Archive for December, 2008

God in Africa

Africa is an utterly complex continent, as it is continuing to emerge from colonialism it seems to  be displaying the pangs of maturation. Here is an humbling and heartfelt article written by an atheist, Matthew Parris, who is defending the need for Christianity in Africa.

Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

I used to avoid this truth by applauding – as you can – the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It’s a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.

But this doesn’t fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.

The Times Online

Why?

Why are Americans still promoting abstinence only programming and pledges?

Full Disclosure: I took the “True Love Waits” pledge . . .  and kept it.

According to the the Washington Post, youth who take abstinence pledges are as likely to have sex (including oral, and and anal) as those that do not. This study is an expansion from previous studies – that have reported the same thing –  because it compares youth who have similar views on sex with one another rather than simply taking a blanket analysis.

The new analysis, however, goes beyond earlier analyses by focusing on teens who had similar values about sex and other issues before they took a virginity pledge. . .

The findings are reigniting the debate about the effectiveness of abstinence-focused sexual education just as Congress and the new Obama administration are about to reconsider the more than $176 million in annual funding for such programs.

“This study again raises the issue of why the federal government is continuing to invest in abstinence-only programs,” said Sarah Brown of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. “What have we gained if we only encourage young people to delay sex until they are older, but then when they do become sexually active — and most do well before marriage — they don’t protect themselves or their partners?”

Washington Post

We spend 176million dollars annually on abstinence only programming? Are you serious? Why is the government paying for this? Why are my tax dollars going to this? It is not that I don’t believe in abstinence before marriage. I just don’t think that tax payers need to dish out money to promote values, which  not everyone shares, when there are other things to pay for. I can’t structure a mass transit system, or create a park system, but I can surely teach my child about sex and God’s intentions for our relationships.

What matters are the values that we instill in our children. Not whether they take a pledge or not. Youth say and do anything, positive peer pressure is not bad, but it is usually only effective in immediate situations not attitudes and values. I was a virgin when I got married, but it wasn’t because I took a pledge it was because my parents had taught and modeled a proper sexual ethic.We mustn’t strive to stop premarital sex, we must cultivate a healthy, Christian sexual ethic which includes, understanding issues of premarital sex, martial sex, sexual orientation, sexual health,  sexual speech etc.   As Christians we strive to be Holy not simply to not to be overt sinners.

When the government and organizations take the place of parents, we get in pay the cost in more than tax dollars. We trade programs for relationships. Honestly, if Christians want to make a societal change, fight the sexual culture of TV, Movies and Music. But really, Christian parents, the best thing you can do is be the parent. Don’t let your 12 year old (or teenage) daughter buy Britney Spears’ new album, don’t ignore the sexual content of artist like Soulja Boy Tell’ Em

Parents stop what you are doing, stop being busy, stop being afraid, and teach your kids about sex.

A Sad Story

An NPR report shows that homicide in the Black Community is increasing.

NPR.org, December 29, 2008 · The number of homicides involving black youths — as victims and perpetrators — surged by more than 30 percent from 2002 to 2007, even as overall murder rates across the U.S. have been relatively stable, according to a study released Monday by researchers at Northeastern University.

The study showed that the number of black murder victims rose by more than 31 percent from 2000 to 2007. The number of murders involving young, black perpetrators rose by 43 percent over the same period, according to the study by criminal justice professors James Alan Fox and Marc Swatt.

The report also noted that guns were the weapon of choice in most of the killings.

Last year, 426 black males ages 14-17 died in gun crimes — 40 percent more than in 2000; nearly 1,000 young black males used guns to kill someone in 2007 — 38 percent higher than in 2000.

Fox said the homicide rate for blacks — especially teenagers — has risen steadily and across geographic regions. He said one reason could be the profound shift in priorities since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which means police departments have taken on homeland security duties — often at the expense of community policing.

“Now, I don’t want to weigh one life against another, but when you look at it, many more people are murdered every single year in ordinary street violence than were killed on Sept. 11, 2001,” Fox said.

Fox also said communities’ complacency because of the overall decrease in crime may also be a factor. The study found the number of police officers in major cities has dropped more than 8 percent, and funding for crime prevention programs is down.

Fox said funding cuts disproportionately affect black communities, which suffer from broken families, bad schools and active gangs.

“I know people want their tax rebates and stimuli checks, but you know, a few extra dollars in your pocket is of little consolation if you’re staring down the wrong end of a gun,” Fox said.

Not all criminologists agree on the difference federal funding could make, but Fox said he hopes the Obama administration will increase funding. Vice President-elect Joe Biden was a driving force behind legislation that put 100,000 cops on the streets in the mid-1990s.

I am hopeful that Obama and Biden can fight to change this, but what I really hope is that the church, regardless of racial background will step-up and intervene. This is not Africa, this is not Asia, this is not a thousand miles away. This is our backyard, these are our neighbors.

Innovative Service . . . and Recycling

PRI posted an article about Steve Mykolyn’s innovative creation of a coat, that when packed with newspaper, will fair as well as a down jacket in sub-zero weather. The coat is called “The 15-Below Jacket” and was made specifically for the homeless population trying to manage in Toronto’s winter. The design is by Lida Baday, who designs high end women’s wear.

The coats also help maintain the discreetness of the homeless. Although one would think that a newspaper stuffed coat would bulky and overtly obvious, these coats have been designed in a discrete black windbreaker style. Additionally, Baday and Myskolyn made the coats waterproof, with two has two liners. To top it off the coat converts into a backback for the summer

“It could have been anything, like a party, or a book,” Mykolyn explains. “Then I was walking home from a ball game one night with my 17-year-old son and there were a lot of homeless people on the street. He always gives them money and I never do. He asked me why I don’t and I didn’t have an answer. It was not something I had ever thought much about. That woke me up to their plight.”

