lukegilman.com : High on the Hog Blog
Purveyor of Idle Observation

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Please note: I'm no longer updating this particular blog, but keep it around for archival purposes. Visit me at the current blog at www.lukegilman.com

David Batstone on Human Trafficking, Q Talks

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David Batstone discusses his encounter with and subsequent passion for ending Human Trafficking on Q Talks. More on his cause website Not for Sale: End Human Trafficking and Slavery

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Cross Walk

Eyeteeth brought my attention to this great sign alteration:

jesus_crosswalk002_blowup

Cross Walk, via Seattle Post-Intelligencer

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San Francisco Street Preacher Ministers to Homeless by Becoming Like Them

The Street Preacher in San Francisco is profiled in the Chronicle, Kevin Fagan, Spreading the Word on the Street, San Francisco Chronicle, May 24, 2008 (audio)

“I’ve never heard of a street preacher like him anywhere in the country,” said Michael Stoops, longtime leader of the National Coalition for the Homeless. “I’ve often thought that if you’re going to minister to the poor, you should try living like them. “And here is a guy choosing to do just that. Amazing.”

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

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TED Talks, Philip Zimbardo

Video: Philip Zimbardo: How ordinary people become monsters … or heroes

Philip Zimbardo knows what evil looks like. After serving as an expert witness during the Abu Ghraib trials, he wrote The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. From Nazi comic books to the tactics of used-car salesmen, he explores a wealth of sources in trying to explain the psychology of evil.

A past president of the American Psychological Association and a professor emeritus at Stanford, Zimbardo retired in 2008 from lecturing, after 50 years of teaching his legendary introductory course in psychology. In addition to his work on evil and heroism, Zimbardo recently published The Time Paradox, exploring different cultural and personal perspectives on time.

Still well-known for his controversial Stanford Prison Experiment, Zimbardo in his new research looks at the psychology of heroism. He asks, “What pushes some people to become perpetrators of evil, while others act heroically on behalf of those in need?”

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Christianity’s rapid rise in China

Christianity — repressed, marginalized and, in many cases, illegal in China for more than half a century — is sweeping the country, overflowing churches and posing a sensitive challenge to the officially atheist Communist Party.

Chicago Tribune: Jesus in China: Christianity’s rapid rise

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Young Evangelicals Take Their Faith, but Not Their Politics, to the People

From the New York Times, Young Evangelicals Take Their Faith, but Not Their Politics, to the People

They say they are tired of the culture wars. They say they do not want the test of their faith to be the fight against gay rights. They say they want to broaden the traditional evangelical anti-abortion agenda to include care for the poor, the environment, immigrants and people with H.I.V., according to experts on younger evangelicals and the young people themselves.

“Evangelicalism is becoming somewhat less coherent as a movement or as an identity,” said Christian Smith, a sociology professor at the University of Notre Dame. “Younger people don’t even want the label anymore. They don’t believe the main goal of the church is to be political.”

About 17 percent of the nation’s 55 million adult evangelicals are between the ages of 18 and 29, and many are troubled by the methods of the religious right and its close ties to the Republican Party.

In a January 2007 survey of 1,000 young people for the book “Unchristian,” one of its authors, David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, which studies Christian trends, found that 47 percent of born-again Christians ages 40 and under believed that “the political efforts of conservative Christians” posed a problem for America.

None of that means younger evangelicals have abandoned the core tenets of their faith, including a belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus and the literal truth of the Bible. They think abortion and homosexuality are sins.

And so far, there is no clear evidence that supporting a broader social agenda has led young evangelicals to defect from the Republican Party in great numbers, as many liberals have predicted.

But shifts in thinking among younger evangelicals may lead to an easing of the polarization that has defined the country’s recent political landscape, many of them said.

“The easy thing is to fight, but the hard thing is to put your gloves down and work together towards a common cause,” said the Rev. Scott Thomas, director of the Acts 29 Network, which helps pastors start churches. “Our generation would like to put our gloves down. We don’t want to be out there picketing. We want to be out there serving.”

Amen.

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New York Review of Books, The Case for Judas

In the forthcoming New York Review of Books, Harold W. Attridge, Dean of Yale Divinity School, expounds The Case for Judas, Continued, revisiting the subject of a 2006 article in the same publication – The Betrayer’s Gospel – in light of two new works – Elaine Pagels and Karen L. King, Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity and Bart D. Ehrman, The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot: A New Look at Betrayer and Betrayed.

