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This picture was just to get your attention. I assume it worked…
Let’s see if we can have a civil discussion on this.
I have strong opinions on abortion, and not, perhaps, for the reasons you think.
For me, it’s a natalism and justice issue, not a conservative or liberal issue.
Truth is, the word abortion is not directly mentioned in the Bible. Even the concept is not there. So arguing on biblical grounds is possible, but challenging. You have to build implicit (not explicit) biblical arguments.
Being against abortion, as I am, is also counter-intuitive for me. As a Libertarian, I don’t like government interference in anything.
But Libertarianism can only exist given the total security of each person. Only when we decide not to bully or kill one another can a Libertarian society emerge. There needs to be a bedrock sense of civility and respect for it to work. In my mind, this must include the unborn.
Some random thoughts:
1) No one, in a free society, should be coerced into paying for something deeply against his or her conscience and morals. My tax money pays for abortions. This is not OK with me. It’s like forcing abolitionists to pay for slave shackles…
2) Insurance plans also pay for abortions–virtually all of them, because of the medical coding system which protects a woman’s privacy. Oversimplistically put, a miscarriage is coded the same as an abortion. Most all Americans, thus, fund abortions. That’s a problem.
3) I truly am striving to understand the pro-choice position. I would invite you pro-choicers to do the same with our views. Seriously. We are working with a woman who is seven months pregnant right now. She will give birth to a third child from a third “father.” He is a felon and intends to hurt her when he gets out this fall. No wonder she wants an abortion. She is a second generation welfare mom, with no stable families that I can find anywhere in her extended clan. I’m not excusing her thoughts; just trying to explain them. Many women seeking abortions see no way out, and their circumstances are hard for us in Middle America to understand.
4) The justice issue. We are to protect those who have no voice. That must include the unborn babies. Someone has to speak for them.
5) Finding families to adopt babies is not a problem. I and every pastor I know has a list of hundreds of couples starving to adopt a child. Most of them make six figures and are solid as the day is long.
6) Abortion is profitable. Profit skews the ethics of those providing abortions. Everyone they convince to abort adds to their profit. If I told you some things I know about these profits, you wouldn’t believe me.
Not just profitable. Predatory. Wanna find an abortion clinic? Go to the same poor neighborhoods that get targeted for lottery tickets and 40-oz malt liquors.
The once-vibrant African-American community here in L.A. is disappearing. At one time they even elected a black mayor, Tom Bradley. Now they are sidelined, swallowed up in a sea of Anglos, Asians, and Latinos. Remember, Planned Parenthood was started by a eugenics fan who doubted the viability of “inferior races.” Disgusting…
7) “What about rape?” is a copout. Does that automatically make it the baby’s fault? Instant death penalty? One of our worship leaders at Robinwood Church was conceived in rape. I cannot imagine a world without her. Using an extreme (but very real) example to push for abortion on demand in all cases is not helpful.
8. Late term abortions are repulsive. No matter how you look at it. And yet they are legal. How does this happen in a democracy where an overwhelming majority of Americans find late term abortions an outrage?
9) I go to the Long Beach abortion clinic and stand on the sidewalk. Totally legal. Not protesting. Not hindering. I ask women approaching the building “If we gave you another option, would you take it?” About 1/3 say yes, immediately. We take care of them at http://hisnestingplace.org for months on end.
10) Are human beings an asset or a liability? If they are an asset, we need to keep them. If they are a liability….
11) I’m not a full-blown natalist, but I have some natalist tendencies. I believe in big families. I don’t believe in over-population. I fly all over America. Trust me, most of it is totally empty.
12) I don’t like the phrase “You can’t legislate morality.” Our entire legal system is legislated morality. Don’t kill. Don’t steal. Etc. etc.
13) I don’t like the idea that we can’t use our faith in political arguments. Tell that to Martin Luther King. Tell that to those who ran the Underground Railroad. Tell that to the committed Christians who fought for the right for women to be able to vote. Tell that to our strident borderline-scary faith-filled women (and a few men) who founded our hospitals and universities (usually in a black and white picture, standing in mud with a shovel, next to the pictures of today’s board members in hospital hallways).
