Took a brief trip to Boston last August and I brought my DSLR with me. The older buildings and roads were a real treat to explore!
We also visited the site of the tragic Boston Marathon Bombing. Solemn markers were found for where each bomb went off.
The modern city and parks were very nice.
On our last day there we visited the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
When discussion regarding the qualifications of a pastor is brought up, it almost always is brought up in the light of sexual sin (as in the case of the late Ravi Zacharias). However, there are other key qualifications in the scriptures and I’m concerned that we’re not sufficiently holding pastors accountable for them.
For example, I know one of my former pastors had been observed inebriated, which is a disqualifying behavior according to Titus 1:7, especially if the behavior is recurring. Instead of being held accountable for it, everybody who knew about it let it slide with little more than a grumble. Decades later, when a social network built specifically for the purpose of adulterous relationships was hacked and the emails were leaked, his was one of them.
Another key qualification I want to focus on today for a pastoral role is not “greedy for gain” (Titus 1:7) which is refracted in 1 Timothy 3:3 as “not a lover of money”.
Now, to be clear, being an owner (which is rather to be viewed as a stewardship, in God’s economy) of significant money is not sinful if gained in an honest manner. Some people in ministry don’t have profit matching or similar employee benefits. Nor do they have the income out of pocket to contribute a sufficient amount, and are left to pursue investments in order to achieve a reasonable retirement. This pursuit, if done in an honest fashion, is being responsible and not greedy. However, the Bible is repeatedly clear that if you love your money, which would include honest money, this is a root for all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10).
I would propose, then, that in whatever manner your church or ministry would expect to handle an accusation of adultery against your pastor, whether that be a suspension pending investigation or some similar measure, so too should you handle an accusation of financial fraud.
Man, 2021 escalated quickly! With the increased concerns and distrust of public platforms owned by big companies, “something’s gotta give”. That “something” will probably be hallmark Web 3.0 features which have been in the works for a while, as well as some Web 2.0 applications that lost popularity because people didn’t want to (or in some cases could not afford to) pay money, at least until now. But what is “Web 3.0”? Since it is difficult to define the entirety of Web 3.0 before it becomes mainstream, here are some elements I’m expecting to come from it.
The first thing to expect is an explosion of self-hosted solutions for the Open Web, such as WordPress, Mastodon, and many others. While that explosion may cool off as quickly as that explosion became hot, it is the first knee-jerk reaction to expect from the distrustful, the censored, as well as for those who wish for a quieter, more thoughtful experience. The hosting has become cheaper as of late – one can self-host a fairly secure WordPress site for as little as $5 a month if they are technically minded, or have someone take care of the technical side for them for as little as $12-15 a month if they are not so technically minded.
The next “big thing” I expect to happen is for Ethereum (or at least its underlying concept of decentralized applications) to start becoming more mainstream, as the underlying technology is resistant to even government-level censorship, though currently at the cost of comparatively slow page-loading times.
At its core, decentralization will be the name of the game for Web 3.0, and will give companies like Facebook a run for their money. This is why Twitter is already researching how it could potentially morph into a decentralized system in the years ahead.
This will enable both good and bad.
Let’s start with the bad – to be certain, bad people ranging from human traffickers to fake news vendors and everybody in between will harness this to their advantage. This won’t render catching the criminals impossible, it’ll just mean they can’t be easily censored and catching them via the Internet will require a change in strategy.
However, this also opens up the potential for many good things! Soon we may be able to transmit money digitally without the need (or the trust) of a third party vendor, and with increased security measures. As of right now, you can donate the Ether cryptocurrency directly to my decentralized domain name, codextypes.eth, without the need for entrusting PayPal or Venmo’s data warehouses to protect your sensitive financial data. For a transaction fee, I can convert this into fiat currencies where it is legal. In the US, for example, it is currently allowed provided I report any capital gains.
This will also enable religious freedom in new and exciting ways, such as Christian communities being able to archive and share digital copies of the Scriptures in their local languages, both text and audio, without censorship from persecuting governments.
This also has the potential to enable people who previously couldn’t afford a WordPress subscription or hosting plan to have a place where they can share their thoughts and beliefs with full control over their data.
Every major iteration of the Internet won’t help or solve the human condition, but it will attempt to improve upon the technical pain points that came with the previous iteration of the Internet, and that’s something to be excited about!
When conscientious Conservative Christians object to actions of the Republican Party which concern truthfulness and, more recently, Rule of Law, it seems a growing mainstream response is to question the conscientious objector to see if they believe against their personal Shibboleth, or to outright accuse them of transgressing said Shibboleth.
For example, in raising an objection to a false quote on Facebook regarding the 2nd Amendment, instead of being told “you’re right, I did misquote that, didn’t I?” I was asked if I still agreed with the 2nd Amendment (which I do, of course).
Another example I’ve seen was someone who raised an objection to David Barton’s false, revisionist approach to history. The response to my friend’s objection was “are you promoting secular history?” No, he wasn’t. He was objecting to falsehood.
