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News That Illustrates: April 2, 2012

Why the Trayvon Martin Case Matters
On Sunday, February 26th, Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old was shot and killed by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman argues that he was acting in self-defense. The parents of Trayvon Martin, who was black, argue that the crime was racially motivated. The tragedy has sparked a nationwide debate about race and prejudice in America. If you want to understand why many black Americans have responded with so much sadness and anger, read this article by Frances Cudjoe Waters, a minister, wife, graduate of Harvard Law School, and a "minivan-driving soccer mom of three." She writes, "My well-meaning white friends have no idea why so many African Americans distrust or fear the police …. [My white friends] are so committed to the idea that we live in a color-blind society that it is hard for them to perceive, let alone help change, the reality that impacts our lives [as African Americans] and the lives of our children daily."

PREACHING ANGLES: Compassion; Race; Racial Reconciliation; Social Justice

The Hunger Games and the History of Human Sacrifice
The film The Hunger Games opened two weekends ago and quickly netted $152.5 million in the U.S. This article by theologian Robert Barron gives a profound and disturbing preachable angle on the film. Here's the basic plot of the film: set in a post-apocalyptic North American state, 24 teenagers are chosen to compete in a mortal combat until only one winner remains. The rest of the "contestants" die in the process, but the games provide entertainment for the masses. Barron gives a fascinating historical overview of the all too common theme of the "sacrificial victim" in stories, myths, and in real life. Barron argues "that what brought [the sacrificial motif] to an end in both the Roman and Aztec contexts was nothing other than the influence of Christianity, the religion centered on a crucified Lord." But Barron also warns, "What haunted me as I watched The Hunger Games was that the instinct for human sacrifice is never far from the surface," especially in our post-Christian culture. This article provides an interesting way to weave the film into a Good Friday message.

PREACHING ANGLE: Atonement; Christ, death of; Christ, cross of

'Aggressive' Parents Force Cancellation of Easter Egg Hunt
The annual Easter Egg hunt in a historic area of Colorado Springs has been cancelled due to parents who got out of control last year. According to this news story, "Hundreds of parents reportedly jumped over ropes into a kids-only section of the hunt to ensure their kids got as many eggs as possible. Their actions caused the hunt to be over in seconds, to the dismay of egg-less children and their parents." So the organizers of the event decided to cancel it until further notice.

PREACHING ANGLES: Contentment; Easter; Sin

Dawkins Calls on Atheists to Ridicule Religion
On March 24th about 20,000 people gathered in Washington D.C. to celebrate atheism in the "Reason Rally," or what was also called "the largest secular event in the history of the world." David Silverman, president for American Atheists, called for "zero tolerance" for anyone who insults atheism. TV personality Adam Savage claimed that he believes in someone who loves and protects him—"It's me!" But Richard Dawkins stole the show with these lines: "Religion makes specific claims about the universe which need to be substantiated, and need to be challenged—and if necessary, need to be ridiculed with contempt," he told the cheering crowd on the National Mall. And if that's not enough, Dawkins told the crowd, "Mock them. Ridicule them! In public!"

PREACHING ANGLES: Atheism; Civility; Unbelief

Nate Phelps—from Fundamentalist to Atheist
One of the speakers at the "Reason Rally" was Nate Phelps, the son of Pastor Fred Phelps from Westboro Baptist Church, the church that regularly pickets military funerals. The Los Angeles Times ran an interview with Nate about his journey from fundamentalist Christianity to atheism. Nate said that in his home "it was not an option to openly discuss any doubts you might have. It wasn't safe, physically or otherwise, to even consider such a thing …. As far as the relationship with my father, the best I could describe it was I was afraid of him from very early on. That never really changed …. [My father was never] an educator, a helper, you know, that kind of father figure."

PREACHABLE ANGLES: Fathers; God, fatherhood of; Relationships

Nuns, Strippers Set to Be Next-door Neighbors
Here's an interesting story to set up a sermon about outreach or evangelism. This article begins with this great lead: "On one side of the fence are women in habits and wimples who have taken vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. On the other side of the fence, if a developer gets his way, will be women in G-strings in the business of nudity, dollars, and prurience." The article calls it a "clash between two competing visions of femininity." But of course it's more than that: it's a clash of worldviews, values, and visions for life. And it also shows that as the church—no matter how holy we try to be—we can't escape from the world. But of course that's not a threat; it's an incredible opportunity to share the gospel.

PREACHABLE ANGLES: Evangelism; Outreach; Witnessing

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