[this was an email I sent to the students in Chi Alpha @ Stanford]
In the time of King David, the Bible says that the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). That’s a worthy goal — to understand our times and know how to live wisely in them. We need to learn how our faith interacts with the world.
To that end, I’m going to try something: for the next few weeks I’ll send out three to five articles/resources I have found helpful in thinking about national, global and theological issues (be sure to see the disclaimer at the bottom). My hope is these readings nudge you into continuing the tradition of Issachar. If these emails are well-received then they may become an ongoing thing.
So here’s the first batch:
The Spiritual Shape of Political Ideas (Joseph Bottum, The Weekly Standard): many modern political ideas are derived from Christian theological concepts.
What ISIS Really Wants (Graeme Wood, The Atlantic): the key to understanding ISIS is understanding their faith, particularly their eschatology. A takeaway for Christians — your eschatology matters (so get it right).
Evangelical Protestants Are The Biggest Winners Whenever People Change Faiths (Leah Libresco, FiveThirtyEight): this is the most interesting take I’ve seen on the Pew Forum study that filled the news recently. If current trends continue until they reach an equilibrium point, then evangelicalism will become the largest religious identity in America (followed by either the religiously unaffiliated or the Mormons depending on whether fertility is factored in).
God’s Forever Family: The Jesus People Movement in America (Larry Eskridge, Oxford University Press): a scholarly history of an oft-overlooked Great Awakening — the Jesus People revival among the hippies. It is full of delightful anecdotes, including this charmer: one couple “began to talk to their friends about Jesus and even went so far as to name their dog ‘Repent’ so they could stand in the city’s parks and shout the canine’s name and their message at the top of their lungs.” (p 148). The book is available online through Stanford’s library system — the link will take you right there.
Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read stuff (and may therefore share stuff) from all over the ideological map. I read widely in part because I aspire to pass an ideological Turing test and more generally because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand.” I encourage you to adopt a similar perspective.
Also, for the first few installments I’ll probably reach farther back than normal for some articles that stand out in my memory. As time goes on I imagine the links will become more and more recent.