14) Feminism shows us some truth in this issue. It’s the woman who often suffers most from an unwanted pregnancy. Pro-lifers would do better to try to understand this and not just de-value this argument in favor of the baby. “You should have known better” is not a real helpful thing to say to a scared, pregnant woman.
15) Think how much a baby develops in his or her first year of life. The 9 months of pregnancy show even much more dramatic, miraculous development. Is it just me, or does stopping that seem deeply wrong at some level?
That should get us going.
Keep it civil, or I WILL delete you.
Let’s strive to understand each other.
I want to end abortion. Others disagree.
What do you think?
Here I stand, bare feet on ancient stone. Looking down at the water…
How did I get here?
It’s 3am in Tsfat, Israel. Dark outside. Full moon over the 4,000 year-old graveyard behind me…
I was on the way home to California from a business trip in London.
As if by an unseen hand, I was led out of my well-worn hotel room and down the switchbacks to this holiest of places in this holiest of cities. Yitzak Luria‘s Mikveh.
I feel like Indiana Jones, except there is no khaki or wide-brimmed hat…I am as naked as the day I was born, no barrier, coram Deo. Even my watch and wedding ring have been taken off.
Just me. Just God. Just now.
My name, David, which never made much sense to me, seems oddly right for, perhaps, the first time ever. I have cultivated nicknames all my life. I think of the double delta of David’s monogram…
I think back over the last 48 hours here in Galilee.
Invited into the back rooms of synagogues…
Rabbis pointing through the texts of “secret books” in Hebrew and asking questions….
- How did you learn Hebrew?
- Your name is David, are you sure you aren’t Jewish? You look Russian…
- Where do you sense the presence of God here in Tsfat? Where is that feeling the strongest?
- What are you doing here?
I did not choose to stand here. I’m not even sure what a mikveh is…I was led here…
I need answers to three questions. Just two days ago, I wrote those questions on a tiny slip of paper, rolled it up, and placed it in the Western Wall of the temple mount in Jerusalem at sunrise. My forehead against the cool ancient stone, my palms up high, time collapsed…the better part of an hour evaporated like the morning fog…
It is dark outside. Not even the roosters have begun to crow…
I slide into the biting cold of the fresh spring water, holding the pole and stepping down the ancient steps. I breathe deeply and submerge….
The world disappears.
I pull my knees up against my chest, going fetal in this womb-tomb.
An avid surfer, I am used to being underwater and I gently roll backwards….
A glow emanates from nowhere and everywhere. I open my eyes underwater to confirm the experience and the light vanishes…
I come up for air twice and submerge again. The glow returns, and I feel enveloped in the Khesed-love of the Creator. Answers come to me faster than I can receive them.
I generate a will to receive.
Something shifts around me. The third time under turns into a dream. I feel as if I am breathing underwater. The glow gets warm.
All of my theological legalisms about baptism vanish and dissolve into an ocean of God’s presence.
As I climb out and dry off, my soul comes to total rest. I will walk for hours until the hilltop town awakens. Like an old snakeskin, I have shed something. A new season is starting…
Where is your “mikveh” where you take off everything in the presence of God?
When’s the last time you were there….?
The final copies of my first novel just arrived!
Have a look at the 90-second intro-to-the-novel video movie:
Please pass it on to others, thanks!
The book comes with a built-in study guide for groups, book clubs, and classes.
- purchase information (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Book Depository, etc)
- reviews (via Powell’s in Portland)
- study guide
- more videos
If you are a conservative or a Christian (I am both), one of the boxes you seem to have to “tick” is “pro-Israel.”
This also seems to imply, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim.
I am a great admirer of Israel. They have the best democracy and the most vital and diversified economy (from electronics to agriculture) in the Middle East.
The Israeli national anthem “Ha-Tikvah” stirs me emotionally.
The Hebrew Bible is one of my happy places. Our congregation, Robinwood Church, is preaching through the Psalms (have been at it for a year and a half).
One of my mentors, Prof. Dr. Ralph Gehrke, read Isaiah in Hebrew with me every Saturday for ages.
However, I find that some of the black-and-white pro-Israel sentiment in the circles in which I run is often un-reflected at best. Ignorant at worst.
Here are some random thoughts:
- We don’t need to “defend Israel.” They have a formidable military and a credible nuclear deterrent. We have never fired a shot in defense of Israel and have never needed to intervene to help them. They buy our arms. Fine. So do many Arab states.
