What We Can Learn from Culture Warriors

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The Green Room carries the second installment of my new series on how to move forward from our three inadequate models of the kingdom of God. I write about “dominance” model churches:

These churches care a lot about justice, and – just as important – they have a theologically informed understanding of what justice is and requires. Fortification and accommodation churches should consider how dominance churches, alone of the three types, have to some extent successfully resisted the relentless individualization of advanced modern culture, treating people as members of their communities rather than as isolated, self-oriented individuals.

Next time, how dominance churches can find first steps to growing beyond dominance.

Republics Live and Die by the Law

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Am I glad I voted for this man? Why, yes, yes I am:

As a C.I.A. officer, I saw firsthand authoritarians’ use of these tactics around the world. Their profound appetite for absolute power drives their intolerance for any restraint — whether by people, organizations, the law, cultural norms, principles or even the expectation of consistency. For a despot, all of these checks on power must be ignored, undermined or destroyed so that he is all that matters.

Mr. Trump has said that he prefers to be unpredictable because it maximizes his power. During his recent interview with The New York Times, he casually abandoned his fiery calls during the campaign for torture, prosecuting Hillary Clinton and changing libel laws. Mr. Trump’s inconsistencies and provocative proposals are a strategy; they are intended to elevate his importance above all else — and to place him beyond democratic norms, beyond even the Constitution.

He followed up with ten things we should do in the age of Trump.

We Were Voyagers!

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Check out my long post over at JPGB on tradition, discovery and divine calling in the delightful movie Moana:

At first, the divine call resolves our tensions – by its transcendent authority it supercedes and breaks down our artificial divisions between tradition and discovery, between identity and purpose. It demands both; because, and only because, it demands both with an authority higher than both, it gets both.

But then the ocean doesn’t help.

As always, your thoughts are welcome!

Hope Amid Signs of Death

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Today, TGC carries my big post-election analysis on the future of America and of evangelical Christianity within it. I don’t sugarcoat it:

After this election, how do I look my neighbors in the eye and tell them that, as an evangelical, I’m an ambassador from an invisible kingdom ruled by love and righteousness? That might have been credible if the church had resisted both candidates forcefully. But now?

American evangelicalism has sold its birthright for a bowl of bean soup. It remains to be seen whether it will get the bean soup; I’m skeptical. But the birthright is gone either way.

My favorite review of my book on Calvinism included the observations that “there is no beating around the bush with Forster” and “Forster nailed his colors to the mast.”

There is, however, hope – there always is with this Forster guy:

We need to face this crisis not with fear, but with confidence in God and the gospel. This emphatically does not mean we should only talk about the gospel and never talk about politics or other public matters. It means we participate in public life in a way shaped by our gospel transformation.

We need confidence not only in God and the gospel, but also that godly life is possible—here, now, in the present age, in our nation and culture. Yes, even in 2016.

My six-point plan to build a responsible evangelical political witness (darn it, it should have been five points!) makes a brief appearance.

As always, your comments are very welcome!

The Next Accountability: Families, Communities and Discourse

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Today EdChoice runs the last installment in my series on the future of education and school accountability in a pluralistic society. I argue the contemporary challenge can be met with a focus on school choice, local polity and – perhaps hardest and most important of all – a new description of what education is and is for, something reformers are uniquely positioned to provide.

I particularly stress the need for the school choice movement to go beyond – without repudiating – its rhetoric about markets and competition:

The most important argument for letting parents hold schools accountable (through choice) is that parents are allowed to know what is true, good and beautiful. The whole point of education is to cultivate the power to achieve and appreciate these transcendent things. The whole challenge of education in a pluralistic environment is that we disagree about them, so there are major limits to government’s ability to act upon them. Empowering parents does not by itself make the whole problem of pluralism go away, but it must be at the center of any viable solution…

Schools of choice are allowed to know what they believe, and can therefore have both freedom and community. This is why federal data show private schools already outperform public schools dramatically across a wide variety of measures of school culture, including cooperation among staff, shared understanding of school mission, consistent enforcement of rules, administrative support of teachers, lower ethnic tension and satisfaction with working conditions…

Establishing a strong connection between parents and schools is another key benefit. This is probably a major factor in a notable fact that researchers struggle to explain: School choice produces very impressive increases in important outcomes that are non-cognitive and character-related—like high school graduation rates—even as test score improvements, while consistent, are more moderate. In one of the most important educational books of our generation, sociologist James Davison Hunter shows how the formation of the child is critically hindered when children perceive a disconnect between key authority figures in their education—especially parents and teachers.

This series has been a big challenge but a lot of fun to write. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts!