About that bill in Arizona…and what other implications it might have had

“The Sinner Series.” Photo courtesy Bernt Rostad via Flickr Creative Commons. - See more at: //rachelmariestone.religionnews.com/2014/02/26/sb1062-arizona-religious-freedom-law-gay-gluttony/#sthash.j8JjtyH1.dpuf

“The Sinner Series.” Photo courtesy Bernt Rostad via Flickr Creative Commons.

I grew up in a Baptist church that didn’t condone the use of alcohol. But it was also located in an area where tourism was a key industry, which meant that a lot of young (and not-so-young) people were employed in restaurants. Restaurants that served alcohol.

Different people in my religious circles had different opinions on the subject, but I can remember more than one conversation ending with the acknowledgement that almost anything could be construed to violate certain Christian beliefs.

You could be a librarian and have to check out offensive, anti-Christian books.

You could be a city clerk and have to issue marriage licenses to people who were divorced.

You could be a cashier and have to sell condoms to unmarried people.

{Continue reading at Religion News Service.}

*updated* Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has vetoed the bill.

Why does animal suffering hurts so much?


I’ve encountered a lot of sad animal stories — in books, on the web, and in real life — recently, and I’ve mused over why I find them so distressing in a recent post for Religion News Service.

A friend, commenting there, noted that one of the reasons animal suffering may break our hearts so much is because animals are so very innocent; so very dependent. It reminded me of This American Life host Ira Glass’s rationale for why he cares for his incredibly high-maintenance dog, Piney.


Here is a bit of my RNS post:

“The peaceable kingdom of God includes a vision of animals living happily with and among people:

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. (Isaiah 11:6)


And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely. (Hosea 2:18)

Part of human longing for home — a longing that often looks a lot like faith — seems to include the hope that not just we, but our animals, too, will find a place beyond suffering, beyond fear, beyond death itself.”

{Read more here.}


Why Turning Thanksgiving Day into Shopping Day is un-American

Okay, that title might be a little extreme, but bear with me. I’m kind of upset about this whole “stores opening for Black Friday on Thanksgiving Day” thing.

My feelings go beyond mere nostalgia for Thanksgivings past. Our nationally observed holidays erode, gradually but certainly, with every wave of unending commerce. It’s a regrettable and embarrassing move that suggests what we value most is not in fact family, religion, history, or even the cherished notion that God has blessed America. Instead, for us there is no day so sacred that it would keep us from standing in long lines under the glow of fluorescent lights to get a flat-screen TV…while others must stock the shelves and man the registers.

It is perhaps not insignificant that President Abraham Lincoln established a regular date for a nationally observed day of Thanksgiving while the Civil War was still raging; Thanksgiving celebrations had occurred at different times in different (mostly Northern) states for many, many years, but it was not yet a national holiday. In his Proclamation of Thanksgiving, Lincoln urged people to consider that even amid the ravages of war, God had blessed America with “fruitful fields and healthful skies,” and that, even in the nation’s suffering, God had “nevertheless remembered mercy.” It was only fitting and proper, he said, that God’s mercies

should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

Lincoln also urged that along with giving thanks, Americans should confess to their part of the “national perverseness and disobedience” leading to the Civil War; make sure to give aid and compassion to those bereaved by the war; and pray for its swift end, the healing of the nation’s wounds, and a return to “full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, [sic] and Union.”


Somehow I think he might regard the stories of the shrieking mobs surging “through in a blind rush for holiday bargains” and trampling a Wal-Mart employee to death in the process as falling somewhat short of both American and religious ideals.

{This is a small snippet of a post I have up at the Christianity Today her.meneutics blog.}

Don’t Heap Contempt On the Poor, Ever. Even if you think they ‘deserve’ it.

So, some colleagues (whom I also count as friends) and I came across this ridiculous list of “20 Things the Rich Do Every Day” on Dave Ramsey’s blog. While I hear that Ramsey’s work has been helpful to many, we were taken aback by the context-free presentation of these (unverified) statistics, all of which paint the rich as enlightened, healthy, intelligent, benevolent, disciplined and the poor as…well, the opposite of all that.

Some things on the list were patently ridiculous, such as #7:

“70% of wealthy parents make their children volunteer 10 hours or more a month vs. 3% for poor.”

(Could that have something to do with the fact that poor children of working age have to, you know, GET PAID for their work?)

Anyway, Caryn Rivadeneira, Marlena Graves, and I have offered our responses to this piece in a group post. Below are some of my thoughts from that piece. Click through to read the entire three-part post.

From Proverbs, we might conclude that God rewards the hardworking with wealth, while poverty is the result of laziness. The book is full of aphorisms like, “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich” (10:4) and “Do not love sleep, or else you will come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread” (19:13).

This idea—that people who are poor are poor simply because they haven’t cultivated the right habits—gets labeled as biblical, but tends to foster a contempt for the poor that’s anything but.