- We need to focus less on the Eastern Hemisphere and more on the Western Hemisphere. We have a fixation on the Middle East. Because we import oil? Most of our imported oil comes from Canada, Mexico, and South America. We are only 4% of the world population, and the main reason for our budget deficit is our bloated “police the whole world” military. We got entangled in the Eastern Hemisphere during McKinley’s term (Philippines) and we have been messed up ever since, with very little to show for it. The Founding Fathers warned us against “entangling alliances” in the Old World. We have the resources to make the Western Hemisphere a democratic, prosperous heaven on earth.
- Although there is much overlap, biblical Israel and modern Israel are not exactly the same thing. Modern Judaism was hatched after the New Testament was written, when the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, and they had to reinvent themselves. As did Christianity, Judaism had a Reformation in the 1500s (the hasidic/lurianic impulse) that still affects them to this day.
- You can’t draw a straight ethnic line between ancient Israel and the modern state of Israel. Golda Meir was born in Milwaukee. Most of modern Israel has Rhineland into Eastern European (Ashkenazi) and Spanish/Portuguese (Sephardi) bloodlines. Middle Eastern DNA roots among them are sketchy at best. You can look up Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jewish lineage on Wikipedia.
- The main tribe (of the 12) remaining somewhat intact is the tribe of Judah. From which we get the word “Jew.” The “ten lost tribes” are, well…lost. The tribe of Judah was NOT given the entire holy land, only a county-sized area around Jerusalem. The tribe of Judah can lay no biblical claim to the northern West Bank (Samaria), the area around Tel Aviv, the areas of Galilee and the Golan Heights. God never, in the whole Old Testament, gave the entire land of Israel to the tribe of Judah. The other tribes are gone, as are their claims. It’s like Texans coming back after centuries and laying claim to the whole former USA territory. Not saying that Jews all over Israel (or anywhere in the world for that matter) don’t have a right to their homes, I’m just saying that their saying “the Bible says so” is overstated. There is another tribe, Levi, from which we get the Kohenim (priests), but they were, expressly according to the Bible, to be given no land. Just for the record, I believe Jews (and all of us) have a right to own land anywhere in the world, including the West Bank and Gaza, if they want to buy it. Being a libertarian, I believe in open borders.
- There are lots of Palestinian Arab Christians. But conservative US Christians prefer non-Christian Israeli Jews over them anytime. They actually got angry when a Palestinian Christian got elected to be the head of the Lutheran World Federation. A pastor told me last week: “He’s probably really a Muslim.”
- I often hear people say “God is pro-Israel so I am pro-Israel.” It’s simply not that simple. The Israelites were the “good guys” in the Bible, so anyone who uses the label Israel today must be the “good guy.” Often, but not always. Israel was very fallible in the Old Testament, and not always the object of admiration. You could bring that line or reasoning to its breaking point by being “Pro-Ahab” because he was the king of Israel. And using the label “Israel” today, which modern Israel has more of a right to do than anyone else, does not equate you with biblical Israel. The two nations (biblical and modern) are deeply related, but not identical.
- The Bible is ambiguous as to whether Israel is a physical or a spiritual nation. Galatians 6:16 makes it clear that the two are not necessarily mirror images of each other (you can be one without being the other).
- The Bible is also ambiguous as to whether or not the promise of the land (ha-aretz) is conditional upon Israel’s faithfulness, or permanent. According to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, only 57% of Israelis believe in a “higher power.” Israel is a much more secular nation than the United States.
Not asking anyone to be anti-Israel. The whole world should love and admire Israel. Modern Israel is an amazing nation. I tip my hat to them. I want to see them prevail. They have much to add to the world.
Just asking us to consider de-emphasizing our American fixation with the Eastern Hemisphere in general and the Middle East in particular. Had we stayed in the Western Hemisphere, our homeland, the New World; well then, Pearl Harbor and 9-11 would never have happened.
Also asking us to question the “straight line” thinking that equates ancient Israel with modern Israel. One was the mother nation of us all, at some level. The other is a different and amazing contemporary society. Sure, there are deep connections. But there are also some disconnects.
