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Repaso: Columbus Day, the Bible, toxic charity, topography of faith, and social media diplomacy

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!

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Repaso: Remembering Rich Mullins, FoxNews & Lady Gaga in Lancaster, Jewish-evangelical cooperation, Latin American trends, and more

Last week’s Repaso was a day late and a little on the light side, but I think I’ve made up for it here. This week, a dizzying array of cool stuff. Ten items, in fact. Please enjoy, and comment with any thoughts.

1. Remembering Rich Mullins
Veteran Christian singer-songwriter Andrew Peterson has a reflection for The Rabbit Room about the late great Rich Mullins, who passed away 14 years ago this week. Rich’s record A Liturgy, A Legacy, and a Raggamuffin Band is in my all-time top five albums. It is sheer magic.

We rounded the bend at sunset and there before us stood those craggy Tetons, all gray stone with white snow tucked into the fissures. The clouds were gold with sunlight and long, misty fingers of rain dangled from them, caressing the peaks and the aspen- and fir-covered shoulders of the range. Who else but Rich Mullins could write music that would adequately suit a scene like that? I demanded the iPod, selected A Liturgy, a Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band, and we drove the next forty-five minutes without speaking. We weren’t speaking because we were being spoken to.

2. Eugene Peterson interview in Leadership Journal
Katie is reading Eugene Peterson’s new memoir The Pastor, and I’m getting more and more excited to read it too with each little excerpt she reads to me. In this interview I was reminded of so many of the reasons I love Peterson. For example, this:

My task as pastor was to show how the Bible got lived. Of course it’s important to show that the Bible is true, but we have theologians and apologists for that. I just accepted the fact it was true and didn’t bother much about that. I needed to be a witness to people in my congregation that everything in the Bible is livable and to try to avoid abstractions about big truths, big doctrines. I wanted to know how these ideas got lived in the immediate circumstances of people’s lives at work, in the town, and in the family. The role of the pastor is to embody the gospel. And of course to get it embodied, which you can only do with individuals, not in the abstract. And so that’s why, for me, a small congregation was so essential. It enabled me to know the people I was preaching to, teaching, and praying with.

3. FoxNews visits Lancaster
If we needed any “fair and balanced” convincing that Lancaster really is a hip destination (if Lady Gaga’s visit didn’t do it for you), here you go! My roommate’s mom even gets a shout-out for good measure.

It’s a Saturday afternoon in the Prince Street Cafe, a coffee-and-sandwich spot in Lancaster, Pa. A couple in their 20s canoodle on a plush leather couch by the fireplace. A 30-something in thick, black-framed glasses punches away on a laptop between bites of a green salad topped with quinoa, and a college-age girl with a brunette pixie doodles in her sketchpad. It comes as a bit of a surprise, then, when you wander upstairs to artist Julia Swartz’s gallery and find a series of portraits depicting local Amish men-straw hats, serious-looking black suits, and all. Here at the Prince Street Cafe, it’s easy to forget you’re in Amish Country.

4. Plastic school in Guatemala
I blogged about this school in Guatemala built using discarded bottles back in April, and this is a cool update from GOOD:

A plastic school might sound like it’s better suited for Barbies than for people, but the technology—developed by the Guatemalan nonprofit Pura Vida—is actually quite clever and allows for schools to be built for less than $10,000. The plastic bottles are stuffed with trash, tucked between supportive chicken wire, and coated in layers of concrete to form walls between the framing. The bottles make up the insulation, while more structurally sound materials like wood posts are used for the framing.

5. A Jewish view on evangelicals
USA Today has an op-ed by Mark I. Pinsky on “the truth” about evangelicals:

If, as Jews, we replace the old caricature of hayseed fundamentalist mobs carrying torches and pitchforks with one of dark conspirators trying to worm their way back into political power at the highest levels, we run the risk of accusing them of doing to others what we are doing to them: demonizing. We didn’t like it when people said we had horns and tails, ate the blood of Christian children and poisoned the wells of Europe with plague, much less conspired to rule the world through our Protocols. “Evangelicals in the main want the same kind of common-sense solutions and moral integrity as other Americans,” [Rev. Joel] Hunter says. “We do not want to use political means for our faith’s advancement; we just want to vote our values and leave it at that.”

