Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Real Change in Africa- Check out this article

Here is a cool article by an atheist that has seen true transformation that goes as deep as worldview transformation. 

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Cheering for the other side

Rick Reilly for ESPN has a great article about a high school football game.  A Christian school decided to  cheer for the other team.

Volatility in Aid Hampers Development

Not too long ago I was living in a large Southeast Asian city. There I had a chance to get to know "Supri" (name is changed to protect his privacy). Supri was a small time furniture carpenter with a very inconsistent customer base. We were new to the city and needed some furniture crafted. After looking at some photographs of his work, we decided to order some basic furniture pieces. In the midst of the negotiations, Supri asked for money in advance to help pay for his tools. It was confusing to me that a carpenter was lacking the tools required for his trade. But it had been a while since his previous order of furniture and he had to sell his tools to feed his family. As a result, each time he secures an infrequent furniture order, he has to start at square one, thus raising the cost of his products. This inconsistency was detrimental to his business and ultimately the welfare of his family.

In like manner, when a rural clinic in a back corner of a developing nation receives inconsistent funding, then it cannot serve the community from one year to the next. In the first year a sparkly brand new clinic is built with a fresh burst of donor aid. The new medical equipment gleams and fully salaried medical doctors and staff enthusiastically seek to bring medical attention where it is desperately needed. And when funding fails the next year, the doctors leave, nursing staff is laid off, regular maintenance suffers, and necessary medical supplies are not in stock. Even more detrimental is that the bright hopeful vision of this clinic dwindles into despair. Standards of medical care drop severely which impairs the ability to offer adequate medical services. In the off chance that there is a rise in donor aid in the third year and some of that money is allocated for the clinic, it must pretty much start from scratch all over again. Only this time it is a lot harder, doctors don't want to return to that clinic. Administrators of the money don't want to buy expensive medical equipment only to watch rust when the donor aid begins to ebb again.

A recent article in Foreign Policy, "Development's Great Depression", reports that a recent study has shown that aid to developing nations has been extremely volatile. These fluctuations often follow the increasingly frequent stock market panics or simply donor's emotional whims. According to this article, the moodiest donors are the Americans. The result of these donor mood swings is that the inconsistent aid hurts local developing economies more than helps.

How is this overcome? An obvious point is that we need to continue giving even in the midst of financial stresses. But there is another problem that I would like to mention. There is a tendency with development agencies to do big money projects with short time frames. This serves two purposes: 1) big projects sound really impressive in their websites, news releases, and promotional material; 2) being finished with these big project and ready to move on to new big projects calls for new donations. In other words, much of what most development agencies do has more to do with their own institutional advancement than true development. True development would tackle the health needs of that rural community very differently, but it means the agency would need to be willing commit to a long-term plan with steady funding. Donors need to learn more about what is involved in seeing a community develop to the point that it can overcome problems on its own and they take ownership for continued development in the future. Development agencies talk a good game. They talk a lot about working with local communities, developing sustainability, and making long-term change, but rarely are these organizations actually committed to the slow process involved in true development.

Yes, donor fickleness can impact development. But if development agencies were committed to true development, we might actually see some communities, even nations, climb out of their "developing" status.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

View of War and the Early Church

I came across some interesting thoughts on the early church's view of war and violence. Of particular note is the change in theological conviction coincided with the perception of Christian government.

"For the first three centuries no Christian writing which has survived to our time condoned Christian participation in war. Some Christians held that for them all blood shed, whether as soldiers or as executioners, was unlawful." (Latourette, A History of Christianity Vol. 1, 242)

Early church advocates for a pacifistic policy

  • Hippolytus (prominent in Rome)- a Christian soldier must refuse to kill, even under command from superiors.
  • Tertullian- being a Christian and member of an army puts the person under two masters, which cannot be permitted. He also argued that even in peace time a soldier is asked to inflict punishment on people which is a type of revenge which is not permissible. "He said that in disarming Peter Christ ungirded every soldier." (Latourette, A History of Christianity Vol. 1, 243)
  • Origen- Prominent Roman accused Christians of making the Empire weak due to their pacifistic convictions. Origen argued if all were to become Christians that would influence the barbarians to become Christians. And that Christians love, labor, and prayers did more for the Empire than the military. (Latourette, A History of Christianity Vol. 1, 243)


Transition to just war theory- ca 4th century

  • When the Emperors were Christian this changed the scene on war ethics. If the Emperor was acting on behalf of the church, then it was conceivable that war in pursuit of justice could be justified.
  • Ambrose and Augustine were proponents of this theory- "Augustine elaborated the theoretical basis for a just war. He held that wickedness must be restrained, by force if necessary, and that the sword of the magistrate is divinely commissioned. Not all wars are just. To be just, so Augustine said, a war must be waged under the authority of the prince, it must have as its object the punishment of injustice and the restoration of peace, and it must be fought without vindictiveness and without unnecessary violence…. Yet without the authority of the prince, Augustine taught, the civilian must not use force to defend even his own life." (Latourette, A History of Christianity Vol. 1, 244)



Wednesday, December 17, 2008

When a Conservative is not a Conservative

John Stackhouse has a good post clarifying the difference between political conservatism and Evangelical conservatism here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Having Unbounded Confidence

I recently posted some thoughts about communicating in the public square as devoted followers of Jesus. I mentioned that so many unbelievers seem very unsure of themselves and maybe even lack a Scripture-soaked worldview that boosts our confidence in Jesus and His Way. Yale professor, Lamin Sanneh, reminds of the "unbounded confidence" of the earliest Jesus-followers:

“Once their resolve was galvanized by the resurrection experience, the apostles and the sympathizers of Jesus went about their business of testifying to the Messiah in his glorified power, and they did this with unbounded confidence.” (Lamin Sanneh, Translating the Message, 10)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Challenging Quote from Tim Keller

“Jesus’s teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while
offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in
the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of
outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches,
even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative,
buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the
broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the
preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not
have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be
declaring the same message that Jesus did.” (Tim Keller, The Prodigal God)

Thanks to William T. Chaney Jr. for posting this quote in his blog.