The Other Benedict Option: Humility

What a sixth-century monk can teach all of us about public engagement

In sixth-century Europe, unprecedented chaos gripped the dying remnants of the Roman Empire. As Europe entered a period of political chaos and moral decline, a young Christian by the name of Benedict started a movement that would radically reshape Christian habits of life for more than a millennium.

His primary contribution was fairly basic, perhaps even pedestrian: He offered a clear and orderly way to organize Christian monasteries, penning what came to be known as The Rule, which detailed how monasteries should run, down to meal times and organization charts. But these monasteries, stabilized and fortified by TheRule, would eventually become agents of subtle social change and guardians of a rich and vibrant faith amid the political chaos and cultural decline of the proceeding centuries.

In 2017, journalist Rod Dreher argued that we find ourselves in a circumstance not so different from Benedict’s: a moment of social upheaval and decline in which “serious Christian conservatives could no longer live business-as-usual lives” but must focus on nurturing “creative, communal solutions to help us hold on to our faith and our values in a world growing ever more hostile to them.” Building on the work of philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, who argued for the relevance of Benedict’s preservation of Christian moral reasoning over 30 years ago, Dreher contended that this would involve painful but necessary shifts in mindset for evangelical Christians.

The ensuing discussion has been well-documented in CT’s pages. Supporters of the “Benedict Option” contend that it is essential to evangelical public engagement in an increasingly post-Christian environment, while critics have argued that …

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Bethel Church Survives Redding Carr Fire, But Still Faces Heat

Social media debate on intersection of disaster relief and theology echoes Osteen-Harvey episode.

The main campus of Bethel Church, the nondenominational megachurch known for its charismatic practices and chart-topping worship ballads, has been spared threats by a wildfire raging in and around the congregation’s hometown of Redding, California. However, a different kind of firestorm—theological and social—has continued to stir online.

The Carr Fire, which began July 23 when a vehicle’s “mechanical issue” sparked the blaze in nearby Whiskeytown, had charred more than 131,000 acres and destroyed more than 1,000 residences by Friday morning, making it one of California’s top 10 destructive fires. More than 30,000 residents have been displaced and six people—including two firefighters, as well as two children and their great-grandmother—have been killed, the Sacramento Bee reported. At least a dozen others have been injured.

It didn’t take long for the maelstrom to make its way online, where Bethel supporters shared prayers and prophesies while the church’s critics pointed out what they view as overpromises of God’s favor. The digital discussion also rekindled a debate that may be a new normal for big-name churches in the face of disaster: How much help is enough?

One does not need to look far on social media or in more niche corners of the Christian blogosphere to see the flurries of judgment. But Bethel has held its theological ground, prophesying rain, commanding calm winds, and inviting divine intervention.

Competing narratives of God’s modus operandi and the power of faith increasingly cloud the digital air in times of intense heartbreak—a cautionary tale of how Christians of different strands respond to crises and to each other amid them. …

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Rats In The Church Basement

The Scottsdale Church Has Rats

rat found in basement

We were notified Sunday that there were rats in the basement of the Scottsdale location. The basement is used to store boxes containing props, decoration, and various other items used through the year for religious holidays. Christmas and Easter decorations top that list. We also keep tables and chairs there for the events when we host weekend celebrations. While taking inventory for the upcoming holiday season, one of our members noticed that there were some unwelcome guests living in the basement. There were multiple rats spotted when the lights turned on, they quickly scurried through an opening in the wall that led to the exterior of the property. This was a bit concerning because of the potential hazards they pose for disease. Rat droppings can spread diseases like hantavirus and can become deadly for children and the elderly. Considering that many of these decorations are placed out on tables with food and beverages during holiday events it was important that not only did we cover the hole in the wall, wash all of our linens and props, but that we also treated the property for rats and other rodents that may take a liking to the basement of the property. Our Scottsdale location is an older property and has also had some cockroach problems that need to be treated. We contacted an exterminator in Scottsdale that had experience with pest control in the area and provided an affordable quote and a timeline for the treatment. They were able to come out the next day and treat the property for rats, termites, cockroaches, bed bugs, ants, spiders, and scorpions. We have seen all of these insects on the property at various times during worship hours and figured it would be best to treat the property for everything at the same time. They also set out traps for the rats, we would rather have them captured and killed then poisoned and wondering off into the walls of the church and dying off. Because the property is older and the surrounding area has older buildings that are not maintained we opted in to on-going maintenance. They will be out monthly to spray the property and check the traps for rats. This should provide us with a sanitary property to worship and enjoy fellowship during the holidays without having to worry about infestations and disease.

Heavy rain, 70 mph winds blast West Valley communities in latest monsoon storm

The second monsoon of the week blew through the state Thursday evening, producing heavy thunderstorms and damaging winds in the West Valley.

      

 

 

Democratic candidates for Arizona schools chief agree on issues, diverge on background

Kathy Hoffman touted her boots-on-the-ground experience as an educator. David Schapira pointed to his background in the political and policy arena.

