1. The people and the Black Book
This week we North Americans commemorated Columbus Day. I remember when this day came around in 1992, the quincentennial of Columbus’s landing in the “New World.” We were living among indigenous Mayan neighbors, and I remember learning, however vaguely, that not everyone considers Columbus a hero. Here’s a hauntingly beautiful and gripping piece written by Mark Buchanan, a Canadian pastor and wonderful writer. In it he tells of his First Nations neighbors and of the soul-searching required of Christians in light of the history we share:
The Tswassens have a prophecy 500 years old. One of their ancient holy men foretold that a people pale as birch would one day come from across the great water in large canoes. They would bring with them a Black Book. The Black Book was Truth, end to end, a gift of inestimable good. The people lived for many years awaiting the prophecy’s fulfillment. And then one day it happened. The big canoes— bigger than the Tswassens ever imagined—arrived. They teemed with people pale as birch. And, yes, they brought with them a Black Book. Then the killings started. The Tswassens became an obstacle to the pale men, and the pale men slaughtered them, and those they didn’t slaughter they enslaved. This is part of my history.
2. Read the Bible, become a… what??
LifeWay Research, an offshoot of the Southern Baptist Convention, has some interesting findings in a new study examining what happens to people who read the Bible:
Frequent Bible reading has some predictable effects on the reader. It increases opposition to abortion as well as homosexual marriage and unions. It boosts a belief that science helps reveal God’s glory. It diminishes hopes that science will eventually solve humanity’s problems. But unlike some other religious practices, reading the Bible more often has some liberalizing effects—or at least makes the reader more prone to agree with liberals on certain issues… Some of the most interesting findings relate to moral attitudes. “How important is it,” the survey asked, “to actively seek social and economic justice in order to be a good person?” Again, as would be expected, those with more liberal political leanings were more likely to say it’s very or somewhat important. And those who read the Bible more often were more likely to agree.
3. Bob Lupton on ‘Toxic Charity’
Grad school was a great time. I learned a lot and enjoyed most of it. But some books were more enjoyable than others. One of the best, most refreshingly different books I read during that year and a half was a slim volume from Robert Lupton called Theirs is the Kingdom: Celebrating the Gospel in Urban America. I was about to tell you it’s out of print, but apparently it was re-released just this week! Anyway, Lupton released a new book this week also, called Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It). Here’s an interview he did with the Religion News Service, published in the Washington Post. Read it for a taste of his perspective on why charity can become toxic.
4. Topography of faith
USA Today published an interesting infographic on the “topography of faith,” based on findings from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. You can see the religious breakdown of each state by passing your cursor over each one. The religious demographics of some states may surprise you.
5. Social media’s role in US foreign policy in Latin America
Liz Harper has an interesting post at the Americas Quarterly blog about the potential for US diplomacy in Latin America using social media:
Because governments that embrace new media technology are shown to be more responsive to their citizens and more transparent, the report argues, the U.S. has an interest in Latin America’s technological development… As Latin America is one of the fastest growing export markets for the United States, it makes sense for the U.S. to help encourage tech companies, like Google, Facebook and Twitter, to become more active in the region. The U.S. strategic interest in playing a “matchmaker” of sorts between the region and private companies is to promote Internet freedom and to ultimately use improved technological connectivity to advance our broader regional objectives, such as strengthening democratic values.
Of course, the proliferation of social media has been instrumental in the pro-democracy movement in the Middle East. But as observers of that case might suggest, giving ordinary citizens in Latin America their own voice through social media doesn’t guarantee that we will like what they have to say. It cuts both ways, I suppose.
Repaso is intended as a thought-provoking compilation of news and commentary from the past week related to the intersections of faith, development, justice and peace. As always, I welcome your thoughts on any of the links and ideas in this roundup!