Jimmy Carter: A Full Life

Jimmy-Carter-headshotLike so many I have had a mixture of feelings and responses to President Jimmy Carter over the years. It seems to me that most critics, left and right, have freely attributed to him the label of “poor president” or “political failure.” I wonder what history, long after his death, will actually say. Many thought that Harry Truman was a failure until after his death. Maybe Carter’s legacy will meet a similar fate but I have my doubts. If a president is known for his legislative accomplishments then Carter will always be seen as mediocre at best. Among conservatives he is loathed and even seen as the definition of failure and disappointment. (This was true at least until we elected President Barack Obama, who is now classed as lower than Jimmy Carter ever was by the same critics.)

It is ironic, perhaps, that Jimmy Carter is the only U.S. president I actually met in person. (It was brief and not memorable.) I have been to most of the presidential libraries and museums and read a great

The Church of Pope Francis: The Dialogue I’ve Being Waiting to See and Hear

With all the views of Pope Francis coming from right-left-and in-between I have wanted to see a god dialogue about the man, his view of important issues and his leadership style. Finally, the Jesuit magazine America has given me what I was searching for online. What is remarkable about this program is who is speaking here. The moderator is Nancy Gibbs, managing editor of TIME. Michael Gerson, next to Nancy in the panel, was a policy advisor to President George W. Bush. He is an evangelical non-Catholic. He is also a Wheaton College graduate. (He makes a joke about Wheaton College which is old but still funny). Michael was a TA to one of my favorite theology professors, Dr. Alan Johnson. Then there is the highly regarded progressive Catholic, retired Northwestern University professor and Pulitzer Prize winning author, Dr. Gary Wills. Wills has written some of the most critical contemporary commentary on the Catholic Church of anyone in American academia. At the end of this panel, on your right, is the editor of America, Fr. Matt Malone, SJ. I would describe this group, if

The Spirituality of Designer Religions (Monte Wilson)

DSC00542You can’t read a magazine or watch TV without hearing some rock star or movie actor gushing on and on about being a “spiritual person.” Same goes for Facebook, where people post such profound bon mots as, “I am not religious. I am spiritual.” Maybe it’s just me but this always leaves me wondering: You’re spiritual? To what spirit are you referring? It begs the question, doesn’t it?

“Being spiritual” doesn’t say enough for me to have even the slightest clue as to what you are describing or asserting about your beliefs. If we have a Buddhist, a Baptist, and a believer in Brahman, each saying he is spiritual, aren’t they all saying something categorically different? And if a word can mean so many different things to different people, why confuse your listeners with such an amorphous word?

Why, indeed.

While there are probably more reasons than I can imagine, I believe that most all of them can be traced back to two.

When I say that I am spiritual, I am letting you know that I believe in something higher than myself, but am not

Cardinal Francis George (1937-2015): My Personal Tribute to My Friend

220px-Cardinal-Francis-George_110516_photoby_Adam-BielawskiChristian charity is a virtue that is widely recognizable. Where the church goes compassion and care for the poorest and weakest follows. Missionaries and Christian teachers have opened hospitals, cared for orphans, the widows and the poor. Where the Christian faith has advanced universities and day care have followed. Churches, from the beginning, have given to those in dire need with no expectation of direct response. One mark of the Christian faith is caritas, or love. In fact, the word caritas (Latin) means love.

But Pope Benedict XVI taught us that there is a somewhat less recognizable form of love for others that can rightly be called “intellectual charity.” Mother Teresa, respected in India and beyond, for her deep commitment to “material charity” said, “We are not social workers, we are brides of Jesus Christ.” She thus makes it clear that though material charity is important to Christian love “intellectual charity” is even more important.

The danger of material charity is that we reduce the other to a mouth to feed, a body to clothe, a need to be

Facebook & Twitter: My Life Course Corrections (2 of 2)

ArmstrongFamily 220Yesterday I wrote about my personal journey in using the social media. In particular I wrote about Facebook and Twitter. I am not an expert on these media resources by any stretch. I do know how they have impacted my personal life. As a result of reflecting upon these social media resources I shared in that previous blog post how I will make changes beginning this week.

I will continue to blog. I will post my own material on this (my) blog site. I will also publish material from guest bloggers who hold various viewpoints and who are in my network of friends and Christian leaders. These will not be mere links to public sites and news feeds but articles and opinions that I post on my blog site with my knowledge and oversight. Generally, I will post only once a day. My sense of frequency feels like I will post 3-5 times a week. Most posts will be 300-500 words, some longer. It depends on the content and time I have to write. I will link all

Sameness vs. Individuality

DSC00542It is a healthy development to see growing concern for community and life together in the West. At the same time the hunger for life together can, and does, create some deep problems that are rarely talked about in the right way. My friend Monte Wilson recently captured my concern in a post that I believe is very important for Christians who have experienced deep brokenness and desire to be enfolded into a deeply Christian family or small group/church.

