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Friday, June 14, 2019

Why the Church Exists with Mark Galli

The Elusive Presence: Why the Church Exists

It’s not for the sake of the world, or so I argue in my next installment of this online series:
We need to make a distinction between one task the people of God are called to perform and the very ground of their being, the very purpose of their life together. We are by all means to love the neighbor. One way we love them is through acts of mercy and justice. But this does not mean that the church exists for the sake of the world.
This may seem like a fine distinction, but as I’ll show in future essays, it makes a significant difference in how we live together as the people of God.
How Many People Own a Mobile Phone?
There are about 5.3 billion people age 15 and older on the planet. How many have a mobile phone? I would have guessed a third to a half. Turns out to be 94 percent, or about 5 billion people:
There’s an old joke that the career of an analyst progresses from Word to Excel to Powerpoint. That’s pretty much what’s happened here over the last 20 years: first we discussed what might happen (“imagine if everyone had a phone!”), then we tracked the numbers of what was happening, and finally we draw diagrams and bullet points of what that means. That’s where we are now - we try to work out what it means that almost everyone on earth has a phone or a smartphone.
Winning the Culture War Does Not Trump Christian Ethics
In recent weeks, the cultural right has been arguing about whether or not Christian conservatives have the luxury of remaining civil in the culture wars. David French has been arguing “yes” in the National Review. Recently Sohrab Ahmari, the op-ed editor of the New York Post, wrote a full attack in First Things on what he calls “Frenchism,” arguing against liberal proceduralism. That’s the idea that we best flourish in society when, while disagreeing on the ends, we agree at least on the political and rhetorical rules on how to argue about them. Ahmari argues,
Conservative Christians can’t afford these luxuries. Progressives understand that culture war means discrediting their opponents and weakening or destroying their institutions. Conservatives should approach the culture war with a similar realism. Civility and decency are secondary values.
This controversy is a conservative one, but I think Alan Jacobs’s reply in The Atlantic to Ahmaris would also apply to progressive Christians, who in frustration over racism, the environment, or whatever, are tempted to abandon civil discourse for radical and destabilizing action. Jacobs:
If you are centrally a political conservative and you also happen to be a Christian, then perhaps you may set aside certain Christian commandments in order to achieve your primary ends. But if you are centrally a Christian and secondarily a political conservative, then you have certain obligations that you cannot ignore. … Respect and love require a commitment to conversation, and “conversation requires civility”—even when people do not reciprocate that civility.
Matthew Schmitz, senior editor at First Things, then wrote “Sohrab Ahmari Is Right,” arguing “Civility and decency are admirable things. But like beauty, charm, wealth, and learning, they may be turned to good ends or bad.”
I think Schmitz and Ahmari protest too much. Civility and decency are to be equated with niceness. To be civil means to love others as one wishes to be loved, and when we are not so loved, it means to turn the other cheek. Strong words and bold action against injustice are, in fact, decent and civil things to do. Civil disobedience is a powerful moral tool precisely because it is civil. And yet, such love in the public square will not always win the day. But the point for the Christian is not to win the culture war. The point is to transcend the culture war by faithfulness to our Lord, who had more than a few things to say about how to react to people who mistreat and malign us or those for whom we care.
An Apology for Paper Maps
If you’re planning a long drive this summer, you may want to read “7 Reasons You Should Still Keep a Paper Map in Your Glovebox.” It’s not just about maps but also the difference between electronic and paper media and what they do to us and for us. (Just don’t pass this along to my wife, who continues to have a love affair with all things printed on paper. I don’t want my glove compartment overflowing with maps.) ;-)
Being Dads
The video “Stuff Dads Never Say” is full of well-honed dad clichés, except reversed. It makes for a humorous Father’s Day reflection. Happy Father’s Day, dads.
Grace and peace,

Mark GalliMark Galli
Mark Galli
Editor-in-Chief, Christianity Today

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