Toronto Star

If these coats really do hold up, it would be worth figuring out a way to make these available to homeless shelters – and organizations that work with the homeless -around North America. Ideally our society wouldn’t need this innovation, but I don’t see any issue in utilizing it. Unfortunately, the coats are still victims of our branded culture. The jacket has “15-Below” written in white letters.

Regardless, the coats seem as if they would be a good option for the homeless. If anyone knows anyone who could utilize these coats it would be worth attempting to contact Myskolyn or PRI.

Catholics, Evangelicals & Other Protestants

The Rasmussen Reports conducted a survey of Christians in America and compared and contrasted various sectors of American Christianity. Here is a particular interesting result.

Sixty-eight percent (68%) of Evangelical Christians attend a regular Bible Study or participate in some other small-group activity. Forty-seven percent (47%) of other Protestants take part in small groups related to their faith, along with 24% of Catholics.

Below is a copy of the survey and results from those who attended church regularly.

Survey of 928 Adults Who Regularly Attend Church

Conducted December 16, 2008

By Rasmussen Reports

1* Do you consider yourself a born-again Christian?

62% Yes
32% No

6% Not sure

2* Has anyone in your Church talked with you recently about accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior?

37% Yes
54% No

9% Not sure

3* In a typical week, how often do you read the Bible?

26% Rarely or never

20% About once a week

32% Several times a week

13% Once a day

5% More than once a day

4% Not sure

4* Okay… in a typical week, how often do you pray to confess sins?

13% Rarely or never

15% About once a week

26% Several times a week

25% Once a day

18% More than once a day

4% Not sure

5* Fine… in a typical week, how often do you pray to seek guidance?

7% Rarely or never

11% About once a week

30% Several times a week

22% Once a day

27% More than once a day

2% Not sure

6* Great… how often do you reflect on the meaning of Scripture in your life?

12% Rarely or never

17% About once a week

31% Several times a week

17% Once a day

20% More than once a day

3% Not sure

7* Within the last month, have you had a meaningful discussion with a non- Christian about your faith?

37% Yes
54% No

9% Not sure

8* Do you regularly participate in a Bible Study or other small group activity through your Church?

50% Yes
48% No

2% Not sure

9* Do you regularly volunteer for Church and other service activities?

65% Yes
31% No

3% Not sure

10* Think for a moment about the Church you attend on a regular basis. Does your Church do an excellent, good, fair, or poor job of helping you understand the Bible in depth?

61% Excellent
27% Good
7% Fair

2% Poor

3% Not sure

NOTE: Margin of Sampling Error, +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence

Visit the website to see more detailed results and comparisons.

Of Cars and People

Before Christmas I heard an interesting NPR piece on Tyson’s Corner, Virgina, attempting to urbanize (here is a NY Times Piece as well). I was excited when I heard this, but also wondered how this was possible. Tyson’s Corner (TC), which is a suburb of Washington, D.C, is perhaps one of the most suburban (by design not necessarily culturally) places that I have been. It is impossible to get anywhere without getting on large, curved and fast roads. It feels like you are joining in a hyper-active assembly line of prefabricated SUV’s and Sedans that all have to go to the same place.  TC  is perhaps one of the most difficult places to get around, when people talk about the horrible Northern, VA traffic much of it is due to TC.

In reality, TC is more of and edge city. a city that has developed next to a large metropolitan city, however TC is the antithesis of a bedroom community which houses families and individuals who commute to the city for work. As the 12th largest employment center in the U.S, everyday more than 90,000 people commute TC.  TC maintains a daytime population of workers, shoppers, and others of  greater than 110,000 and a nighttime population of less than 20,000 – essentially a Ghost Town. For the 20, 000 that do live in the city there is little to do but shop. The civic life of the city is scarce so even those who live in the city have to drive outside of the city for entertainment, civic life, parks etc.

Tyson’s Corner seems almost nonredeemable. Suburban design found a home here and had been hanging round for a while. The NY Times piece found that more than half of TC is either parking or highway. However, urbanization is perhaps possible. Below are the goals and visions for the new project.

Vision and Goals

Transit Oriented Development
Provide a Full Range of Community Services
Protect and Enhance the Environment
Provide a Full Range of Housing Affordability
Ensure Public Participation and Effective Implementation

Additionally, here is a PowerPoint presentation from  the Coalition for Smarter Growth, who is assisting with he project. The PowerPoint lays out some of the problems and gives some simple solutions. The efforts are essentially and attempt to curve the suburban growth and transform TC into an urban hub with mixed use neighborhoods, walkable areas and a thriving civic life. Nothing extravagant but a noble move.

I really and pessimistic about the development. Although I hope that it is successful and large part of me  wonders how, in a recessed economy, a city can become pedestrian friendly and a place of people rather than cars. It will be interesting to track the redevelopment process over the next couple of years. Although pessimistic about this particular development, if TC can make itself somewhat urban then almost anywhere can.

Happy Hip-Hop Christmas


“Wisemen,” – Cross Movement- Gift Rap

“Fading in the distance
the place where all of us faced a twist deeper than the 6th Sense
Wasn’t what I expected to see
someone as great as him living lesser than me
And truthfully we were blown away
by a King with no bling, just a throne of hay
Even shepherds had heard of him
Somehow they got word of him
Wisemen, herdsmen, all of us worshippin’
Anybody notice how the sheep and cow
seem to peek and bow to the sleepin’ child?
We went home a different way
not just geographically, but he impacted me, never forget the day
we got to sit back
and see God’s presence, a present – Gift Rap
And I hope you get that
cause when you got Jesus you don’t have to wonder where the gift’s at”