Ultimately everything depends on the quality of the individual, but our fatally short-sighted age thinks only in terms of large numbers and mass organizations…
― C.G. Jung, The Undiscovered Self

Sameness – Where every one looks alike, talks alike, believes the same (what they are told to believe), goes along to get along; is brought about by the belief that the judgment of others is more important and more valuable then his or her own evaluations; lives based on fear and self-distrust. Synonyms – Cookie-cutter, boring, mindless, asleep at the wheel, dishonest, robots

Individuality – The product of a relentless pursuit of truth; the result

Lessons from Pope Francis for All Christian Leaders (5)

Unknown-1Several years ago Pope Benedict XVI tasked three trusted cardinals to investigate as deeply as necessary the Vatican’s internal culture. He wanted to know what prompted a Vatican butler to steal incriminating documents and then leak them to a journalist. Only two men know what is in the final report that came from this investigation: Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. So on December 22 Pope Francis responded to this internal investigation by addressing the Vatican Curia in a message that was direct, sharply stinging and very bold. In it he gave 15 Ailments of the Curia.

Over the last four days I have counted down each one of these “ailments” from number fifteen to number five. Today I share the last four.

No. 4 Planning too much

The pope said, “Preparing things well is necessary, but don’t fall into the temptation of trying to close or direct the freedom of the Holy Spirit.”

This charismatic Jesuit pope is a man who walks in the Spirit. He loves deeply and especially loves the gospel of forgiveness and joy. He knows the joy

Lessons from Pope Francis for All Christian Leaders (4)

The “seven deadly sins” are a classical way that the church has defined those particular sins that most clearly kill the work of grace. Pope Francis recently rebuked the leaders of the Roman Curia (12/22/14), the governing leadership team of the Roman Catholic Church, and gave them 15 Ailments that indicted the bureaucracy of the church for its spiritual hypocrisy. These ailments are worthy of more careful consideration whether we are Catholic or not. I am counting these down, with my own comments. Today we see three more of the 15 Ailments.

Unknown-1No. 7 Being rivals or boastful.

Church leaders can easily begin to think that they are the indispensable ones in the church. I read a story a few weeks ago that underscores this for me. A lay Catholic was witnessing and sharing their faith in Christ powerfully and a leader rebuked him for taking the lead in such matters. He was asked, “Under what authority do you do this without the priesthood?” He answered, “Under the authority of some 2,860 bishops of the Catholic Church who clearly

Lessons from Pope Francis for All Christian Leaders (3)

UnknownVatican watchers reported (AP), after Pope Francis spoke to the Roman Curia on December 22, that “they had never heard such a powerful, violent speech from a pope and suggested that it was informed by the results of a secret investigation ordered by Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI in the aftermath of leaks of his 2012 papers.”

I believe the ordinary reader does not realize that Pope Benedict XVI was earnestly seeking to reform the Curia for some years. This report grows out of those efforts that he began. Many journalists, with little knowledge of either Pope Benedict or of how the Vatican really works, do not give him the credit that he is due for what he began in earnest. Some have speculated that one reason he stepped down was so that what he began to reform could be carried out by a new “reformer” pope! It seems apparent this reformation is now underway. In Pope Francis we have a pastor of courage and humility who has waded into a mess and seems determined to make a real

Lessons from Pope Francis for All Christian Leaders (2)

pope-francis-600Yesterday I reported on the comments that Pope Francis made to the Roman Catholic Curia just prior to Christmas. He enumerated fifteen ailments he saw in the curia. (The term curia is foreign to many evangelicals. The curia consists of those officials who assist in the governance of the Catholic Church. The Roman Curia is the central government of the global Catholic Church.) Other denominations have something like the curia but the origins of this term are generally believed to be found in Latin (Roman) Western developments. For example, every diocese (even in many non-Catholic contexts) has the equivalent of a curia. This governing council can be made up of priests, ministers, financial officers and other lay officers who help govern. Every institutional church form has something like a curia even if we call it the elders or deacons of the church.

The point of all this is to show you that the pope’s strong statements can be applied to all who govern and lead the church, including lay leaders in evangelical contexts. For this reason I am counting down


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