      

 

 

My Foster Daughter Was Separated from Her Family at the Border

Caring for someone else’s kid brought heartbreak. But it also drew me closer to God’s kingdom purposes.

When the mother of my five-year-old foster daughter ran toward her and scooped her up in tears and smiles after an eight-month separation, I knew I was seeing shalom embodied.

Julia had lived in my home since February, one of the more than 3,000 children separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border since last fall. After her sponsor family neglected her, social services took her into custody and within hours, I became her foster mom.

Restoring children to their parents is the goal of foster care, but it’s also what repels many people from fostering in the first place. Why? The potential heartbreak is hard to reckon with. That prospect of loss is what I feared most last summer when my family and I initially embraced the call to foster.

After pursuing adoption in Mexico—where my family had served as missionaries—we found only closed doors and returned to the US with a greater attentiveness to the needs in our own community. I began to seriously consider America’s broken foster care system and found myself wrestling with Joel 2:12–13: “‘Even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.’ Rend your heart and not your garments.”

My excuse for not fostering had been the possibility of heartbreak after a child left, but I began to recognize this anguish as an essential part of the calling. I realized that not only is there a deep human need to be part of a family—there’s also a deep need to know where one came from. In seeking adoption, I had focused on the former. In becoming a foster mom, however, I had awakened to the latter.

Embracing heartbreak, I learned, is part of carrying each other’s …

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A Fascinating Lost Email from Larry Norman on Music and Ministry

Our worship music is very often about ‘us’ and ‘I’ more than about God.

Ed Stetzer:

Thanks, Larry,

I appreciate it so much.

One of these days, I would like to get more of your thoughts on Christian music. It is such an important area.

I pray that your health will improve and I am sorry that I had to bother you during this challenging time.

Thanks,
Ed

Larry Norman:

Hi Ed,

I probably won’t call you because it’s 11:30 at night and you only need written permission, not a quote.

I’ve been very touchy about my lyrics in the past, and I’ve usually refused to give my permission. Especially when people want to use me as an example of rebellion. I never thought of myself as a rebel. I was operating as a satirical surgeon; trying to remove an ugly cancer from the church: The dogma which proclaimed that dance, modern music and the theater cannot be used by God because it is wholly profane.

Because I believed that God created all things in life, including the arts, then that meant that all things BELONGED to God. Christians had an obligation to reclaim the arts for the church. They are not the possession, nor the invention, of the secular realm.

But in aiming to set the arts free from a scriptural doctrine, I’ve been very disappointed to see the direction which this liberty has taken people. I don’t see a balance in the exposition of most of the CCM artists’ music, unless it is a bank balance.

And while there is nothing wrong with the artforms themselves, I can only agree in silence many times when Christians accuse the CCM industry of being ungodly in its presentation. It makes me sick to see the tattoos and facial piercings and hair colors. It reminds me of what Babylonian worshippers may have looked like. In our times, some tribes in Africa still stick bones and plates in …

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I-17 ramp-meter lights will be used to warn other motorists of wrong-way drivers

Some of the red lights on I-17 entrance-ramp meters will now be used to prevent traffic from entering the freeway when there’s a wrong-way driver.

      

 

 

'Darkest Minds' author Alexandra Bracken owes career to her dad's love of Star Wars

Scottsdale native Alexandra Bracken’s dystopian novel “Darkest Minds” comes to the big screen Aug. 3. She talks about Star Wars and “toxic fandom.”

      

 

 

Pew: Why Americans Go to Church or Stay Home

Among regular attenders of religious services: 2 in 3 go because of their kids, Catholics half as likely as Protestants to value sermons, and 1 in 5 don’t usually feel God’s presence.

About 2 out of 3 American adults who regularly attend church or other religious services say they go for their kids, for personal comfort, or to become a better person.

The most important reason for going: to become closer to God. Yet 1 in 5 adults who attend monthly or more say they do not usually feel God’s presence; 1 in 4 don’t usually feel a sense of community; and 4 in 10 don’t usually feel connected to their faith’s history.

Meanwhile, Catholic attenders are half as likely as Protestant attenders to say sermons are of enough value to be very important to their attendance.

These are among the results of a new Pew Research Center study, released today, examining 10 reasons why people might attend religious services and 8 reasons why they might not.

Pew has found a decline in attendance at religious services from 2007 to 2014, with about a third of Americans now saying they worship weekly and about a third saying they go rarely or never. However, the self-reported weekly attendance at evangelical churches stayed flat at 58 percent.

Who Attends:

Among US adults who do attend church or other religious services regularly (defined by Pew as attending monthly or more), 7 in 10 say a very important reason they attend is so their children will have a moral foundation (69%). Similar shares attend to become a better person (68%) or for comfort in times of trouble or sorrow (66%).

The most common reason for attendance is to become closer to God (81%), which far and away is also cited as the single most important reason (61%) with every other reason cited by less than a tenth of respondents.

Pew also examined the demographics of regular worshipers. Among the findings:

  • 71% pray daily
  • 56% are women
  • 55% are age 50 or older

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