James Vincent for The Verge:
Amazon’s drone delivery program stopped being a joke a while ago, but the company still has to overcome serious challenges to make the technology actually work. One of these is getting drones near enough to large populations so they’re more efficient than regular road delivery. Amazon has an idea for that though: Huge. Drone. Beehives.
The article goes on to question whether this is possible because of the risks of noise, congestion, and crashes. (Seems like we’ve lived with that stuff with cars for a long time now.)
Ayaan Hirsi Ali on progressives’ failure to confront women’s rights abuses in some contexts:
No, what happened that day was emblematic of a deeply troubling trend among progressives when it comes to confronting the brutal reality of Islamist extremism and what it means for women in many Muslim communities here at home and around the world. When it comes to the pay gap, abortion access and workplace discrimination, progressives have much to say. But we’re still waiting for a march against honor killings, child marriages, polygamy, sex slavery or female genital mutilation.
Interesting read from an insider perspective.
Liz Gumbinner on teaching kids about email:
When I finally broke down and got my daughter an email account (all my friends have one! actually does work sometimes) we had the long, requisite discussions about safety, etiquette, and responsibility. But wow, it turns out there’s so much more than that. Especially because most of her friends seem to have been given accounts without any tips or tutorials at all. No judgments there; it’s just that I think email seems so everyday to all of us, and some of the protocol is now so intuitive, it hasn’t even crossed most parents’ minds.
Super practical. Remember when your parents taught you ______? The right way to use email has to be taught too.
Elly Fishman for Chicago Mag:
If Sullivan High School had a motto, it would be “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Its immigrant population now numbers close to 300 — 45 percent of the school’s 641 students — and many are refugees new to this country. This academic year alone, the Rogers Park school has welcomed a staggering 89 refugees — nearly three times as many as last year and far more than at any other high school in the city. The recent surge, fueled in part by an influx of Syrians, has turned the school into a global melting pot, with 38 countries and more than 35 languages represented.
Much more in the full piece including infographics, photography, video, and what it means to educate kids like the girl who “says she misses the smell of jasmine in her native Syria but not the sound of bombs.”
Bari Weiss for the NYT:
Reasonable people can debate whether or not social experiments like a Day of Absence are enlightening. Perhaps there’s a case to be made that a white-free day could be a useful way to highlight the lack of racial diversity, particularly at a proudly progressive school like Evergreen. Yet reasonable debate has made itself absent at Evergreen.
For expressing his view, Mr. Weinstein was confronted outside his classroom last week by a group of some 50 students insisting he was a racist. The video of that exchange — “You’re supporting white supremacy” is one of the more milquetoast quotes — must be seen to be believed. It will make anyone who believes in the liberalizing promise of higher education quickly lose heart.
Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra profiles “the life and times of Redeemer Presbyterian Church” for TGC:
The spiritual scene wasn’t much better: Less than 1 percent of those in center city Manhattan self-identified as evangelicals. Without a lot more connections, experience, and money, you’ll have a really hard time, New York insiders told them. Odds are you won’t last five years.
But Keller’s plant has lasted nearly six times that long. When he preaches his last sermon on June 25, Redeemer will be 28 years old. Over nearly three decades, attendance has soared from around 50 to more than 5,000. The congregation expanded into two, then three locations. They ministered to thousands through Hope for New York, re-imagined employment through the Center for Faith and Work, and launched a church-planting hub now called City to City.
Through it all, Redeemer proved the impossible: You can grow an evangelical church in the middle of one of the most post-Christian, least Bible-minded cities in the United States.
Over the past 15 or so years, perhaps no single church (Redeemer) or person (Keller) have been as influential in educating the Western church at large about the importance of and strategy for urban church planting.
Justin Holcomb reflecting on Acts 2:1-13:
Since the time of Babel (Gen. 11:1–9), the nations of the earth were divided by language, unable to come together as a result of their rebellion against God. In the Old Testament we learn that God singled out the Jewish nation to deliver his blessing to the world, and therefore the good news of God’s grace was originally communicated only in the Hebrew language. With the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, however, the curse of Babel begins to unravel. No longer is the gospel confined to Hebrew; it is available directly to all nations and all languages. A new age has begun! One day Christ’s reign will be fully realized, and the effects of sin will fall away completely.