I’ve grown both wary and weary of the supposedly ‘revelatory’ nature of new books examining gnostic tracts, which at times differ from the conspiratorial gaspings of the Da Vinci code only by degree and subtlety. In the Half-Priced Books down the street, the Bible is outnumbered 10 to 1 by the Dead Sea Scrolls which leads me to believe that the economics of the book business has quite a lot to do with the resurgence of interest in these ‘new’ revelations. But I seem to have stepped on a soap box here…

To the contrary, Attridge is refreshingly willing to contextualize the disappearance of the Gospel of Judas. The difference between a gospel that is “lost” or “discarded” lies in the value one attributes to it. The value of the Gospel of Judas is substantially greater to the historian of ancient Christianity than to the theologian. The conflict he seeks between its pages is substantially more relevant to the believer and casual observer alike than what he attributes to Pagels and King, whose focus on martyrdom as class struggle seems to value the improvement of the human condition more than the importance of claiming their beliefs to the early Christians, then castigate early church leaders for failing to see it that way as well.

To the extent that contemporary believers engage the form their faith has taken in relation to the scripture they’ve come to accept, the Gospel of Judas informs our imagining of the alternatives and should leave us a more thorough understanding of what we believe and why.

Or you could just follow these 17 steps to becoming happier than God.

Lord, help us.

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Church Signs

For your entertainment this sabbath morn – Signs From God: The curious history of church marquees. See the slideshow at the end of the article.

Also Church Sign Smack Down, The Baptist Church sign and the Catholic Church sign get into it.

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Rev. David Kirk, founder of Harlem’s Emmaus House, a community for the homeless, remembered

The NY Times had a rather remarkable obituary for Rev. David Kirk, a community leader who established Emmaus House in Harlem. Excerpt below. Audio available from NPR’s All Things Considered in Remembrances: Rev. Kirk, A Leader of Aid for the Poor.

Father Kirk, for decades a presence in the civil rights and antiwar movements, established Emmaus House in the mid-1960s on East 116th Street. It was conceived not as a shelter but as a community for the city’s homeless men and women and was modeled on the Emmaus movement, begun in France after World War II to aid the poor.

The Emmaus (pronounced ee-MAY-us) movement takes its name from the story in the book of Luke in which the resurrected Jesus appeared to two disciples on the road from Jerusalem to the town of Emmaus.

Not long after it began, Emmaus House moved to 160 West 120th Street. In the mid-1980s, it moved again, into the former Charles Hotel on Lexington Avenue at 124th Street. The building had long been known as a haven for drug dealers and prostitutes. As Emmaus House, it provided long-term housing to more than 70 people, and its community kitchen served 500 lunches a day.

It also offered a variety of programs, from teaching job skills like woodworking to providing social services for drug addicts and people with AIDS. Each resident was paid the same weekly stipend as Father Kirk: $25.

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Atheists with Attitude: Adventures in Public Doubt

As previously posted, I’m genuinely fascinated with the current crop of evangelizing atheists and just read an excellent article in the New Yorker by Anthony Gottlieb on the subject – Atheists with Attitude.

Since all the arguments against belief have been widely publicized for a long time, today’s militant atheists must sometimes wonder why religion persists. Hitchens says that it is born of fear and probably ineradicable. Harris holds that there are genuine spiritual experiences; having kicked sand in the faces of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, he dives headlong into the surf of Eastern spirituality, encouraging readers to try Buddhist techniques of meditation instead of dangerous creeds. Dawkins devotes a chapter, and Dennett most of his book, to evolutionary accounts of how religion may have arisen and how its ideas spread.

The same ideas and some of the usual suspects are present at the TED Conference with streaming video of talks on the theme Is there a God?.

It’s no longer socially acceptable I think, to be interested in people one disagrees so fundamentally with. Ours is a society in which we welcome the opportunity to forget that we live with people that see the world differently than we do. When we do acknowledge the presence of ‘others’ we feel compelled to demonstrate how unlike us they are – in their ideas, their very humanity. Christians may reflexively attribute the Atheist’s doubt to his lostness, to rebellion, or in extreme minds, to evil itself. The Christian archetype for the atheist is either a moron – deluded by self or society – or more sinisterly, a misanthropic hypocrite – manipulative, sadistic and repressed, willing to sacrifice anything for the sake of certainty in their principles. The dichotomy is a useless one. It reflects only what one side would like to think about the other.

Having once been an atheist, I feel as much in common with this group of authors as I would with many Christian circles. Perhaps more so. Though I don’t agree with them, this doesn’t make their points are valid and we, as Christians, serve no purpose in waiving them away or giving them a paternalistic pat on the head. We would do well to recognize just how fantastically bizarre our professed Christian faith really is. We’ve grown so used to it through close association and a disturbing habit among churched culture of discouraging honest questions and a need to resolve tidily any questions that do arise. As our assumptions pile up, we find ourselves less-able to have coherent conversations with those who don’t accept our precepts.

Acerbic Brit Christopher Hitchens is by far the most interesting and articulate and if this subject holds any interest with you whatsoever, I highly recommend his debate with Douglas Wilson in Christianity Today “Is Christianity Good for the World?” Hat tip to Houston’s Clear Thinkers.

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