Saturday, February 28, 2009

"This Divorce Will Teach Them That Marriage Is Serious!"

At the insistence of the groom’s parents, a teenaged couple recently received a divorce in Israel. One news article announcing the divorce quoted a spokesperson as saying “that young people should take the lesson from the divorce that ‘marriage is not a joke but a serious commitment that should not be taken lightly.’”

Call me dense, but I don’t see how granting this young couple a divorce teaches that marriage is a serious commitment. If it truly is a serious commitment, why was it so easy for them to end it? Allowing the couple to try to make the marriage work would be a much better lesson about commitment. Yes, marriage is difficult for young people, but often teenagers’ marriages last for decades, while some “grown-ups” change their spouses faster than their cars.

I hope the bride and groom teach their parents’ generation something about commitment by remarrying a few years from now and making the marriage last a lifetime.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Christ-Followers: Does Changing Our Name Change Our Reputation?

It has become popular among some who have chosen to center their lives on the teachings of the Bible to call themselves “Christ-followers” rather than “Christians.” I have yet to hear a strong explanation for this relabeling (if you have one, please share it in the comments!), but I can understand the desire to distance oneself from the connotations associated with the word “Christian.” Christians have gotten a fairly bad reputation as hypocritical, unloving, and out of touch. (The Barna Group has put together a book on this subject, called unChristian; it’s worth a read if you are interested in this topic.)

As a language lover, I can also understand the desire for a new word to distinguish a group of believers who take their faith seriously from a broader cultural group of “Christians,” meaning non-Jews who have been raised in the Judeo-Christian tradition, as opposed to coming from a Hindu or Muslim or other background. A huge difference exists between a person with a vague belief in God who goes to church on major holidays and someone who lives out the precepts of the faith (even imperfectly) on a daily basis.

Nevertheless, I am not convinced that relabeling ourselves as “Christ-followers” will make a positive difference. It would be more beneficial to start living in a way that is consistent with what we say we believe. If we don’t improve our lifestyles, the negative connotations of the word “Christian” will simply be applied to the new term of “Christ-followers,” which is so similar linguistically that I doubt many people outside the faith would grasp the difference.

I am also concerned that in an attempt to distinguish themselves, those who insist on using the term “Christ-followers” create yet another division in a church that is already characterized by far too much disunity and schisms over such minor matters as musical preferences and building styles. The video parodies most frequently cited in the debate over terms are funny, but mocking your spiritual brothers in a forum as public as YouTube is not a good way to improve family relationships.

Having a more precise term for people who are serious about following God might be nice, but we don’t need to change our name as much as we need to change our reputation.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Digital Lentan Sacrifice

I am giving up computer games for Lent this year. I spend way too much time on the computer – both for business and leisure – and the time I spend playing games could be far better used with my family or in prayer or even using my computer time to contribute more to the household income.

The Out of Ur blog at the Christianity Today website reports on the trend of giving up Facebook for Lent this year. I considered doing so after reading The Suburban Christian talk about it, but I have had too many opportunities on Facebook to encourage or pray for people I would not otherwise know to need encouragement or prayer. Yes, much of my Facebook time has the tendency to keep my mind on shallow thoughts and take me away from my children, but it also reminds me that there are real people and real needs beyond my own immediate family. Any sacrifice I make for Lent should, I believe, make me more aware of – not more oblivious to – other people in the world. Giving up Facebook would make me feel more isolated and self-focused.

Incidentally, I have always been a part of churches that do not observe Lent, so giving up anything at all is an unusual experience for me. I am eager to see how reallocating the time I would normally spend playing digital games will change my perspective.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Tax Expertise

I still do my family’s taxes by hand, slogging through the IRS instructions, adding up numbers with a calculator, and penciling in the results. Last year, it took me about ten hours to complete the job. I enjoy the challenge, but I am bothered by the fact that filing taxes is a challenge. I am an intelligent woman with a master’s degree; if I struggle to calculate what I owe in taxes, how can grade-school dropouts and people with limited mental capacity be expected to get through the forms?