The story in Acts is also our story, because we are participating in God’s story. The descent of the Spirit on these apostles is really the birth story of all who are in Christ. If this had never happened, if God had not looked on Christ’s work on the cross and said “It is good,” raised him from the dead, and set him at his right side to pour out his Spirit on his people, then we would still be dead in our sins. We would still be without the spiritual life of the new birth, lost and without hope.1
Happy Day of Pentecost!
Daniel Hertz writing for City Lab:
[T]here’s no way out, if you happen to have above-average economic power or the kind of cultural capital that attracts people with above-average economic power. Whether or not you say “hi” to your neighbors, your presence in a relatively low-income or blue-collar community will, in fact, make it easier for other college graduates to move in; to open businesses that cater to you; to induce landlords to renovate or redevelop their properties to attract other new, wealthier residents who want access to those businesses. If your city restricts housing supply (it does) and doesn’t have smart rent control policies (it almost certainly doesn’t), you’ve ultimately helped create an economically segregated neighborhood…
[On the other hand,] Moving to a higher-income neighborhood — one where market and regulatory forces have already pushed out the low-income — means you’re helping to sustain the high cost of living there, and therefore helping to keep the area segregated… Among the classes, there is no division between “gentrifiers” and “non-gentrifiers.” If you live in a city, you don’t get to opt out.
Lots more in the full piece, including practical ideas to help correct the toxic policy mix (lack of rent controls + new housing construction restrictions) that is a primary driver of gentrification.
There is something broken about us.
What’s more, much that falls in this overall category of “sinful” behavior, thoughts, etc. which we speak of in euphemism, does have a non-culpable, psychological and medical component which should be dealt with as such. This should impact the way we pastor, counsel, and evaluate others in the Church. Some do struggle against heavier burdens. Telling someone to repent themselves out of a behavior linked to a chemical imbalance or childhood trauma is a recipe for pastoral malpractice. These things do need treatment, healing (human and divine).
But these euphemisms have their limits and so cannot replace or dominate our vocabulary for sin. This is so for at least a couple of reasons.
Not only “broken,” but also “bent.”
Advances in culture, technology, and science depend on past innovations and advances… Lined up correctly, a tiny domino results the toppling of a massive domino further down the line.
The link shows a cool video.
And, as Kottke suggests, great to think about as a metaphor. It occurs to me that cultural changes can be falling dominos “by default,” like when people are passive or simply not paying attention. But changes can also be strategically gained by steps incrementally moving toward a desired grand outcome.
Good prayer on Memorial Day from W.E.B. Du Bios:
May the Lord give us both the honesty and strength to look our own faults squarely in the face and not ever continue to excuse or minimize them, while they grow. Grant us that wide view of ourselves which our neighbors possess, or better the highest view of infinite justice and goodness and efficiency. In that great white light let us see the littleness and narrowness of our souls and the deeds of our days, and then forthwith begin their betterment. Only thus shall we broaden out of the vicious circle of our own admiration into the greater commendation of God. Amen.1
British Library Board blog:
Damien Kempf of the University of Liverpool noticed an image of Yoda hiding in one of the British Library’s medieval manuscripts. The green-skinned, big-eared figure with tufty hair bears a surprising resemblance to the character designed by Stuart Freeborn for Lucasfilm almost 700 years later. Kempf’s ‘Yoda’ was one of several fantastical creatures reproduced in the book Medieval Monsters.
This is not the only ‘Yoda’ to be found in a medieval manuscript. Since the ‘Yoda’ discovered by Damien Kempf was featured on this blog, other people have told us about more ‘Yodas’ they have noticed among the British Library’s manuscripts. These include a collection of romances and stories complied for a middling member of the Yorkshire gentry to a deluxe, multi-volume book of hours once owned by Emperor Charles V.
May the 4th Be With You.
[Andy:] Whenever you raise a criticism about technology, people will commonly say, “Well, technology can be used for good or for bad.” But I think more interesting questions are, “What is technology good for?” and “What is technology bad for?” Technology is good for lots of things. But what it is not good for—and perhaps what it is actively bad for—is the formation of persons. And where are people formed most intensively? For all of us, that is in the context of family. That’s where the dangers and limitations of technology become most evident. I’m much less concerned about how we use technology when we’re waiting in a line at the airport, even though I don’t deny that there is something formative (and de-formative) about needing my screen to distract me when I feel the least soupçon of boredom. But that is not as critical as [the family context].
