Black and Tired, Blue in the Face: An Evangelical Response to the Shootings

It seems like our country is burning down right in front of our faces. If not burning down, it is at least deeply divided and dripping with blood.

In the aftermath of this week’s breaking news about Alton Sterling and Philando Castile—black men being shot to death by white police officers—many black Americans are not only frustrated and angry but also afraid. They are afraid that “justice and equality for all” doesn’t apply to their sons. They are afraid to let their sons go outside at night for fear that a routine traffic stop could spell the end of their life. They are emotionally exhausted. They are black and tired.

At the same time, in the wake of other breaking news about five Dallas police officers killed in the line of duty—white officers shot to death by a black sniper—many law enforcement personnel are not only afraid, but angry. They are frustrated and hurt that some of the very citizens they seek to protect now treat them with suspicion or resentment. Law enforcement officers have to make split-second decisions and they do their best, they say, but it doesn’t always go as planned. If they’ve said it once, they’ve said it a hundred times. They are blue in the face. [ Read More ]

Evangelicals, Here’s Why the Clinton Email Scandal Still Matters (Even after The F.B.I. Closed its Case)

On Tuesday, James B. Comey, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, announced that the bureau would not recommend criminal charges in Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information. He charged her with being “extremely careless” but stopped short of seeking an indictment for gross negligence. During the early months of the FBI’s investigation, she emphatically [ Read More ]

4 Tips on How to Get the Most from Your (Non-Fiction) Reading

Recently, I wrote a post on 5 Tips for Determining Which Books to Read (and Not to Read). As a follow up to that post, and in answer to a number of questions I received, here are four tips on how to get the most from your (non-fiction) reading:

Make a plan (even if you are not, by nature, a planner).

There may be some folks out there who became seriously informed readers by wandering aimlessly through bookstores in order to buy random books that they would later read whenever they found time. But there wouldn’t be many of those folks; if there are any, you could probably count them on the one hand of a bad woodshop teacher.

So, make a list of books that are important to read in each of your various categories of interest. If you have difficulty finding the right books to read in each category, spend some time researching. Ask an expert to give you a short list of favorites. Visit your library. Cruise the local Barnes & Noble. Surf the net. In addition, answer a few other questions: How many books would you like to read per month? How much time can you devote per day or per week? What time of the day is best for you? I know, I know, you are probably thinking: “Ashford is an even bigger dork than we’d imagined.” But I’d like to serve advance notice: we haven’t even arrived at the nerdiest parts of this post. [ Read More ]

Make America Happy Again (Or, How the Beatitudes Slay the 7 Deadly Sins)

Recent surveys have confirmed what we already know: Americans are not happy. Anger, anxiety, and depression are on the rise in our country. An NBC News survey revealed that half of Americans are more angry than they were last year, and a significant percentage of Americans become angry at least once a day because of something they saw on the news. And the anger is bipartisan: both Republicans and Democrats both feel this way.

Other surveys reveal that Americans are also depressed, as indicated by a rise in suicides and in prescriptions for depression medications, and anxious because of stagnant wages, deteriorating 401(k) retirement plans, lost wars, racial unrest, terror acts, an increasingly polarized society, and the toxic nature of our public discourse.

In the midst of our anger, depression, and anxiety, Jesus offers the Beatitudes. “Beatitude” is the blessedness, the deep happiness, of being in right relationship with him and allowing him to work in and through us, even in the midst of the worst of circumstances.
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3 Reasons American Evangelicals Should Care about Brexit

On June 23, the citizens of the U.K. voted, by a margin of 52% to 48%, to leave the European Union. Immediately following the vote, global markets plunged—with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling by 500 points and the NASDAQ by 600—and international politicians and media scrambling to interpret Brexit and its implications for the U.K. and other nations.

Proponents of “Brexit,” as Britain’s exit has been nicknamed, were elated. Nigel Faragee, head of the U.K. Independence Party, compared Brexit to a new day dawning. Opponents were devastated. Keith Vaz of the Labour Party said, “This is a crushing decision; this is a terrible day for Britain and a terrible day for Europe. In 1,000 years, I would never have believed that the British people would vote for this.”

Although American evangelicals might think Brexit has little or no significance for them, the opposite is true: the U.K.’s decision to exit is something that affects Americans and to which we should pay close attention. Here are three reasons we should care about Brexit:
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A Christian Hope for American Politics

This past week, The Exchange released a video interview with me on the topic, “What is the Christian Hope for American Politics?” In the interview, co-host Micah Fries and I discussed the biblical support for Christian involvement in politics and public life, the criteria by which evangelicals should evaluate presidential candidates, and the way the Christian gospel stands in judgment of all modern political ideologies, including liberalism, conservatism, progressivism, libertarianism, socialism, nationalism, and fascism. For those of you interested in American politics in general, and the 2016 election cycle in specific, the video is available here.
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How Faith, Hope, and Love Can Provide Healing for American Politics

In a recent post, I argued that the gospel is not only a treasure to be valued, but also a leaven to be kneaded into the “dough” of society. But how exactly do Christian virtues affect social and cultural realities? In that article, I made two big points: first, a gospel-centered approach to politics enables us as evangelicals to reframe the significant political issues of our day; and second, a gospel-centered approach to politics liberates us from society’s perspective that evangelicals are a special-interest arm of a major political party.

In this brief article, I will show how the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and love counteract society’s maladies. Sick are the depths of our civilization’s soul, but soothing and healing are the spiritual operations of faith, hope, and love.
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Shouldn’t We Just Treasure the Gospel and Forget about Politics for a While?

Let’s face it: we evangelical Christians have not exactly “won the day” in terms of our social, cultural, and political initiatives. Although we have made some incremental progress with some of our convictional initiatives, such as pro-life reform, we seem to be losing ground on nearly every other front: religious liberty, human sexuality, marriage, among others. What’s more, certain developments during the past year have caused many of our fellow citizens to view evangelicals as little more than the hypocritical and bigoted special interest arm of the Republican Party.

Not the best of times, these.

In light of the situation, therefore, shouldn’t evangelical Christians consider slowing down, taking a deep breath, and reassessing our priorities so we can treasure the gospel and forget about politics and public life for a while?

No.
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5 Tips for Determining Which Books to Read (and Which Not to Read)

There are three types of people in our great nation. There are, first of all, those who do not read. An AP-Ipsos poll recently revealed that 25% of Americans do not read books, while other polls have put the number higher, at around 50%. It is not that these Americans cannot read or that they do not accumulate knowledge. (No country’s citizens—and I mean none—bring more depth and import to subjects such as celebrity clothes, hair and makeup, and the intricacies of the Pitt-Jolie marriage than the citizens of the USA.) It is just that their knowledge is not gained from books. Second, there are those who read but do so aimlessly, choosing on a whim what to read and when to do so. Third, there are those who plan to read and who read with a plan.

If you are the third type of reader, or if you wish to become that type of reader, this post offers five tips for determining which books to read (and which not to read).
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The Top 25 (Or So) Books for a Young Theologian to Own (And Read)

If ever in history there were a non-event, this is it: my top 25 (or so) books for a young theologian to own (and read). A few weeks ago, a friend of mine sent me his list of twenty-five books and it “got me to thinkin.” So here’s my list, but before I give the list, allow me to make several comments.

First, I’ve focused this list mainly on Christian doctrine and systematic theology, and certain other types of books that relate closely to those tasks. I’ve left out numerous wonderful books that fall in other categories (pastoral theology, biblical studies, etc.).
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