Writer tackling faith, politics, relationships, writing, media, & other impolite topics. College Teacher. Podcaster. My newsletter: https://tinyurl.com/yy7znuy8

How to listen, empathize, and love well (Pt. I)

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Photo by Usman Yousaf on Unsplash

Doubts are seldom allowed in the church. There’s an unspoken agreement that we’ll keep such thoughts to ourselves — that we won’t sully an otherwise pleasant Sunday morning, create tension at a comfortable Wednesday night bible study, or spark controversy among content believers. Instead, we’ll pretend to be equally comfortable and content.

Since we don’t share doubts, we can’t discuss them, learn from them, or deepen our faith thanks to them. We either feel alone in our questioning or remain blissfully ignorant of the questioners in our midst. Many of those questioners may struggle in their faith while “alone together” in a faith community. …

Of all the writing advice I’ve read on Medium, here are my favorite take-aways

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Photo by Matt Ridley on Unsplash

If you’re like me, you’ve read a ton of writing advice. You’ve read many “how to write” books and essays, a bunch of “how to write on Medium” articles, and plenty of “how I made a gazillion dollars writing on Medium for an hour while wearing pajamas on my couch and eating ice cream with a toddler squirming in my lap” hot takes.

No doubt you’ve highlighted a book’s worth of material from those articles and archived many of them for future reference. But how often do you revisit those highlights and articles? …

A civic theology to avoid being a Christian Nationalist

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Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Franklin Graham made his dad Billy flip over in his grave when he compared the ten Republican Congress members who voted to impeach Trump for inciting insurrection, including noted radical leftist Liz Cheney, to Judas.

“What 30 pieces of silver did Nancy Pelosi promise them?” he asked on Facebook. If they’re Judas in Graham’s mind, then Trump must be Jesus. It’s a neat trick to show in one sentence exactly how people of faith should and should not engage in politics.

This idolatry — putting ultimate trust and hope in any human, object, or other “idol” — isn’t exclusive to people of faith, but man, people like Franklin Graham really lead by example. …

Systemic change to our information ecosystem is needed

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Photo by United Nations COVID-19 Response on Unsplash

How could we have known MAGA die-hards, amateur militia, and Q faithful would storm the U.S. Capitol?

How could we have known 75% of Republicans would not believe that Joe Biden won the 2020 election?

The overlooked revelations of storming the Capitol

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Image Credit: Jon Minchillo, AP Photos, via wsws.org

I’m not the first to proclaim that the Capitol Riot on January 6th revealed America for who it is: racist, white supremacist, privileged, entitled, misinformed, violent, stupid.

But I hope to go further and name the overlooked and unusual revelations about Russian interference in our democracy, MAGA, McConnell, and the Republican party.

How to listen, empathize, and love well (Pt. III)

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Photo by Malcolm Lightbody on Unsplash

This essay is the latest in a series about responding to spiritual doubt, skepticism, and atheism. The first essay in the series focused on creating space for questions and doubts. The second essay described how emphasizing the diversity and mystery of belief can help with doubts.

Here, I focus on engaging skeptics—and our own skepticism.

I define “skeptics” as people who are open to considering faith but don’t believe in much, or any, of Christianity. …

I’m Stunned, Sickened, Scared

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January 6th, 2021, the day that protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol building to support Trump’s baseless attempt to overturn the election result, will join other infamous dates in American history.

What began as political theater about certifying the 2020 election results transformed into the logical result of four years of Trumpism, hyper-partisanship, “us vs. them” rhetoric, conspiracy theories, and “stop the steal” allegations.

I’ve feared something like this wretched day for four years of Trump’s presidency, and on his way out the door, Trump and his enablers in Congress and conservative media made it happen.

We woke up this morning to the strong likelihood of united government, thanks to Democrats Rafael Warnock and Jon Ossoff leading their Republican competitors Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in the Georgia Senate run-off elections. …

Writers can uphold shared truth and point the way to wholeness

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Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

We just finished celebrating Jesus as the “prince of peace” in Isaiah’s words. Yet a cursory glance around America, a predominately Christian country, reveals much strife and little peace.

Why? Misunderstanding and misinformation.

Christians’ misunderstanding of biblical peace and widespread belief in misinformation does not only damage our witness to non-Christians; it also robs Christians of peace.

But writers can help by upholding shared truth and pointing the way toward peace as wholeness.

We misunderstand peace

Many American Christians misunderstand the biblical concept of peace, or shalom. …

Jason Smith sells his warped view to anyone listening

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(Photo by Malcolm Lightbody on Unsplash)

These days, we seldom encounter and rarely seek out people on opposite ends of the political spectrum. It’s eye-opening, even mind-boggling, when hyper-partisans provide access to their innermost thoughts.

When constituents of Congressman Jason Smith — a Republican representing Missouri’s 8th District, a very rural, widespread district — email him with concerns, they are automatically signed up to his email newsletter. In these emails, he cracks open his skull and lets the crazy leak out.

Jason Smith’s “Review of 2020” email begins by agreeing with Trump’s assertion that he created the greatest economy America’s ever had.

Under President Trump’s leadership, and in the face of a worldwide pandemic, our nation experienced record setting economic growth — median household incomes hit the highest level ever seen, manufacturing jobs grew at the fastest rate in three decades, and unemployment was down at record lows. …

Trump killed my neighbor. He has killed countless neighbors.

My neighbor died of COVID last night after two weeks on a ventilator. She and her husband hosted a Thanksgiving gathering, and two weeks later they had COVID. Two weeks after that, she went into the hospital and he began to recover.

Trump publicly downplayed COVID-19 while privately telling Bob Woodward — on tape — that it was lethal. He questioned and maligned wearing masks, creating reason and room to turn an effective method of fighting COVID into a partisan controversy. …

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