The current tax code drives people to hire paid tax preparers, thereby increasing the cost of meeting our already expensive obligations to the government. Most people I know hire someone to do their taxes for them; the one time we did so, we paid more to the preparers than we got back in refunds. Since then, we have added four or five forms to our tax packet; hiring someone would likely cost more than I earn in a week.

The whole idea of paid tax preparers reminds me a bit of the tax collectors in the Bible, hated because they added their cut to the payments people owed the government. The only difference now is that people love them for it – even handing over extra money to shorten the length of time it takes to get back the earnings the government overcharged in the first place.

Whenever I write about taxes, someone inevitably tells me that I’m not an expert and I have no business “giving tax advice.” But why should I have to be an expert? If the government expects everyone to file taxes, the process should be something anyone can do.

Friday, February 20, 2009

What Makes a Book Christian?

My daughter asked to check out a Go Diego Go! book, Diego’s Springtime Fiesta, when we visited the library yesterday. I added it to the stack, and when we got it home, I discovered that the librarians had placed a “Christian Fiction” sticker on its spine. I’m perplexed by this designation – the book is about finding and counting lost baby rabbits! Maybe the librarians thought it was an Easter book, but even if that were the case, the rabbits-Easter connection hardly makes it a Christian story. If I look at the rabbits as symbols of fertility, could I label this book “Sex Education?”

I have long marveled at the somewhat arbitrary label of “Christian fiction.” Mediocre books that have little to do with Christianity beyond the fact that their authors identify themselves as Christians wind up on the Christian fiction shelves, while many excellent books that deal with Christian themes of redemption and forgiveness are nowhere in sight. Flannery O’Connor’s short stories, Les Misérables, even The Testament by John Grisham qualify as Christian fiction in my mind, but I doubt any of them have Christian fiction labels at my local library. Frankly, if I were a novelist, I would prefer not to have my work labeled as “Christian fiction.” That label is a sure way to drive away many readers who would benefit from seeing the world from a Christian’s perspective.

The same issue sometimes – though less frequently – occurs on the non-fiction shelves of the library. A writer who happens to be a Christian produces a thorough work on art or politics or social sciences, but the book winds up on the religion shelves. Faith in Christ should influence the way we approach every topic, but not every topic we approach qualifies as “religion.”

What do you think about classifying books as Christian? What criteria should be used to determine whether a book is Christian fiction? Have you read any good books that present Christian ideas but never show up on lists of Christian fiction or books on religion?

Welcome!

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” –Romans 12:2, NIV

Welcome! Let me introduce myself: I am a minority thinker. As a Christian, my perspective is not very popular in the culture at large. Yet, even within the church, where I am surrounded by others who share my basic worldview, my thoughts tend to be in the minority. I have been blessed and cursed with a way of thinking that is just different from most people’s. You might call me a nonconformist.

I’ve resisted starting my own blog for a long time. I’ve never been crazy about doing things that are too popular, and there are already far too many unread blogs out there. What would make my blog worth reading? Plus, as a full-time mother, I don’t really have a lot of time to write on spec, which is essentially what I’m doing right now – writing something that others may or may not want to read in the hopes that I will gain someone’s interest and maybe even a little cash and renown. I have blogged, though, both as a freelancer for an established blog, www.savingadvice.com/blog (you may see some reprints from there on this blog), and as a ghostwriter for another blogger whose position of leadership brings an inherent following from his organization.

So why am I jumping on the blog bandwagon now? Many of the things I want to write about have no real market, but I still feel compelled to write them. I know that my ideas are in the minority, but I hope that by putting them out in Cyberspace I will find some readers who will let me know I am not alone and some other readers who will challenge me to adjust or amend my thoughts. To that end, I welcome thoughtful comments that both agree and disagree with me. Please be civil, though – I will delete comments that contain personal attacks on me or others.

I want this blog to be about ideas, not events. I will speak from my personal experience, which is nothing out of the ordinary, but I plan to use anecdotes from my life a basis for talking about bigger ideas that apply to others with ordinary lives. I hope I will challenge you to think more deeply, to examine your own life from a different perspective. Conversely, I hope you will comment freely and encourage me to renew my mind on a regular basis.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Privacy Policy

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