This behavior extends to the President, a professing Christian, using put-downs like “too dumb or too corrupt” and name-calling like “RINO” as a means of discrediting Republicans challenging his behavior.
It appears as though Christian Republicans are increasingly clinging to the worldly comfort of political power by proactively searching for a Bulverism to commit against others, in some cases their own brother or sister, when they’ve been commanded to live differently.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.Romans 12:18 (ESV)
2020 has been a tumultuous year, and most of the commentary has been far from level-headed. Compound this with censorship by social networks on the one hand mixed with blatant misinformation on the other, and you encounter a ridiculous amount of Internet noise.
In my attempt to cut through the noise, I have found that just as the best advice given to me were by trusted people who weren’t afraid to tell me if my ideas or actions were wrong, so also some of the best Conservative commentary will come not from the Conservatives who excuse moral failings but rather from the Conservatives who are not afraid to say when the Republican Party and their supporters are working against the best interests of the majority involved.
Disclaimer: The following recommendations are for individual pieces and not a blanket recommendation or agreement of everything the authors have written. Neither are these recommendations ones for which I agree 100%, but I found these pieces to be excellent food for thought.
The very first on my list goes to David French‘s piece America Is in the Grips of a Fundamentalist Revival. Seriously, some of the best commentary on Third-Wave Antiracism. If you had some rioters plunder your neighborhood this summer, it was most likely by extremists and/or opportunists in favor of Third Wave Anti-Racism. This wave is much larger than the anarchists that I was discussing just months ago. Here is a poignant quote about this movement to pique your curiosity:
I’m reminded of the old religious maxim, “Error has no rights.” That impulse lies at the heart of much of the Christian nationalist/integralist critique of classical liberalism. That impulse lies at the heart of the speech code and the metastasizing intolerance of woke capitalism.
In a culture stripped of existential humility, the only valuable speech is the speech of those who speak existential truth. Dissent harms the body politic by introducing error. Thus “free speech”—as an independent liberty interest—cannot possibly be in the common good. The common good is advanced only by truth, and thus only truth has rights.
In other words, Third Wave Anti-Racism has become a fundamentalist religion. And woe be unto the heretics.
I am anti-racist. As in, I condemn any form of discrimination that is on the basis of someone’s skin color or ethnic background. I am still learning how deep and how wicked the legacy and consequences of racism are, and you should too. American Conservative Christianity has much to blame in this regard. However, all of that does not inherently require you to submit to whatever labels or quasi-religious movements the crowds demand that you do. Such demanding behavior is reminiscent of the AIDS ribbon sketch:
Content warning: swearing by God’s name
The next recommended commentary on my list is Owen Crew’s thoughtful work Preparing for Communion During a Political Dispute. I, for one, can very much relate to the following excerpt when wrongdoing among Republicans is challenged:
Some Republicans and former Republicans will be shocked to find that former allies may consider them as bad as or worse than Democrats who embrace abortion on demand and value sexual autonomy more than religious liberty or civic virtue. They will be stunned that this evaluation will be based on their embrace or rejection of soon-to-be-former President Trump. Some will be horrified at being told that they are on the wrong side not only of Biblical revelation or the Constitution, but of common grace, natural law, and the best of philosophy. I am not shocked. I am grieved.
Last, but not least, I also recommend reading The Dangerous Idolatry of Christian Trumpism, also by David French, as it cuts at the heart of the problem plaguing significant numbers of Conservative Christians right now: idolatry. French writes:
We’re way, way past concerns for the church’s “public witness.” We’re way past concerns over whether the “reputation” of the church will survive this wave of insanity. There is no other way to say this. A significant movement of American Christians—encouraged by the president himself—is now directly threatening the rule of law, the Constitution, and the peace and unity of the American republic.
I am of the personal belief that when persecution against Christianity comes to America, it will not necessarily be on the basis of believing in Jesus. Rather, I am very concerned that American Christians will have brought this judgment on themselves from their unrepentance in similar fashion to how the Israelites disobeyed and the pagan nations were allowed to conquer and exile them. The difference between us and Israel is that God never made a nationally-restorative covenant with America (beyond the promise that all will confess that Jesus is Lord) but He did promise the salvation and national restoration of Israel.
The situation among Conservative Christians is now dire and I am concerned too few will take this seriously too late.
I am blessed to have my hope not placed in a movement or in a subculture, but in Jesus alone and in His authoritative words in the Scriptures alone.
Fellow Christians, let Him be your rock. Not your President, not your Supreme Court, not your electors. Jesus alone.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.Psalm 20:7 ESV
A wave of Facebook friends have been informing me that they are “moving” to other social networks such as MeWe and Parler. While the long-term sustainability of these alternative social networks is an open-ended question as of the time of this writing, I don’t foresee the bigger problems inherent to democratized public forums, such as state-sponsored disinformation campaigns, becoming a thing of the past.
Assumption: Purely democratic groups don’t scale very well.