Please forward this to others…
Have a look at my other essays–80,000 recent page views.
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My novel is finished.
A breathtaking treasure hunt across two continents and the landscape of your soul.
It’s in proofreading and typesetting now.
Coming out June 1, 2011 through Summerside Press/Guideposts.
Some random thoughts:
- Two separate continents. Two unfinished stories. One shared destiny?
- A global treasure hunt for a shared backstory…
- The human condition: Broken Responses to Impossible Demands
- Time to replace Catcher in the Rye, don’t you think?
- What if you could balance “balance itself?” Could you walk on water?
- A coming-of-age story that re-tells, in a way, your story.
- Where were you when the Berlin Wall fell? When the World Trade Towers came down?
- Why can relationships with grandparents be so very special?
- Great for book clubs and classes. Includes a study guide.
- Isn’t there a splendid randomness to the way your day is coming together?
- God is subtle; yet relentless…
- Are we in the presence of a God who still speaks?
- A book for everyone who loves reading, but especially for “intelligent young adults.” They will relate to the characters, generationally. Great for AP English Classes and University Literature and Religion courses.
Check out the FACEBOOK FAN PAGE. Click “like” and “share” if you’d be so kind.
Check out the AMAZON PAGE (pre-orders, etc.). Will also be available on Kindle.
Get a copy for your local library.
What if it’s the little things that happen today that determine your destiny?
This is the number two question I get, after:
Are there pets in heaven?
Both questions are tough to answer in a simplistic way!
First of all, there is often a “question behind the question.” So, before answering, I counter with “What do you mean by Lutheran?”
Let’s start with Martin Luther (1500′s in Germany). I once was blessed to meet the greatest Luther scholar of the 20th century, in person, Roland Bainton, in the early 80′s after a lecture. I asked him why he never joined a Lutheran Church. His witty response was: “I’ve never seen one. Luther himself, ironically, would not be welcomed in most Lutheran churches today.”
So, are you Lutheran? If you can answer difficult theological questions simplistically, you probably aren’t following Luther’s pattern.
Asked whether there is pre-destination, Luther answered “yes and no.” Asked if we can lose our salvation, Luther answered “yes and no.” Asked if we are basically sinners or totally justified, he answered “yes.” Luther was a Bible teacher, and not a systematic theologian. He loved the (obvious) dramatic tensions in scripture and was OK with just leaving them be. His counterpart, Calvin, seemed to have a high need to cram the Bible into a neat system.
There are parts of Luther’s teaching and personality that I, without reservation, condemn and reject. His bizarrely anti-Semitic view of European Jews was an outrage. His mowing down of the peasant revolt was inexcusable. His eschatology was primitive at best and incomprehensible at worst (He thought Pope Leo was literally THE Antichrist). He had no sense of Christian mission to the majority of the non-Christian world.
But he was spot-on right about the whole Bible revolving around Grace, Faith, and Christ. And he was crazy-courageous in standing up to the whole authority structure of his world (Popes and Emperors) to make it stick. He rediscovered Paul’s “Jesus plus nothing” and remade much of the Western Church around it.
Along with Isaac Newton, he is one of the most mercurial and influential humans ever to walk this planet (Newton, like Luther, had his mega-quirks). By deconstructing the monastic world-view (which had been dominant for centuries), philosophically and practically, Luther helped lay the foundation for the Modern World in which you and I live.
Ironically (I thought of this while walking the ancient stones of the Via Sacra), Luther and Paul were the two greatest historical figures ever to walk the streets of Rome. No one at the time, in that city, even noticed them. Luther and Paul could care less–they just went out and re-made the world. All of the emperors and heroes of Rome amounted to: not much. We name our sons Paul–and our dogs, Nero.
Am I a follower of Paul or Luther? No. So perhaps I’m not a Lutheran, in that sense. Luther didn’t want us to use the term “Lutheran” (see his exact quote at the bottom of this page) and Paul, in 1 Corinthians, was horrified that people would label themselves with his name. I, like Luther and Paul, am a follower of Jesus Christ alone.
But what about faith families? What about denominations? I am totally a product of Lutheran theological-cultural upbringing, and can’t do much about it. It’s like being Jewish, it’s a cultural tattoo which you can’t remove without lasers. Even if I (God forbid) were to become an atheist, I’d be a Lutheran atheist.
