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60Sing Him Back Homehttps://www.firstthings.com/article/2016/06/sing-him-back-home
Wed, 01 Jun 2016 00:00:00 -0400The day Merle Haggard died, I found myself talking to a friend who has served as a makeup artist in Nashville’s music industry for more years than she would like to admit. “When people ask me how long I’ve been working in the business,” she said, “I tell them I’ve been doing this since Merle Haggard was the best-looking man in country music.”
Evangelicals Won't Cavehttps://www.firstthings.com/article/2015/10/evangelicals-wont-cave
Thu, 01 Oct 2015 00:00:00 -0400
Could the next Billy Graham be a married lesbian? In the year 2045, will Focus on the Family be “Focus on the Families,” broadcasting counsel to Evangelicals about how to manage jealousy in their polyamorous relationships? That’s the assumption among many—on the celebratory left as well as the nervous right. Now that the
Obergefell v. Hodges
Supreme Court case has nationalized same-sex marriage, America’s last hold-outs, conservative Evangelical Protestants, will eventually, we’re told, stop worrying and learn to love, or at least accept, the sexual revolution. As Americans grow more accustomed to redefined concepts of marriage and family, Evangelicals will convert to the new understanding and update their theologies to suit. This is not going to happen. The revolution will not be televangelized.
Tue, 25 Nov 2014 21:57:00 -0500As a response to the recent Marriage Pledge, we are republishing Russell D. Moore’s contribution to the symposium The Church and Civil Marriage. Ed.
Sun, 01 Dec 2013 00:00:00 -0500 Growing up in a Southern Baptist church in the 1970s and 80s, I heard quite a bit about the Rapture. This was the dispensationalist apocalyptic teaching that some day, some day very soon, born-again Christians would be secretly whisked away to heaven, right before seven years of dystopian hell on earth. Evangelical gospel tracts, films, and even comic books depicted the confusion on earth as everyone else looked around at the empty sets of clothes lying about and realized that the one common denominator behind all these missing neighbors wasnt UFO enthusiasm or mob ties but a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Perhaps, we were told, they would remember the warnings and realize theyd been left behind. And here comes the Antichrist.
]]>An Evangelical Looks at Pope Benedict XVIhttps://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2013/02/an-evangelical-looks-at-pope-benedict-xvi
Mon, 11 Feb 2013 10:07:00 -0500
]]>What Evangelicals Can Learn from Saint Patrickhttps://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2010/03/what-evangelicals-can-learn-from-saint-patrick
Wed, 17 Mar 2010 13:52:16 -0400To our shame, most evangelical Protestants tend to think of Saint Patrick as a leprechaun. As we watch the annual drunken parades and pop-culture consumerism of the March holiday, no one could seem more removed from biblical Christianity than Patrick. And yet, Patrick’s life was closer to a revival meeting than to a shamrock-decorated drinking party named in his honor.
In his volume,
St. Patrick of Ireland: A Biography
, Philip Freeman, a professor of classics at Washington University in St. Louis, lays out a compelling portrait of Patrick, the theologian-evangelist. In accomplishing this, Freeman attempts to reconstruct Patrick’s cultural milieuthat of a world that had “ended” with the fall of Rome in 410 A.D. This collapse of Roman power had unleashed savagery in the British Isles, as thieves and slave-traders were unhinged from the restraining power of Caesar’s sword. Patrick’s ministry was shaped by this new world, not least of which by Patrick’s capture and escape from slavery.
Freeman helpfully retells Patrick’s conversion story, one of a mocking young hedonist to a repentant evangelist. The story sounds remarkably similar to that of Augustineand, in the most significant of ways, both mirror the first-century conversion of Saul of Tarsus. Freeman helpfully reconstructs the context of local religion as a “business relationship” in which sacrifice to pagan gods was seen as a transaction for the material prosperity of the worshippers. Against this, Patrick’s conversion to Christianity was noticed quickly, when his prayers of devotionthen almost always articulated out loudwere overheard by his neighbors.
The rest of the narrative demonstrates the ways in which Patrick carried the Christian mission into the frontiers of the British Islesconfronting a hostile culture and institutionalized heresy along the way. With this the case, the life of Patrick is a testimony to Great Commission fervor, not to the Irish nationalism most often associated with the saint. As a matter of fact, Freeman points out that Patrick’s love for the Irish was an act of obedience to Jesus’ command to love enemies and to pray for persecutors.
This biography gives contemporary evangelicals more than a pious evangelist to emulate. It also reconstructs a Christian engagement with a pagan culture, in ways that are strikingly contemporary to evangelicals seeking to engage a post-Christian America.
