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May 21, 2013Culture

Morning Roundup 05/21/13: The Future and Facebook; Problem with Proselytizing; Cash-Flush Pentecostals; Defining Manhood

Alex Chediak has a very helpful article on the social media age where we find ourselves.

Preparing for the Future in the Age of Facebook -- Alex Chediak

The regular use of our minds -- thinking, reading, studying, analyzing -- is a necessary means to loving God in this world. God gave us a Book, and he ordained that insight into its message be given by means of focused mental effort (2 Timothy 2:7; Ephesians 3:4; Acts 17:11-12) combined with supernatural illumination (2 Corinthians 4:4-6; 1 Peter 1:23). We should become attentive readers even if only to see the glory of God in the pages of Scripture and to be equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

But the use of our minds is a critical means to loving God in a wide variety of secular occupations, too. Intellectual effort can take many forms. Some read books, others "read" equations, still others "read" historical, financial, or scientific data. But the goal for Christians is the same: Using the mind to fan the flame of worship toward God and service towards neighbor (Luke 10:27).

Youth is a particularly strategic time to develop healthy study habits. The early years are a season of developing our God-given talents into competencies by which we can meaningfully serve others and live with impact in a broken world. This requires learning to receive, understand, and evaluate arguments conveyed via words, equations, or other means. It requires attentive reading, alert listening, and active engagement.

But an endless assortment of instantly-available media and non-stop social interactions are making uninterrupted study less common for young adults in our day (and for all of us). Such distractions radically short-circuit the learning process, preventing students from reaching their God-given potential for usefulness in the kingdom and workplace. If a well-trained mind is a means to loving God and serving others, how can we help students (and ourselves) reverse this harmful trend?

Mollie Hemingway asks some important questions about what proselytizing really means.

The Pentagon's Problem With Proselytizing -- Mollie Hemingway

The Pentagon statement clarifying that military personnel would not be court-martialed if they "evangelize" also said that "proselytization" is considered a Uniform Code of Military Justice offense. Yet the definitions of those two words are almost identical: Merriam-Webster defines proselytization as "to recruit or convert especially to a new faith, institution, or cause" and evangelize as "to preach the gospel to or to convert to Christianity."

In response to the Pentagon statement, two Southern Baptist leaders issued their own statement on May 6 voicing concern about religious freedom, even while cautioning Christians to refrain from jumping to conclusions. "What incidents have taken place, we wonder, that would call for this seemingly arbitrary distinction between 'evangelizing' and 'proselytizing'?" asked the Rev. Russell Moore, president-elect of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Rev. Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board. "With a subjective interpretation and adjudication of such cases, we need reassurance that such would not restrict the free exercise of religion for our chaplains and military personnel."

The ambiguity of how these regulations are defined and enforced, Messrs. Moore and Ezell said, could lead men and women in the military to fear retribution and choose to remain silent: "After all, who defines what is proselytizing and what is evangelism? What could seem to be a friendly conversation about spiritual matters to one serviceperson could be perceived or deliberately mischaracterized as 'proselytizing' to the person on the receiving end. The fact that this has been raised at all in such a subjective fashion could have a chilling effect on service personnel sharing their faith at all."

If the Pentagon wants to reassure soldiers that they won't be persecuted for sharing their faith, the fact that military leaders have met with Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, isn't helping. Launched in 2006 and with $700,000 in reported donations in 2011, the foundation fights what Mr. Weinstein decries as the undue influence of evangelical Christians in the U.S. military. (The foundation's website offerings include: "SHOCKING VIDEO: MRFF Reveals U.S. Military Being Used as Government-Paid Missionaries.") Mr. Weinstein, who served as an Air Force advocate general for 10 years, has said that he and his sons experienced harassment due to their Jewish faith during their studies at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

GetReligion comes down hard on some really bad reporting in Australia.

Beware of Creepy, Crooked, Cash-Flush Pentecostals -- Get Religion

The Australian, Australia's largest circulation broadsheet, published a story this week about an Assemblies of God church that has taken a leap across the Pacific and planted a campus in the United States. The article entitled "Eyeing off God's bounty" does not say that the Rev. Russell Evans is a fraud and a crook and that those who attend worship at Planetshakers City Church are ignorant rubes. However, you may well think so after reading this story.

The article opens on a self-consciously hip note.

"JESUS is in the house!" roared pastor Neil Smith above the crash-boom of drums and the wail of electric guitars. You would have thought the Son of God was sitting right there in the packed auditorium, such was the excitement among the youthful crowd at the Rock Church in San Diego, California, in January.

This was a big moment in the history of Planetshakers City Church, once a small local church in Melbourne, now fast becoming an international Christian brand. As if Jesus wasn't enough, Smith promised to "take it to a whole new level" as he introduced senior pastor Russell Evans, whom he called "the founder and visionary leader".

...This article is just mean. It treats Pentecostal Christianity as if it were some exotic species of religious belief, best observed by the anthropologist peering through the bushes at the natives caught up in their ecstatic frenzies while the witch doctor pockets the offerings (and frequent flier points).

The article is one-sided, incurious and dismissive. It also suffers from an overabundance of irony -- "Can you believe these people?" - and seeks not to inform its readers about one of the fastest-growing religious movements in the world but to reinforce anti-Christian prejudices. Now I enjoy being savagely unkind as the next reporter but this is a hit piece.

It does not live up to the code of decent reporting. However, aside from libel laws there is little agreement on what constitutes the "code".

In today's clip from The Exchange, Eric Mason and I discuss manhood. Join me today-- and every Tuesday-- at 3:00 PM Eastern for The Exchange.

Defining Manhood -- Eric Mason

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Morning Roundup 05/21/13: The Future and Facebook; ...