The following is a guest post from Austin Gohn, a friend and fellow urban ministry colleague. Austin is a pastor in Pittsburgh and a student at Trinity School of Ministry. His writing has been featured in Gospel Centered Discipleship.
Trust is built thirty-seconds at a time.
In The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs observed, “The trust of a city street is formed over time from many, many little public sidewalk contacts.” With her classic specificity, the patron saint of sidewalks explains some of these little contacts that add up to a sense of trust:
It grows out of people stopping by at the bar for a beer, getting advice from the grocer and giving advice to the newsstand man, comparing opinions with other customers at the bakery and nodding hello to two little boys drinking pop on the stoop, eying the girls while waiting to be called for dinner, admonishing the children, hearing about a job from the hardware man and borrowing a dollar from the druggist, admiring the new babies and sympathizing over the way a coat varied. (56)
Although “eying the girls” might have the opposite effect now, Jacob’s observation is still true. Trust is the byproduct of petting the neighbor’s German Shepherd, explaining the “parking chair” to a new tenant from a warmer climate, asking Abby what she is drawing on the sidewalk this afternoon, and giving out high-quality Halloween candy to costume-less teenagers. It is not developed in a single moment but rather in many, many little interactions over many months and years.
In 1961, though, the personal screen was still years away from its monopoly on our attention. We were still over two decades away from Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, and I doubt Jane Jacobs foresaw that there would one day be more eyes on the screen than eyes on the street.
In 2017, while I might have a few moments like those she describes, I sacrifice many more of those little contacts to my most recent notification. When I walk down the street, I check anything on my iPhone when I am about to pass someone. At the post office around the corner, I read tweets from people all over the world instead of talking to the other dozen people in line. (In my defense, they are all distracted as well.) At the local Do-It-Best, I ask Siri for help on my home project while pretending I don’t hear the employee asking me if I need assistance. On the first warm spring evening, I continue my binge on Arrested Development season one instead of risking conversation by sitting on my porch.
Most of these moments are “ostensibly trivial” (Jacobs, 56). Reloading Instagram a few times instead of making eye contact with the cashier at Kuhn’s Quality Foods does not seem like it will make much of a difference. Tossing a few of these relational pennies into the wishing well of distraction feels harmless. Everyone knows pennies never add up to anything.
According to Jacobs, though, these pennies are “the small change from which a city’s wealth of public life may grow” (72). These small exchanges add up to trust among neighbors. Without trust, neighborhoods do not work as they could (or should). The absence of trust is a “disaster” (56) to street life–a daily catastrophe that will never make the local news.
Trust is one of the silent victims of our digital age. We have exchanged “an almost unconscious assumption” (56) of trust for an unconscious assumption of distrust, and no one has noticed. It is one of those invisible qualities no one thinks about until we need it. It is a loss that everyone feels but almost no one can name.
The good news is that trust is built in the same way as distrust: thirty-seconds at a time. It is never too late to start developing trust among our neighbors. In Reclaiming Conversation, Sherry Turkle concludes:
This is our nick of time and our line to toe: to acknowledge the unintended consequences of technologies to which we are vulnerable, to respect the resilience that has always been ours. We have time to make the corrections. And to remember who we are—creatures of history, of deep psychology, of complex relationships. Of conversations artless, risky, and face-to-face. (362)
This is not as terrifying as it seems. Instead of looking up the time of the Lenten fish fry, try asking the neighbor with the rosary hanging from his rearview mirror. Ask an older person in line at the deli what kind of cheese goes best with capicola (even if you do not care). Purchase some overpriced lemonade from the kids next door instead of pretending you’re on the phone. These things feel trivial, but as Jacobs reminds us, “the sum is not trivial at all” (56).
In a cultural moment when distrust is the norm, perhaps what we need most is a willingness to turn off our phones and talk to our neighbors again — even if it’s just for thirty-seconds.
26 From Attalia Paul and Barnabas sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. 27 On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.