6. Entrepreneurs more likely to pray
A few of my friends working at the intersections of business and faith tweeted or shared this story. Interesting findings:

Entrepreneurs behave just like most Americans when it comes to religion — but with one spiritual twist. They’re significantly more likely to pray several times a day or to meditate, says sociologist Kevin Dougherty, a co-author of the Baylor Religion Survey. The survey can’t answer whether prayerful, peaceful folks are more likely to take a business risk or whether the stress of a start-up drives folks to their knees or to the lotus position, Dougherty says.

7. Nicaragua and the Ortega family
One of my favorite places to go for news and commentary on Latin America is the Central American Politics Blog by Mike, a professor at the University of Scranton right here in Pennsylvania. He shared this video from Univision about how Daniel Ortega’s family and the Sandinista party have taken control of the Nicaraguan media, and by extension, have ensured they will be in control after November’s elections and for the foreseeable future.

8. Social networks in Latin America
Stephanie Garlow, who runs GlobalPost’s Latin America blog, has some interesting info on social media popularity in the region:

There’s a whole wide world of social networks out there, and Latin America isn’t missing out on the party.
More than 95 percent of internet users in Latin America now use social networks, up 16 percent from a year ago, according to a study by internet analysts comScore.

9. Jewish support for immigration reform
M. Daniel Carroll R., a Guatemalan-American professor of Old Testament at Denver Seminary and author of the important book Christians at the Border, has a blog post on the increasing participation of the Jewish community in working for immigration reform and their reasons for involvement:

As I have spoken to these Jews about their reasons for joining the “cause,” two primary reasons have been given me. One is that their own history for many centuries as a people has been one of migration and persecution, so it is fitting that they come alongside of other immigrants. Second, they have a long experience with discrimination, caricatures, and hate speech, and they are seeing that phenomena surface now against immigrants. They feel that they cannot defend their own rights if they do not speak out for others, who are experiencing the same thing.

10. Andy Kristian’s micro-finance video
I’m meeting with my friend Andy this morning to discuss a cool project he’s working on. This is some rough (but beautiful!) footage he put together during a recent trip to Northern Uganda. Can’t wait to see the finished product.

Short video on Micro-finance from andy kristian on Vimeo.

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Quoting MLK (and others without knowing it)

Martin Luther King, Jr. said and did many amazing things, and in critical moments in history his words resound with timeless authority and clarity. So it’s no surprise when, as people strive to make sense of the news of Osama bin Laden’s death, folks started quoting MLK on Facebook and Twitter. After all, at a time when an anti-hero falls, who better to invoke than one of history’s true heroes?

The quote that’s been widely circulated the past few days (I’m sure you’ve seen it and maybe posted it yourself) is this:

“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

It’s a great quote, though as has now been pointed out, only the latter part of it was actually ever said by MLK. The first part was a personal reflection by an ordinary Facebook user in a status update, sharing her thoughts about bin Laden’s death followed by what she considered a timely quote. The quotation marks really make all the difference in this case. Unlike the morphed version above, the original post appeared like this:

I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” MLK jr

In a world where news of the death of the world’s most wanted man breaks on Twitter and Facebook a full twenty minutes before it does via the mainstream media (which presumably employ editors, proofreaders and fact-checkers), this is just one example of many in which well-intended people in the heat of the moment get facts wrong. It wasn’t the first and it won’t be the last.

In this case, the consequences weren’t that significant. Those pasting the elongated quote didn’t smear anyone and didn’t really misrepresent what MLK could have said. Throw a little animosity or ego into the mix, however, and all of that changes. At any rate, it’s a reminder to all of us that before copy and pasting the latest viral status update — and before forwarding the latest sensationalistic email in support of one’s pet ideology — it wouldn’t hurt to pause for a moment and make sure we’ve got our facts straight.