All posts tagged “Peter Wehner

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Repaso: Portland, OR; meaning of Lent; rocking the boat; immigration & biblical justice; creation care & mission; judging faith commitments

Today and tomorrow, Katie and I are at The Justice Conference in Portland. Look for blog updates of some sort, if not over the weekend, then early(ish) next week.

1. The meaning of Lent
I’m grateful that Katie and I are able to observe Lent this year as part of Christchurch Mesa:

The Christian calendar season of Lent originated in the very earliest days of the Church. The ancient church that wrote, collected and canonized the New Testament also observed Lent, actually believing it to be a commandment from the apostles. The season has traditionally served as a preparatory time for Easter, when the faithful rededicated themselves and when converts were instructed in the faith and prepared for baptism. Therefore, Lent has always been a season of soul-searching and repentance – for reflection and taking stock.

2. Rocking the boat
Tom Becker, who lives in Lancaster and heads up The Row House (“nothing is not sacred”), writes for Catapult Magazine on the dangers of being, of all things… nice:

[W]hy should debate be considered taboo? Why are we so uncomfortable with those who rock the boat, even if they are motivated by love?  I’m going out on a limb here, but maybe we Pennsylvania Dutch tend be just plain cowards. Cowardice is a sin of omission I find myself confessing regularly. I create so many missed opportunities to speak truth lovingly. Guilty as charged.

3. Immigration and biblical justice
Tyler Johnson, one of the pastors at Redemption Church here in Phoenix, had a great essay on the issue of immigration “through the eyes of biblical justice” in last week’s Capital Commentary:

[As] Christians we must acknowledge that our current approach to immigration does not honor God or advance justice. We must confess that God’s command to love our neighbors includes loving people who don’t look like we do, who don’t speak English, and who weren’t born in the United States. And we must work together as leaders and citizens to develop a plan that brings together and commits to uphold the biblical mandates to love our neighbor.

4. Chris Wright on creation care
Chris Wright, whose talk on faith in the marketplace I summarized here, was interviewed by Jim Ball at the Evangelical Environmental Network about creation care and how it relates to Wright’s work with the Lausanne Movement:

5. Franklin Graham’s comments on politics and faith
This week Franklin Graham, head of Samaritan’s Purse and son of the world’s most famous evangelist, made some unfortunate comments speculating on the authenticity of various political figures’ identities as Christians. Peter Wehner, who was part of the Bush administration and is co-author of the excellent City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era (which I blogged about here), writes wisely:

The problem here is Graham is judging President Obama’s faith commitment based on a political, not a theological, basis. What Graham seems to be arguing is that Obama is a liberal, he’s wrong on “moral issues,” and so a question mark has to be put over the faith of the president, who has spoken in moving terms about his own journey to Christianity.This is dangerous territory for Graham to reside in. For one thing, it sounds as if the Reverend Graham is questioning whether one can be a political liberal and a Christian at the same time. Of course one can be and to suggest otherwise is offensive. (I’m tempted to say some of my closest friends are Christians who are politically liberal.)

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!

[Photo credit:]

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My top 11 books from 2011

Last February I shared some thoughts on the merits of reading both widely and wisely, and I shared my own reading goals for the year. Specifically, these:

  • At least one book about/from every continent in the world (plus Central America and the Middle East)
  • At least one book by an adherent of every major world religion
  • At least 25% to be written by dead people
  • At least 40% to be written by women or non-white males.

Well, how closely did I stick to those goals?

  • I had each of the continents (plus Central America and the Middle East) covered
  • Though I read a lot of books written by Christians and a range of non-Christians (including Alice Walker, a Buddhist, and others I presume to be either atheists or agnostics), I don’t think I read anything by Hindu or Muslim authors.
  • 20 written by dead people; only 21%
  • 26 written by women or non-white males; only 27%

So I did better in some areas than in others. I’ll keep the goals more or less the same for 2012. But in the meantime, as is the custom (sort of), here are my picks for the top eleven books I read in 2011. Like last time, these are in no particular order, and include books not necessarily published this year. When applicable, I include a link to what I’ve already written about it.

Timothy Keller, Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just 
A must-read on following Jesus and doing justice. I reviewed this one for PRISM and blogged about it here.

Eugene H. Peterson, The Pastor: A Memoir 
If you are a pastor, know a pastor, or have opinions about pastors, read this. I blogged about it here.

Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird 
It’s a classic, and I should have read it a long time ago. I’m guessing you already have.

Michael Casey, Che’s Afterlife: The Legacy of an Image 
A fascinating look at how the iconic “Che” image has been reproduced and re-appropriated for countless causes — and has paradoxically come to represent global capitalism.

Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy 
This biography of the great German theologian who was part of a failed assassination plot against Hitler won all kinds of awards last year. I blogged about this here.

Michael J. Sandel, Justice: What’s The Right Thing To Do? 
In this book the Harvard political philosopher put the cookies on a relatively low shelf, helping you and I wrestle through different understandings of justice in the world around us. I blogged about it here.

Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion
One of the most inspiring, funny and heart-breaking books I read this year. I blogged about it here.

Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner, City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era 
From what I understand, this book never really took off, which is a shame, because it’s a wise, nuanced, an intelligent handling of the two topics none of us seem to know how to discuss in polite company. I blogged about this here.

Robert Lupton, Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help 
An important book on doing no harm when seeking to do good. I blogged about this here and it was also picked up by the Values & Capitalism blog.

Richard Mouw, He Shines In All That’s Fair: Culture and Common Grace 
I haven’t had a chance to blog about this yet, but I plan to in January. In this slim book, Mouw articulates a wonderful theological and practical vision of common grace.

N.T. Wright, After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters 
For Christians unsure about what’s supposed to happen between being “saved” and dying, this is an important book on ethics and cultivating virtue. I blogged about it here.

How about you? What were your favorite books of 2011? What are your reading goals for 2012?

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Politics, religion and the lost art of persuasion

I finished reading City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been sitting on it, mulling it over, ever since. It’s an important book, warranting a great deal of careful thought, and it’s also one of those rare books on US politics that actually does more to promote civil discourse in the public square than to erode it.

The book’s authors, Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner, are both conservatives — and political insiders at that. Gerson, as you may know, was a top aide and speechwriter for George W. Bush. He’s also a syndicated columnist for the Washington Post, and a senior advisor at ONE. Wehner is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a DC think tank. He previously served in the Reagan and Bush (I and II) administrations.

The central question of the book is one both urgent and timeless:

What does it mean to be a Christian citizen in history’s most influential nation; in a world marked by growing interconnection, danger, and need; in a time of bitter domestic polarization and economic stress?

The first part of the answer is that there are more than two political options, odd as that may seem to us in twenty-first century America. As Gerson and Wehner write, Christians throughout history have formulated quite an array of differing — and, in some cases, diametrically opposed — political approaches that can’t be summed up by the overly limiting categories of right and left. Here are some of the main ones:

  • Constantinian: “wanted the church to govern earthly affairs, so as to bring society better into line with their understanding of God’s will.”
  • Augustinian: “the purpose of the state is to restrain evil and to advance justice.”
  • Anabaptist: “Christian allegiance should be to the kingdom of God alone.”
  • Lutheran: “two kingdoms, one carnal and the other spiritual, each needing to remain separate from the other and each making its own legitimate demands.”
  • Calvinist: “God [is] not only Lord and Creator but ‘a Governor and Preserver…’ The sovereignty of God, in other words, extends to all spheres, including all human institutions.”
  • Kuyperian: “three spheres — the Church, the State, and Society — each distinct but interrelated with the others, all part of the created order, all governed by God.”
  • Barthian: “the state… like the church, served Christ’s divine purposes beyond simply restraining evil.”
  • Niebuhrian: “believed in the necessity of politics in the struggle for social justice.”
  • Falwellian: “restoring America’s ‘moral sanity’ as an urgent Christian imperative.”

For that survey alone, the book is more than worthwhile. But that’s just the first chapter. Gerson and Wehner go on to outline, with conviction and grace, broad principles for Christian participation in politics. As conservatives, they take predictable stances on a variety of issues, but as Ron Sider writes in his endorsement on the book jacket, “one need not agree with all the assumptions or arguments to find this book a significant contribution to Christian reflection on where our nation should go.”

Politics, they write, presents us with an “unavoidable tension”: while a politicized faith has its dangers, “there is also moral abdication when faith ignores the opportunity for ‘genuine ethical action,’” a term borrowed from John Perkins. They point out the failures of the Religious Right, and urge us not to make the same mistakes — whether on the right or on the left. Rather, they urge discernment, faithful engagement, and above all, an emphasis on persuasion rather than attack. “If you would win a man to your cause,” said Abraham Lincoln, “first convince him that you are his sincere friend.”

In a polarized political climate that is anything but civil, in which demonizing and mudslinging are the norm, where cable news channels teach us that the way to discuss politics is to see who can yell the loudest, a book like this is a breath of fresh air. It’s practical, and true to both theology and history. Borrowing from Augustine, Gerson and Wehner conclude with both determination and hope: “The City of Man is our residence for now, and we care for its order and justice. The City of God is our home.”