this in 1 Corinthians 7:33-35. It makes me wonder if the only way we’ll see revival come again will be if it’s driven by and for single people. Singles may be the Church’s best hope for renewal. How strange that they continue to be treated as pariahs in many churches.

3. This is a bit controversial, but hey: It was startling to read how many of the hippies had experiences of God while using drugs. I wonder if we have become a society that is so über-rational that we have to have our overdriven rationality restrained before we can be open to the Lord. I’m not advocating recreational drug use as a means to lower our reliance on rational thought, only that extreme rationalism may be its own disease, one that short circuits the natural centers of the brain that connect with religious experience. Again, I don’t want to reduce conversion to a set of physical correlations, but I’ve got to believe we are out of balance with God’s created order if we flee to the intellect to explain every aspect of the human experience.

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Speaking of amped rationality interfering with spirituality, here’s an intriguing article on why young people become atheists: Listening to Young Atheists: Lessons for a Stronger Christianity.

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Oh, that Jesus People Movement thing? Here’s a mapping project that seeks to note all the hotspots of the movement. Feel free to add locations you know of. (Ohio, which was actually a hotbed of movement activity, seems to be lacking input at the moment.)

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So much for learning: 23% of Americans did not read a book (or even listen to an audiobook) last year. What does that mean for Christianity, which relies so much on the written word to communicate truth and wisdom?

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If you read this blog regularly, then you’ve heard me unpack some of my own ideas on why megachurches may be doomed. “7 Reasons Why Church Worship Centers Will Get Smaller” at Outreach Magazine online adds further insights.

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Brendt Waters douses some Strange Fire Conference “logic”: “A ‘Critic’ Answers Back.”

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Over at The J Letters, some whack-job talks about truth, magic, and changing the world.

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If you’ve been to the movie theater lately, you may be feeling this sense of déjà vu when it comes to the movie’s plotline and themes. It’s not you. There may be a real reason why all movies seem the same anymore.

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Is a Christian apologetic dead in the U.K.? Not if you listen to the podcast Unbelievable, a hard-hitting, intellectual look at difficult issues from both Christian and non-Christian perspectives that is very unlike “family friendly, positive, Christian radio” here in the States. (Website here.)

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Discouraged? Find freedom in Christ—for free! K.P. Yohannan of Gospel for Asia brings the truth in his no-cost e-booklet on how to triumph over discouragement.

12 thoughts on “Midweek Thoughts (and Links) on a Frigid Day

  1. “How strange that they continue to be treated as pariahs in many churches.”

    Family is god in church. The entire church–from the actual building to the activities in it–is centered around family, kids, and getting people married. So much energy is centered on families and marriages and relationships that lead to marriages or repair marriages…it boggles my mind.

    I have long thought that a shame. Of course, I am single. So I don’t have much voice, now that I’m too “old” for most of the singles groups until I hit the magic number of 55 and would be considered eligible for the “senior” singles groups.

    • As someone who hits that second magic number in a few years…don’t remind that my near future means transitioning to the Seasoned Saints group!

      Julie, I hear you on the singles issue. I’m not sure at this stage in my blogging career that I could possibly add more commentary on that topic. But ask me in another year. 😉

      That “everyone gets married” chapter in the Eskridge book really shook me. “Yoko broke up the band” is the old lament from Beatles fans, but its counterpart in the Jesus People Movement went way beyond one couple. The moment people in the communes decided to start marrying, boom, a commune years old fell apart in months. And in those rare cases where marrieds and singles still mixed, it was married couple compromises with consumerism that got them kicked out, which damaged the well-being of the group.

      So yeah, the marrieds became a problem and the commitment sloughed out of the movement.

      • ccinnova

        I turn 55 later this year, and I’ve already received senior discounts several times without asking for them. While I’m grateful to save money whenever I can, it makes me wonder if I really look that old.

        I visited the seniors group at my church last year since my second shift work schedule and participation in a monthly ministry on first Sundays preclude other fellowship opportunities. They’re a nice group of folks, but I simply didn’t fit in. Perhaps I will in another five or ten years.

  2. ccinnova

    “Singles may be the Church’s best hope for renewal. How strange that they continue to be treated as pariahs in many churches.”

    That’s an interesting observation, Dan, and not solely because I’m single.

    Several years ago Julia Duin wrote a book, Quitting Church, which included a chapter on singleness. She pointed out that many singles are leaving the church and not coming back. I’m wondering how a renewal including singles will be received as long as family-centric preachers like Albert Mohler dominate the American evangelical landscape.

    Speaking of I Corinthians, my church is currently going through a sermon series on that book of the Bible. I’m wondering how the senior pastor, married for over 40 years with five grown children and twenty-one grandchildren, will handle chapter 7.

  3. ccinnova

    I looked at the Jesus People Movement map. I didn’t see anything listed in Virginia. I was born and raised in central Virginia, although I’ve called the northern part of the state (i.e. suburban Washington, DC) home for more than 25 years.

    As far as frigid weather, it was 5 degrees this morning and it’s currently 12 with a wind chill of -5. We’ve got about 5 inches of snow on the ground and it’s not supposed to get above freezing again until Saturday. So much for “global warming.”

    • ccinnova,

      The lacks on the map are not indicators of a lack of JPM activity, more a lack of anyone who input their feedback. If you know of something in VA, you could always get a confirmation from another source and then input the info yourself. That’s how these wikis grow.

  4. Oengus

    Dan: “The book notes that one of the primary social realities that doomed the Jesus People Movement was marriage and family.”

    As a sidelight on this issue — and I lived in a commune for a short time, and I can tell some stories about that — I’d like to mention the one commune that lasted the longest, which was Shiloh House up in Oregon. Now I recollect seeing an academic paper that was written about them which came to a very interesting conclusion.

    They managed to develop a way to accommodate having mixed membership, families and singles, and they were becoming pretty successful. But as this paper pointed out, what finally doomed Shiloh House was the IRS. No matter how they tried to do their financial accounting, the IRS continually and relentlessly hassled them. It seems that our country’s tax laws are written in such a manner so as to make running a commune extremely difficult, if not impossible in the long run. They finally had to give up and disband.

    • Oengus,

      The book mentioned the IRS troubles but made it sound as if they were the very last straw. What the book said had taken the group to the breaking point was that many of the newly married men started drawing salaries under the guise of taking care of their families. Not only that, but certain of those families were getting perks, like Jacuzzis. This didn’t sit well with the rank and file, with the main leader ousted. Once that happened, the disintegration was swift.

      • Oengus

        Dan: “certain of those families were getting perks”

        Interesting. That sounds like some form of cronyism, favoritism, or elitism crept into the arrangement. Anyhow, if I ever find that paper again, I’ll show it to you.

        Our society is so culturally saturated with individualism (or libertarianism) that I think xtian communes are pretty much impossible. It just requires too much of setting aside your own interests for the benefit of the group. Americans just find this very hard to do, I daresay.

  5. Oengus

    Me: “what finally doomed Shiloh House was the IRS … They finally had to give up and disband”

    To add to what I said above regarding Shiloh, it was a good example of how the tax laws in this country act as a “structural evil” that dictates to the Church what it can and cannot do.

    Trying to operate a commune, at least a sizable one, in the country is pretty much a lost cause.

    • Oengus,

      I think the model is not to have a centralized mantle “company/ministry” that must assume any tax burden. If everything tax-related is decentralized, I think the options increase.

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