Scripture reminds us many times poverty itself is by no means a cursed state (Prov. 15:16) and condemns contempt for the poor: “Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but those who are kind to the needy honor him” (Prov. 14:31). Deuteronomy 15:7-8 warns Israelites not to be “hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be.”

The Bible doesn’t indicate that people must be worthy of such generosity; no provision made for excluding the person from charity because of laziness. We see that kindness and generosity are to be given without reservation, without restriction. Perhaps this is because all good things—including the ability to work hard—come from divine grace. The prosperity that can follow hard work is not exclusively our natural and inevitable reward, but in fact a gift from God.

{Read the whole piece here.}

Guest Post + Book Giveaway: Bearing One Another’s Burdens Doesn’t Mean Living All Of Their Emotions

{I’m delighted to welcome Sarah Cunningham to the blog today. Sarah has a new book out, and her publisher is generously giving away THREE copies of her book, The Well-Balanced World Changer. Read and comment by November 7 for your chance to win.}

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I learned just about everything you could possibly learn in church growing up. I learned about God and Jesus and, of course, the Holy Spirit, who I envisioned appeared kind of like Casper the Friendly Ghost. Only holier.

I learned to spell the word Christianity. And to spell it with superhero speed, thanks to that I-am-a-C, I-am-a-Ch song.

I learned how to lead a Sunday School class and how to facilitate a small group (which turned out to be suspiciously similar).

But there was one thing I didn’t learn in church. One incredibly significant thing that had huge implications on how I internalized and lived out my faith. How to manage my own emotions.

And the older I got, the more important this question seemed to be: If Christ was abiding in a person, what would their emotional rhythms look like? How would they show anger? How would they commit to making peace? How would they show emotional generosity? Authenticity? Restraint?

Since crossing from childhood to adulthood, my life has of course provided many, often messy opportunities to fill in those spiritual emotional blanks from my childhood.

Often, even though I learned the hard way, finding good emotional health just required a bit of fairly simple re-framing.

For example, along the way, I picked up this mantra: Insist on taking responsibility for yourself and insist on not taking responsibility for others.

I know. I know. It doesn’t sound incredibly profound, but the way it plays out can gift your life with so much freedom.


Perhaps, for example, you are a wife or a husband, a boyfriend or a girlfriend. And perhaps your life is hooked to a partner or even a friend who experiences a wide range of emotion. Who is even a little bit, dare I say it, moody.

At first you may take each of this person’s bad moods on with genuine seriousness. You might talk to them about it, you might make them dinner, you might encourage them to rest. You might feel so sincerely plagued by their state of be- ing that you carry their unhappiness around with you all day.

You might stay up late thinking about it, lose sleep and appetite over it, even cry tears over it!

But the older you get, the more you realize that choosing to do this is insane. Yes, encourage them. Send them cards. Make their favorite dessert. Wish them well! Laugh when they laugh, mourn when they mourn, and help them bear their burdens.


But for goodness’ sake, don’t replace your own identity or emotional state with theirs. What good does it do the world if you ship out your steadiness, your good feeling, your sanity in exchange for someone else’s rockiness, their bad feeling, their ill state of mind? Is the planet better off after you’ve added yet another unhappy person to it?

And how unfair and disproportionate is this! Is this really what God wants? That you must not only deal with your own bad days, but that you must also take on someone else’s? So you must have twice as many bad days as the next guy? If this is the case, I hope you don’t make too many close friends or your family doesn’t ever grow too large. You could get so busy living other people’s bad days that you would never have any unoccupied days left to be good!

Really? Is this what God wants? Instead of just mom being burdened by frustration or overcome with grief, now it is mom and dad struggling under the weight of it? Two parents out of commission? Is this what is best for your children?

Don’t mishear me. I am not saying don’t help others bear their burdens. I’m saying don’t give up your right to manage their burdens differently than they choose to! No rule says that when you bear their burdens you can’t be smarter or wiser about how you hold them. No rule says you have to mourn as they do, that you must let their grief consume your life. Bearing someone else’s burden does not mean handling your

emotions just like they do. It does not cancel out your charge to employ what you know.

You are not responsible for how they manage your emotions, but you are still responsible for how you manage yours. You have been called to rejoice—to set your mind on whatever is noble. To trust that God will work out with them what is between him and them and that the one mediator needed in this scenario is not you.

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This excerpt was taken from Sarah Cunningham’s most recent book, The Well Balanced World Changer: A Field Guide To Staying Sane While Doing Good, which is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever books are sold. Sarah is an author, idea junkie and Chief Servant to a four year old Emperor and his one year old Chief of Staff. She does freelance work organizing conferences and supporting publishers while drinking chai in Michigan.  You can also find great shareable content at her book’s Pinterest page or contribute your own life lessons on social media using the hashtag #worldchangerbook.