Patrick’s context was a Celtic culture deeply entrenched in paganism, led by the native earth religion of the Druid priests. This is especially relevant in an era when pseudo-Celtic paganism is increasingly en vogue in American and European pagan movements. Freeman sweeps away the revisionist historical claims of the Druid revivalists: there was no “golden age” of equality among the sexes within the Druid cult, for example. Instead, Freeman shows that Patrick’s Christianity actually brought harmony among the genders with his teaching that women were joint-heirs with Christ.
Any evangelical seeking to kindle a love for missions among the people of God will benefit from this volume’s demonstration that the Great Commission did not lie dormant between the apostle Paul and William Carey. Patrick’s love and zeal for the Irish may also inspire American evangelicals to repent of our hopelessness for the conversion of, say, the radical Islamic worldwhich is, after all, no more “hopeless” than the Irish barbarians of Patrick’s era.
]]>The Princess and the Frog? Yes and Neauxhttps://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2009/12/the-princess-and-the-frog-yes-and-neaux
Tue, 15 Dec 2009 11:57:39 -0500As one who grew up right across the state line from New Orleans and spent most of my young life romping through its streets and marshes, I took my family to see Disney’s latest animated film “The Princess and the Frog,” set in the Crescent City and the bayous around it.
Since then several have asked whether it’s a thumbs-up or a thumbs down. I’ve got mixed feelings.
Here’s the upside:
1.) It’s in many ways a typical Disney film, with all that means.The visuals are good, and the storyline is entertaining.
2.) This is the first Disney animated film with an African-American protagonist, and that’s a long time coming.
The film introduced some of the racial and class tensions that have existed historically in the crescent city (and all around the country) with a clear sense of the “arc of history bending toward justice.”
3.) It’s good to see New Orleans as the setting, especially now nearly five years after the catastrophe of Katrina. Yes, it’s set in the past, but much of what is gloried in here is strikingly present (and future).
Those who predicted the death of New Orleans after Katrina (and I heard many such prognostications) know nothing of New Orleans.
4.) The film recognized the dark side of the demonic. The voodoo villain “The Shadowman” uses his “friends on the other side,” channeling their power. Ultimately, as is always the case, he is their prey (see King Saul of old).
Flannery O’Connor once said of New Orleans: “If I had to live in a city I think I would prefer New Orleans to any otherboth Southern and Catholic and with indications that the Devil’s existence is freely recognized.” I rarely argue with Ms. O’Connor, and certainly won’t on that point.
The film also recognizes (if shallowly, of course) that voodoo is a complex issue, with many practitioners seeing both a “light” and a “dark” side to it (I don’t accept any good aspect, but that’s how some, especially in some Haitian communities, have seen it).
5.) The movie offered a hat-tip to the dizzying array of New Orleans musical styles (jazz, gospel, zydeco, etc.). It was a Disneyfied version, to be sure, but if it gets some moviegoers to discover the real stuff, I’m all for that.
But here’s what I hated:
1.) It’s in many ways a typical Disney film, with all that means. The template is there. Jiminy Cricket is a lightning bug this time; the “Jungle Book” bears and wolves are alligators, etc.
2.) Whatever committee was in charge of accent development clearly never went to New Orleans in their lives, or, if so, simply overheard tourists in the French Quarter and went home. Instead of New Orleans, Cajun, and Creole (and there is a difference) accents (and there are many), the film substituted the kind of ridiculous faux accent we saw with Jude Law in “Cold Mountain.”
3.) Disney is embarrassed (and rightly so) now by the racial stereotypes present in at least one of their earlier movies. No one now would market crude ethnic caricatures in an animated film, and that’s a good thing. Why then is it okay to use the most derogatory and cardboard stereotypes of rural working southern people? The cajuns in the bayou are presented as characters from “Deliverance.”
Wendell Berry rightly warned us against the “acceptable” bigotry against “provincial” country people (whether white, black, or what have you) who are presented as backward, despised, and even scary simply because they seem “other” in our monotonously pseudo-cosmopolitan televised American culture. The filmmakers here would have done well to have heard him.
4.) I noted before that the film includes Disneyfied samples of various forms of New Orleans music, including gospel. This is only right. Perhaps one of the greatest singers in American history was New Orleans’ own Mahalia Jackson who could sing “There Is Power in the Blood” and “We Shall Overcome” like no one else. She was in a long tradition of those in African-American Christian churches who sang of Christ Jesus and his good news.
I don’t expect Disney to give us gospel in our gospel music. But do they have to insult the genre by putting it in the context of a voodoo witch who makes everything alright by encouraging the characters to “dig a little deeper” inside of themselves to find the hidden potential therein?
]]>Jesus Has Aidshttps://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2009/12/jesus-has-aids
Wed, 02 Dec 2009 09:55:00 -0500 [
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on the First Things’ blog Evangel