Maybe it was the red-eye flight from Phoenix last night. Maybe it was going from 80 degree sunshine to 20 degree spitting snow. Or maybe it was a 1:00 am bedtime after the late flight, or the lack of enough caffeine to jump start the day. Or maybe it was the outcome in New Hampshire as the drama of the year moves south to the Carolinas. Or maybe it was reading Psalm 51 and having ashes smeared on my forehead in chapel this morning on this Ash Wednesday.
Niceness is the new religion. The only people who are offensive enough to mention sin are the kind of people I don’t like very much. They are arrogant, mean, judgmental, and far from the loving Jesus that the world is willing to embrace. So to keep from being thrown on the pile of “mean Christians,” we just avoid the word sin.
It seems to offend the sensibilities of people. And this isn’t just political correctness at work. It is the fear that we might offend. We don’t want to be off-putting. I listen to some denunciations of Christians upon the world and just cringe. I don’t want to come across that way. I want to be more like Jesus.
In light of recent regulatory actions, several Christian universities have applied for a government-established exemption from Title IX. Most of the issues deal with gender identity, mission-fit hiring, and expectations regarding sexual behavior. Universities that apply for the exemption are being targeted by media and accused of doing everything allowable under the exemption.
According to the press, these universities are denying admission to pregnant mothers, expelling out-of-the closet students, and being homophobic to the Nth degree. I know a lot of Christian university presidents. This is neither the practice nor the desire of the ones I know.
So why are schools applying for the exemption?
Last year I shared that my big idea for 2015 was to put a dent in college student debt. We have made a small beginning.
This past fall, 45 students became our test group for the Trevecca iWork program. To date, we are retaining all of them into the spring semester and they have paid $61,000 on their college bills as a group. In addition, each student has received basic training in workplace habits. All of our supervisors have been trained to mentor students toward workplace success. We will be adding more students to the test group this semester before aiming at 200 jobs this fall. We have companies lined up to provide jobs for our students.
In the past, it had been my conviction that orthodox historic Christian faith was somehow the glue that held the diversity of America together and critiqued the fringe ideas that were damaging or dangerous. I no longer believe this.
Christianity has been either compromised by accommodation or gone haywire in many heretical directions (wealth gospel, power theology, self-help guru religion, etc.). The presence of a biblically grounded theological middle is disappearing faster than the icebergs. No one states this case better (in my opinion) than Ross Douthat in Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics.
Several times each school year, I speak to our college students at Trevecca during a chapel service. Today, I’d like to share excerpts from one of my talks last year. It’s on a topic that’s near and dear to my heart—the future of Christian marriages and Christian families.
Today’s young people live in a culture that prefers “hook-ups” for casual sex to committed dating rituals that require sacrifice from each person and help lay the foundation for solid Christian marriages. Last year, I wrote a book, Human Sexuality, which explored this subject.
It’s my prayer that college students, young adults, and singles everywhere will heed the call to abandon the world’s idea of “relationships” and return to lives of integrity and the pursuit of great, biblical marriages.
I woke up today with an odd assortment of things running through my heart and mind. Thankfully, my vow to abstain from alcohol gives me a wondering spirit instead of a hangover on this New Year’s Day. But I must confess that the numbing effect of alcohol might be preferred to full consciousness when it comes to a fresh tragedy.
Yesterday, one of our Trevecca professors lost a grandson. Marvin’s daughter, son-in-law, and twin boys were sitting still at a stop sign on a city street when a vehicle driven by an 82-year-old woman plowed into them from behind going 90. One of the twin boys, age 6, was killed and the other is in serious condition. The surviving twin has autism.
Both parents are in the hospital with serious injuries. Marvin lost his wife to a long cancer battle a couple of years ago. Yesterday he lost a grandson. We talked about his journey through Advent and Christmas in the church parking lot a couple of weeks ago. He said the music was helping him this year. And now this. I know few finer men than Marvin. I ache in ways that can only pray in groans.
I think the church is trying to wrap its arms around the difficult issue of refugees during this Advent. If Christ came into the world via a story about wise men from other nations, a terrorist massacre of babies in Bethlehem, and the undocumented holy family fleeing to Egypt for safety from mean old Herod, then I think we have all the clues we need to know that refugees need shelter, welcome, and hope. Yes, we can do this and still be cautious.
So I did something very strange for me. I wrote a song. Thankfully, the tune was already in existence. Maybe this will help us remember the refugees this season.
Christmas in Mexico begins with Los Posadas, a nine-day reenactment of Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging in Bethlehem.
The children gather each afternoon for nine consecutive days leading up to Christmas. One child plays the role of the Virgin Maria. Another is San Jose. Others are the angelos. Others are the Santo Reyes (three wise kings). And the rest are pastores (shepherds). They are decked out in colorful handmade costumes and carry faroles (paper lanterns). They form the parade of Santos Peregrinos (Holy Pilgrims). They go from house to house requesting posada (shelter). They sing outside the front door:
En nombre del cielo buenos moradores dad a unos via’jeros posada esta noche.
In the name of God, we ask those who dwell here, give to some travelers lodging this evening.
From inside the house comes back the reply, “This is not an inn, move on. I cannot open lest you be a scoundrel.” The children go on singing, explaining that they have traveled from Nazareth, are tired, and that Mary is expecting a child. All to no avail.