In Acts 14, the first-century urban church planters, Paul and Barnabas, gather together members from a partnering congregation to celebrate the accomplished work of new churches planted and new believers baptized. The preceding verses tell more of the story: despite the cost of much time, effort, resources, prayer, and profound hardship, local churches were successfully established in cities throughout the region. New Christians were born and new leaders were appointed.
With present trends like unprecedented urban population growth, rapid globalization, and ever-shifting cultural values, the complexity of ministry and church planting in today’s world can seem daunting. For this reason, stories like this one Acts 14 are crucial because they serve as reminders that establishing new churches has always been deeply challenging, and it is always accomplished only by God’s grace. In particular, these verses display a beautiful purpose, an astonishing potential, and the sustaining power for church planting:
A few weeks ago, I was reminded again of this purpose, potential, and power while I visiting a church that my wife and I helped to plant in the Mexico City Valley. I was there to celebrate the church’s was tenth anniversary, and I found myself emotionally overcome — not with the magnitude of the task at hand, but with the magnitude of the work completed: more than 250 gathered together, a dozen home groups, a local eldership and pastorate, and local resources providing for the church’s numerous ministries. I was, like Paul and Barnabas before me, able to participate not only in the labor of church planting, but in the celebration of the completed work of a church being established by the grace of God.
It’s startling how little has changed since the first century: we’re still traveling, training, preaching, confronting obstacles, allocating resources, and appointing local leaders (Acts 14:23) for churches in population centers where people might otherwise never encounter a compelling case for Christianity. Like the churches planted in Acts, God is actively working to bring his work to beautiful completion in Cape Town, Harlem, Lagos, Paris, and too many other places to list.1
And like the partner church in Antioch, established churches today play a critical part in God’s work of grace through their giving, fasting, and praying (Acts 14:23) for the sake of new churches and leaders. All of this — the planters and the supporters, by God’s gracious action — are helping to write a “book of Acts” for the 21st century.
Aanna Greer on talking to your kids about sexuality:
The truth is that your kids will sin and eventually they will sin sexually. No amount of preparation or good parenting will prevent this. Make sure that you yourself have a biblical perspective on sin and grace and that you teach this to your children. Sin is wrong, but God’s grace is big. Don’t let them ever believe the lie that they must be perfect in order to be loved and accepted by God or by you. As a parent, you should expect them to sin. It is not your children’s good behavior, but the power of the cross that saves them.
Excellent presentation of the biblical perspective of marriage from Kings Church.
Caitlin Flanagan in The Atlantic:
But somewhere along the way, we decided that we wanted the values of a Las Vegas lounge act to become part of our most important civic conversation. So the stunt, the shtick, the mildly embarrassing question — soon President Bubba, well on his way to reelection, would be telling an MTV crowd whether he wore boxers or briefs — became an essential campaign feature, and now we have a reality-TV star for president. You could argue that by giving Trump a noogie, Fallon did the responsible thing: He subjected the man to one of the requisite tests of fitness for office. We created our own black hole, and we collapsed into it.
Excoriating. And perhaps the most incisive article I’ve read this year.
Business Insider summary American Nations by Colin Woodard:
[A]ward-winning author Colin Woodard identifies 11 distinct cultures that have historically divided the US.
“The country has been arguing about a lot of fundamental things lately including state roles and individual liberty,” Woodard, a Maine native who won the 2012 George Polk Award for investigative reporting, told Business Insider.
“[But] in order to have any productive conversation on these issues,” he added, “you need to know where you come from. Once you know where you are coming from it will help move the conversation forward.”
Not a new article, but relevant nevertheless. I like that Woodard has considered the frontiers of each of the 11 “nations” purely culturally rather than arbitrarily relating them to existing geopolitical borders.
[A]mong these 11 nations, Yankeedom and the Deep South exert the most influence and are constantly competing with each other for the hearts and minds of the other nations.
“We are trapped in brinkmanship because there is not a lot of wiggle room between Yankee and Southern Culture,” Woodard says. “Those two nations would never see eye to eye on anything besides an external threat.”
Sounds about right.
John Stott addressing All Souls Church in 2006:
This is very interesting that none of the four evangelists said that Jesus “died.” Nowhere in the gospels is it stated that “he died.” They seem to deliberately avoid the verb, because they don’t want to give the impression that in the end death claimed him, and that he had to yield to its authority. No, no. Death did not claim him as its victim; instead he seized it as its Victor.
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