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Friday, April 7, 2017

What Does a Typical Protestant Look Like?

What Does a Typical Protestant Look Like?
This year, the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, many of us are thinking about the movement begun, inadvertently, by Martin Luther. The debate blossomed into divisions, splitting western Christendom into Catholics and Protestants, and the Protestants into Lutherans, Calvinists, Anabaptists, Methodists, Baptists, and so forth. Besides some doctrinal issues, what did all these Protestants have in common? They were white and of European/North American descent.

The world has moved on, as we've known for some time. Protestantism has exploded in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. But the statistic that caught my attention this week was this: "Sometime around 2040 half of all Protestants will live in Africa."

That is the conclusion of Todd M. Johnson, director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. "We've come a long way from 16th-century German Lutherans or 19th-century American Baptists, he writes. "Surely, the next 500 years clearly belongs to Africans, Asians, Latin Americans, and Pacific Islanders."

When Work Gets in the Way of Productivity
Apparently, the longer you work, the less you accomplish. That is the conclusion of this week's long read: "Darwin Was a Slacker and You Should Be Too: Many famous scientists have something in common—they didn't work long hours." Alex Soojung-Kim Pang (founder of the Restful Company and visiting scholar at Stanford University) also gives examples of highly productive writers of note (Anthony Trollope, Charles Dickens, W. Somerset Maugham, and others) who also worked but a few hours a day.

Pang doesn't denigrate the value of hard work, but argues that "world-class performance" doesn't come after just 10,000 hours of practice (the notion made popular by Malcom Gladwell in Outliers). "That's wrong. It comes after 10,000 hours of deliberate practice, 12,500 hours of deliberate rest, and 30,000 hours of sleep."

I may begin blocking out my Google calendar with times for deliberate rest and sleep—not kidding.
Two Cheers for Stereotypes
We Americans simply hate stereotyping, since it sometimes leads to prejudice and discrimination. Furthermore, we like to think of ourselves as unique individuals who cannot be confined by others' stereotyped view of us. We spend a great deal of energy trying to break down people's stereotypes of us.

All well and good. Except there is another perspective to this, literally. Not to targets of stereotypes but to those who use them. They "actually confer cognitive benefits to perceivers." Bottom line: If we didn't think in stereotypes, we'd have a heck of a time remembering anything about anyone. So argues psychology professor Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton on the (University of California) Berkeley Blog on science and technology.
I've Heard that Name Before
Speaking of stereotypes: Why does it seem like nearly every other Vietnamese person you meet has the last name of Nguyen? Lest you think me ethnically insensitive, read "Why 40 Percent of Vietnamese People Have the Same Last Name." It's a piece in Atlas Obscura on how different cultures use and value last names. Just one tidbit: "The 14 most popular last names in Vietnam account for well over 90 percent of the population. The 14 most popular last names in the US? Fewer than 6 percent." And there are reasons for that difference.
[Christ's] holiness is not given to [the church] as a kind of umbrella under which it can rest or walk up and down at will, but as a pillar of cloud and fire, like that which determined the way of the Israelites in the wilderness, as the mystery by which it has to direct itself.
Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV I page 701
Grace and peace,
Mark Galli
Mark Galli
Mark Galli
Editor in Chief, Christianity Today

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