If I were to join a Baptist or Catholic congregation, I’d still be a Lutheran member of that church. If you are Jewish or Lutheran, you understand the tribal implications of these labels :-). I’d actually, if I had my ‘druthers, like to be a charismatic Anglican (the Alpha London folks), but I’m too blue-collar Lutheran to pull it off long term.
So, is the church I pastor, Robinwood Church, Lutheran, because I am the primary teacher? Perhaps. We affirm (in our bylaws) the unaltered Augsburg Confession, the Small Catechism, and the ecumenical creeds. We would qualify, thus, for joining the Lutheran World Federation.
But we are non-liturgical. Totally. More than you think. And we are very Pentecostal in our expression. It doesn’t look “Lutheran.” We have no Euro-centric trappings of any kind. We are a California beach church that meets in a warehouse. No Lent. No Advent. No lectionary. No altar table. No permanent cross. I don’t own a clerical collar. There isn’t a single hymnbook in the building. It would be hard to find the word “Lutheran” on our website. I only wear shoes if it’s a cold day. The music is loud.
But if any trained theologian were to visit us for three Sundays, he or she would say:
They sure aren’t Calvinists or Arminians. Not Roman Catholics. Not Southern Baptists. Not Eastern Orthodox. Not liberal North American PC activists. Not Anglicans. By default, they must be Lutherans. Expressive, non-legalistic, missional–but pretty dang Lutheran at the core.
If Luther were to show up at Robinwood Church, I’d probably tell him off (privately) for that goofy Jew-bashing (and a few other things) of his, but we’d pour him a beer (and cut him off at two) and share his love of God’s Word, and the tensions that are simply there in it.
Is Robinwood Church Lutheran? Yes and no
And like Luther and Paul, we don’t care if “important” people don’t notice what we’re up to, we’re busy remaking the world.
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LUTHER’S QUOTE on LUTHERAN LABEL:
“People should not call themselves ‘Lutherans’. ‘What is Luther? After all, the teaching is not mine. Neither was I crucified for anyone . . .How then should I — poor stinking maggot-fodder that I am — come to have men call the children of Christ by my wretched name?’ Not so, my dear friends; let us abolish all party names and call ourselves Christians, after him whose teachings we hold.”
Who said that?
–from, “A Sincere Admonition by Martin Luther to All Christians to Guard Against Insurrection and Rebellion 1522”
I have been especially aware of patterns this week.
People all have a certain way of being in the world. A pattern.
There is a Muslim way of being in the world, a Mormon way, a Right-Wing-Fox-News way, a PC-liberal way, etc.
Some of these patterns are potent (Islam). Some are not so potent (mainline Presbyterianism). Some are on the rise (Hipster-ism), and some are on the decline (the “emerging” church).
I’ve done extensive live-in stints with:
Action Sports World (surf/snowboard)
Theological Academia (22nd grade and a Fulbright Scholarship)
Pentecostalism (even wrote a book on it)
Each “-ism” has abundant self-serving circular reasoning and tribal litmus tests. They have buzzwords and enemy images. Perhaps they are even necessary–but none of them correspond perfectly to naked reality and truth.
It’s a trade off; you get security and you tolerate errors and inaccuracy when you “buy in” to any “-ism.”
I am about to be voted off the Lutheran island for good. Sad, because I have nothing against it, and, on better days, I consider myself one of its more intentionally constructive, original, and helpful thinkers. I appreciate the good in Lutheranism, my family of origin, but I don’t pretend that God depends on it, or that it is the highest possible way of being in the world.
I am increasingly troubled by the American liberal/conservative polarized political thinking. The left doesn’t understand the power and creativity of the free market and globalization, and the right doesn’t understand sustainable environmentalism, and the potency of collectivism for certain public endeavors (fire, utilities, roads, etc.). We are disintegrating into TV attack ads with stupid sound bites. We need an intellectual like Lincoln to come back, who sees deeper nuances.
In any case, these political “patterns” relieve everyone of the responsibility to think.
And the much of the world is just plain out-growing the need for religious patterns. Especially the overwhelming majority of non-fundamentalist global young people. If you don’t believe me, you’re not spending much time with them.