Compound this with the Doctrine of Total Depravity, namely that man is born sinful by nature. I believe this is the key contributor to the problems we encounter on the Web. This is because technology will never inherently mitigate our nature. The best it can do is limit the effects of some of the symptoms (such as banning users for using racist words).
Whilst Shinto religious beliefs are not part of my faith, asking the famous Marie Kondo question of “what sparks joy” is a valid question to ask oneself when evaluating your choices of interactions and entertainment. For me, I experience the most joy interacting individually and in smaller groups with my messaging apps. I use Discord, Slack, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger daily.
Assumption: If I experience the most joy in messaging apps then many others do as well.
Instead of fixing the problem by making massively-scaled forums, I believe that smaller, human-moderated groups on messaging apps, which I consider the Web’s equivalent of “treehouses”, are more likely to isolate some of the problems the come with massive scale.
What constitutes a successful “treehouse”? Here is my working rubric.
- Less than 50 total members – I admit, it’s an arbitrary number. You might be able to succeed with a larger number if your moderation is working well, but make sure your community doesn’t get so big that it lacks personality and/or collapses under its own weight. If your Discord group gets so big that you have to rate-limit users’ posts, for example, then it’s too big.
- At least 1 moderator per 10 members – I’ve seen drama happen on a messaging app group as small as 4 people on more than one occasion. Delegate the most mature, most qualified individuals to enforce against sinful behavior and sinful content.
- Enact rules meant to stop slurs and to stop intimidating behavior against women – there are certain forms of sinful behavior on the Internet that are frequently inflicted against women and minorities. For example, commentary on a woman’s appearance to objectify her or using Anti-Semitic slurs on Jewish group members. It is horrifying to behold, but even people who claim to know Jesus will engage in this behavior. Even if the perpetrator “didn’t mean it” your group will need a zero-tolerance policy in regards to this behavior.
- A consistent Meritocracy, not an inconsistent Democracy – promote the best-behaved members with more privileges, demote or remove members who refuse to stop committing repeat offenses. Smaller groups can do this organically, but larger groups could benefit from a rubric of some kind.
- Don’t censor cordial disagreement, even when the person you disagree with is wrong – Different people coming from different perspectives are bound to disagree. Assuming it is a polite disagreement that does not directly promote harm against anybody, the worst thing you can do is censor disagreement when a thoughtful discussion in a small setting is possibly more likely to change minds than a public forum. However, if you are concerned that political discussion is bound to be divisive in your group, then it stands to reason to ban political discussion (like I have in my private Discord group) but make sure to enforce it consistently.
- Friendly vibes, not strict vibes – This is a tough one to balance when you have rules. One way to you could institute friendly vibes is to be very welcoming of newcomers and to post wholesome content frequently. Puppy and kitten pics are what the Web was made for! Another way to keep up a friendly vibe is to remind people of the rules in a private chat instead of in front of the whole group. Just be nice and be creative in how to be nice.
There is no substitute for in-person communication, and even more so there is no substitute for being controlled by the Holy Spirit. For those moments where we are interacting from a distance, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, I hope the above tips will help you in interacting in a Sprit-led manner, perhaps in ways you haven’t considered yet.
It’s happened. Another President has been declared by national media outlets to be the projected winner of the 2020 elections. Many people are mortified and others are elated. How are Christians supposed to respond to moments like this?
1. Treat every late development that goes against your preferred candidate’s favor as suspicious
No matter if there is bipartisan oversight and ways to detect fraud, it’s totally “sus”.
Bonus: If there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for it, it’s still suspicious.
2. If your favorite candidate, celebrity, or news network says it happened, it must automatically be true!
We’ve all lied or at least exaggerated the truth in the heat of the moment, but obviously they would never do something like that!
Bonus: if you already suspected something and someone says it, then that’s automatically true as well!
3. Remind everybody of 1 Samuel 8, but only if your preferred candidate is projected to lose
At the end of the day, the context of the nation of Israel going against their covenant with God doesn’t matter. After all, America is the modern Israel, right?
Bonus: The President of the USA = King of the USA! Our President is not an accountable, elected representative with limited powers.
4. Remind everybody of Romans 13:1-7, but only if your preferred candidate is projected to win
Obviously, if the other candidate wins (or steals) the election then it wasn’t instituted by God and we can #RESIST without incurring judgment.
Bonus: This is especially applicable if the other candidate has sinful policies or a sinful lifestyle.
5. Political power is important for Christians
After all, when Jesus founded the church he marshaled a massive army of loyal men to march on Rome and overthrow the repressive regime that was practicing flagrant injustice against minorities, heavily taxed their conquered foes (taxation is theft!), and viciously attacked freedom of religion. No Christians died in the first century for their faith because it was imperative to seize power and not let the policies of the church fall out of favor.
Bonus: Violence against the “other side” is okay – “He who lives by the sword dies by the sword” doesn’t count even though Jesus said it when someone tried to use violence to protect Jesus from being killed.
Extra bonus: make a piñata or effigy of the candidate you disliked and destroy it. Checkmate, atheists.
Thanks for coming to my TED talk.