How Bethany Jenkins's daily devotionals kickstart common-good Christianity in NYC.
"Bad books always lie," says Bethany Jenkins, quoting the novelist Walker Percy. The quote continues: "They lie most of all about the human condition."
But Jenkins is convinced that Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling do not.
Jenkins and I are walking toward a bench in Central Park in New York City, where the best and worst of the human condition is amplified by 8.34 million residents.
"Where comedians fall into place is that they are so honest about the human condition," says Jenkins, a 30-something resident of NYC for ten years, who says the two comediennes are "like friends." She says, "My generation . . . [doesn't] have much interest in authority. The Four Spiritual Laws, used during my parents' generation to contextualize the gospel, just isn't going to [resonate] for my generation. It's going to be the lived-out lifestyle of the Christian person that will be our biggest example of faith."
After a career on the New York Stock Exchange, the State Department, and Capitol Hill, Jenkins founded the Park Forum to "promote Bible engagement in the urban church on a daily basis." A member of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, where she is mentored by Kathy Keller, Jenkins and the Park Forum provide daily devotionals and small-group curricula for Christian urban professionals seeking the common good throughout the five boroughs. "As the Park is to the City, so the Word is to Life—we can rest, run, and play in the Word," says Jenkins. The Park Forum blog, "843 Acres," has about 2,200 email subscribers, but many of them don't know Jenkins's name. Yet she has a strong network of friends and fans, as well as a dedicated board ...
David Wells misses the deeper problem with modern-day spirituality
David F. Wells has written his book again. Indeed, reading a new book by Wells is something like my experience of reading new books by Anne Lamott. About 15 pages in, I find myself asking: Isn't this the same book, again?
Readers who pick up Wells's latest, God in the Whirlwind: How the Holy-love of God Reorients Our World (Crossway), will find themselves covering the same ground he's covered since No Place for Truth (1993).
Wells—a historical and systematic theologian at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary—has a fairly simple "big idea": a tale of loss and recovery. Culture has corrupted the church, and renewal means returning to a set of views we have lost. The argument is couched in potted histories that paint thinly with broad brushes, highlighting how the church has been corrupted by modernity and, especially, postmodernity. For Wells, the word is shorthand for everything-wrong-with-the-world.
The genre is pitched somewhere between jeremiad and rant, with predictable protests, retreaded clichés, and lots of complaints about the 1960s. It's like how I would expect a theological grandfather to harrumph about "kids these days." It will convince no one who doesn't already agree.
Because we've listened to the culture rather than Scripture, we've been suckered into a therapeutic rather than a moral view of God: God is reduced to a Therapist and Concierge. Even many conservative evangelicals effectively worship the god of Oprah. On this point, Wells's diagnosis is helpful.
But what's the antidote? As in his previous books, God in the Whirlwind outlines the "view" that needs to be recovered. This view has two countercultural ...
What if evangelical leaders were to imitate the great South African—Yikes!
In pondering the words and life of Nelson Mandela this morning, a strange thought experiment filled my imagination. I quickly dismissed it as impossible, but then realized the Mandela moment that inspirited the thought experiment was also considered impossible in its day. So maybe, just maybe …
The event took place in 1995. Mandela had been president of South Africa for about a year, and he had been working for national reconciliation, but with half a century of brutal apartheid fresh in everyone's memory, it was slow going, as one can well imagine. But the Rugby World Cup would give Mandela an opportunity to put his money where his mouth was.
This was the first World Cup that South Africa had been allowed to participate in since the end of apartheid—a boycott that Mandela himself had helped orchestrate. But the occasion was a mixed blessing, to say the least, for black South Africans. Rugby was considered the sport of Afrikaners, the despised oppressors, and the national team, the Springboks—and especially their green and gold jerseys—were the symbol of that hated and bloody era. Whenever the Springboks played at home, the blacks who would come to watch were confined to a restricted area, and they always rooted for the opposing team.
Ironies abounded now, since the World Cup was hosted in South Africa, and further, when the dust had cleared from all the preliminary matches, only the All Blacks from New Zealand and the Springboks of South Africa were left standing. Mandela had given the Springboks a new slogan, "One team, one country," but the reality was far from the slogan.
On the day of the final game between Springboks and the New Zealand All Blacks, the crowd—with ...