Let’s just have real conversations about who God really is. Let’s pray together. Let’s talk about Jesus and how his message is so different than that of the Buddha (see E Stanley Jones and his “Egg and the Bubble” analogy). Let’s talk about God’s preferred future, and include him in on the conversation, rather than argue about the merits and errors of competing eschatological “systems.”
Does God Almighty really care about the victory of Confessional Lutheranism or TULIP Calvinism? Is he secretly pulling for a return to a stricter Reformed theology? Is he really upset about the idea of married Catholic priests? Is he hoping we finally secure the Mexican border? Is he worried that Health Care Reform will ruin the world he created? Is Oprah his worst nightmare, wrecking his weekly Sabbath rest? Hardly.
Are we willing to set aside our patterns, even ones we love, to seek the truth? Look it right in the eye?
I have this crazy idea that God is real, and that he doesn’t report to a pattern.
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American national church denominations are not as old as people think.
We have no real memory before national denominational corporations, because they started before any of us saw the light of day; but not long before…
They came into being with the advent of the railroad.
For instance, with Lutherans, we used to gather, more or less, in state-sized groups:
-The Pennsylvania Ministerium
-The Ohio Synod
-The Iowa Synod
-The Missouri Synod
-The Wisconsin Synod
The railroad changed all that. It made a national bureaucracy and national gatherings (assemblies) possible and affordable. This new transportation method also created the big political party conventions.
Nothing lasts forever.
These statewide church groups merged into national groups which merged some more. Along with the “Peter Principle,” they advanced to their level of incompetency: they became politically and economically unmanageable.
There are many reasons for the demise of national church corporations:
1) Many, if not most young adults, prefer being part of cool indie projects to being “tools” of large corporations.
2) The mergers have created coalitions with incompatible viewpoints (sexuality, etc.)
3) Lutheran versions (more so than other brand names) of these corporations tend to operate as closed systems (tightly controlled roster, Lutheran seminary requirements, etc.).
4) These corporations, in efforts to hold things together and make structure and function coherent, have discouraged innovation by entrepreneurial types.
5) For whatever reason, these corporations have very strained relationships with their best practitioners.
6) Generational and ethnic diversity issues have become too heavy for the corporations to carry.
This does not mean that church brand names are a thing of the past. It just means that the national church corporation is unraveling before our eyes. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men will not be able to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. There is nothing wrong with this and it should not be seen as a failure–every human organizational form has a life span.
This does not mean that faith families and connectional Christianity are dead.
Post-denominationalism is just a reality that is emerging. I want to clarify: this does not mean post-brand-name.
This means that the national corporations are failing and will continue to fail. There is no point in any effort to “renew” them.
I don’t know what the post-denominational world will look like. But I do know that:
-Railroad-era national conventions are a thing of the past.
-Coalitions will replace national corporations
-The effort to form smaller, new “theologically correct” corporations to replace national denominational corporations will fail if they follow the template of the national church corporation (parliamentary conventions, national office, official rosters, closed systems, etc.). That’s railroad thinking in a Twitter-world.
-The influential congregations within faith families will fill the leadership vacuum, along with the more innovative evangelical seminaries (Fuller, Asbury, Gordon-Conwell, Bethel, Luther, etc). Classic “div schools” (Chicago, Yale, Union) will become irrelevant to church life, as will “company shop” seminaries of dying corporations.
-A lot of people won’t be able to separate the faith family names (Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, etc.) from the national corporations. Some of those names might not survive because of this. Hard to say.
-National leaders with a clear life message and a New (Social) Media presence will rule the roost. If it doesn’t matter on Twitter, it doesn’t matter.
1) Think both/and, not either/or. We are in a postmodern era.
2) Stop trying to renew the denominational corporations.
3) Find new ways of being connectional.
4) Resist the temptation to build up new theologically “correct” corporations which are infected with the same terminal virus.
5) Find ways to embrace the good things about your faith family and preserve them for the future forms which will emerge.
6) Take social media seriously. Very seriously.
7) Be willing to let people of color and Global South Christians take the lead. It’s their churches that are doing the best. The New African Churches are very post-denominational and organizationally effective.
8) This will take time; perhaps a whole generation. Practice patience.
It’s a brave new world. Let’s watch it emerge, together.
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