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Archive for the ‘World Events’ Category

I can’t read the guy’s mind, of course, but after the initial, natural response of “Yeah, I got it goin’ on,” I’m thinking this is what President Obama must’ve really been thinking upon hearing that he’d won the Nobel Peace Prize

Dang it! It’s a great honor and all, but I really don’t need this right now. I’ve got wars in Afghanistan and Iraq—not to mention nuclear threats from Iran and North Korea. Man, don’t they know I’ve still got health-care reform and the economic downturn to figure out at home? And on top of that, this will just be more fodder for all the haters who want to see me fail no matter what. Couldn’t they have put me on the list for 2017?

Well, at least that’s what I would’ve been thinking if I were in his shoes.

I also was shocked to hear the news this morning that Obama had won the Peace Prize. Clearly, he has yet to accomplish anything concrete that would naturally point to his selection. However, I do agree in part with Fareed Zakaria’s take over at CNN.com that this is more of an award to America—a challenge and encouragement to us (and the world) to pursue the high rhetoric of hope and international cooperation that Obama has advocated.

What’s more, the award is also a recognition of what happened in the U.S. last November when we elected Obama. It’s a salute to America’s ability to finally rise up to the ideals of equality, freedom, and strength through diversity that it was founded on. I think if our country is truly serious about living up to those ideals, we will ultimately prove the Nobel committee members to have been correct in their decision, whether we like Obama or not.

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Thanks to a tip from a coworker, lately I’ve been enjoying the soulful sounds of (wait for it) a Korean gospel choir. Korea’s Heritage Mass Choir is a dynamic ensemble of young artists who clearly have been inspired by the Spirit—as well as urban contemporary gospel tunes from the U.S. (I’ve embedded three of their videos here, but you can find several others over at YouTube.) I’m especially taken by their rendition of the old Kirk Franklin/Fred Hammond cut “My Deisre.” The Heritage Choir’s videos have been making the rounds for a while now, so perhaps you’ve seen and heard them already. If not, enjoy—and give the Lord some praise!

 

 

 

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As We Forgive coverOver the last week or so, I’ve been absorbed in Catherine Claire Larson’s new book, As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda. If you’re interested in a deeper understanding of what happened in Rwanda in 1994, or a deeper understanding of the miraculous process of reconciliation, I commend this great book to you. 

Last month marked the 15th anniversary of the horrific Rwanda genocide, and the wounds are still apparent in the country. However, despite physical and emotional scars, something dramatic is happening among the Rwandan people. Survivors are forgiving those who killed their families. Perpetrators are truly repenting and doing practical acts of reconciliation to demonstrate their remorse, like building homes for those whose families they killed. God is moving.

In her gripping book, Larson shares seven stories about the genocide, its aftermath, and the spirit of reconciliation that is happening in a place that was once defined by inhumanity and death. What’s taking place in Rwanda today is instructive for all people, especially those of us who confess Christ. As Larson observes in my interview with her, now at UrbanFaith.com, “If forgiveness can happen in that country after such unthinkable crimes, surely it can also happen in the comparatively smaller rifts we face. In their hope, we can find hope.”

I highly recommend that you check out Catherine Larson’s compelling and well-written book, as well as the award-winning film that inspired it. Also, once again, don’t forget to read, link to, and pass along the UrbanFaith interview with Larson.

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nextevangelicalismIf you haven’t seen it yet, I strongly encourage you to check out my friend Soong-Chan Rah’s provocative new book, The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity. Today, African, Asian, and Latin American Christians make up 60 percent of the world’s Christian population. The United States and Europe will soon no longer be the center of evangelical activity in the world. With this in mind, the book calls the North American church to break free of its cultural captivity to a Western/Eurocentric/White American mindset and to embrace a new evangelicalism that is diverse and multiethnic. You can find out more here at the IVP site. 

For those of you who don’t know him, Soong-Chan is a brilliant theologian and pastor who for years led Cambridge Community Fellowship Church, a multiethnic, urban, post-modern congregation in the Central Square neighborhood of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Now a professor at North Park Theological Seminary here in Chicago, Soong-Chan has rattled a lot of cages over the years by calling attention to issues of racism and cultural insensitivity in the evangelical church and community. I included a story about the Rickshaw Rally fiasco in my book, Reconciliation Blues, and I blogged about Soong-Chan’s role in the Zondevan/Youth Specialities controversy a couple years ago. In addition, when I was the editor of Today’s Christian, I published an insightful interview with Soong-Chan about the Youth Specialities episode and his ministry of activism. Though he may have gained a reputation as a rabble-rouser in some quarters, I know him as a kind-hearted, passionate man of God who loves the church and lost people.

We’re planning to do an interview with Soong-Chan about his book for that other little blog that I’m involved with, UrbanFaith.com. If you have any questions you’d like to hear Soong-Chan address about the book or his ministry in general, please leave them in the comments area below, or send them to me directly through my website. We’ll publish the interview in the next couple weeks, so send your questions soon. Thanks!

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Did anyone else hear the NPR story this morning about how heroin and opium addiction are destroying Afghan families? Sadly, even mothers and their young children are being lured into the grip of these drugs. An excerpt from the report:

“When I smoke this, I don’t experience any unhappiness. My nerves calm down. If I don’t do this I go crazy,” says Karima, an addict who is the mother of six children. She shares her home with her addicted parents and other relatives in a poor hillside neighborhood in Kabul. 

Her young children suffer ill effects of being bathed by opium and heroin smoke since birth. They do not attend school. The oldest is Fahima. At 12, she is the size of a child half her age. She has big brown eyes and bald spots on her head from malnutrition.

Fahima is the one her mother sends out to buy drugs to stoke her habit. “My mom nags me to go get hashish and opium so she can be happy. If she doesn’t use it, she gets angry and hits us all,” Fahima says.

The soaring rates of drug abuse are driven in part by Afghanistan’s widespread unemployment and social upheaval under the Taliban and the U.S.-led war, begun in 2001. Another factor is the flood of returning Afghan refugees from Iran, many of whom became heroin addicts there.

And fueling it all is an overabundance of opium and heroin in Afghanistan, the world’s largest cultivator of poppies in the world.

The addicts say that heroin is a cheap way to forget their miserable existence.

My wife and I were both quiet after listening to this report. We were particulary saddened by the reporter’s final description of the 12-year-old Fahima. 

Please join me in praying for the situation in Afghanistan, especially for the innocent lives that are being devastated by the side effects of war and oppression.

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