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News That Illustrates: March 26, 2012

Robert Bales, 16 Afghan Civilians, and the Depth of Sin
Here's a profound news story that would make an excellent Good Friday meditation on the depth of sin and our need for Christ's atoning sacrifice. New York Times columnist David Brooks begins with the story of Robert Bales, the Army soldier who is accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians. Brooks argues that we can't think through awful scenarios like this because "of the worldview that prevails in our culture"—a worldview that assumes most people are naturally good and only a few really bad people do bad things. According to Brooks, "This worldview gives us an easy conscience, because we don't have to contemplate the evil in ourselves." In contrast, Brooks contends that in centuries past most people grew up with a more realistic worldview—a worldview "that put sinfulness at the center of the human personality." Brooks says, "G. K. Chesterton wrote that the doctrine of original sin is the only part of Christian theology that can be proved."

PREACHING ANGLES: Atonement; Depravity; Salvation, need for; Sin

Kirk Cameron Takes a Stand
Kirk Cameron, the Christian actor and former star of the hit TV show Growing Pains, has been taking hits for his comments about same-sex marriage. On the Piers Morgan Show, Cameron noted that "marriage is almost as old as dirt, and it was defined in the garden between Adam and Eve. One man, one woman, for life, till death do you part. So I would never attempt to try to redefine marriage …. So do I support the idea of gay marriage? No, I do not." In response, comedienne Rosanne Barr tweeted that those comments make Cameron "an accomplice to murder with his hate speech." GLADD (The Gay and Lesbian Alliance against Anti-Defamation) claimed that Cameron's comments contribute to a "climate of hostility." And Rosie O'Donnell called Cameron "very un-Christlike." (This past week Cameron invited O'Donnell out to lunch.) Piers Morgan, who obviously disagrees with Cameron's stance, said that Cameron was "pretty brave" to speak his views so candidly.

PREACHING ANGLES: Boldness; Courage; Convictions

Say Hello to Generation Flux
A recent report in Fast Company explored the new phenomenon called "Generation Flux." Generation Flux is more of a psychographic (a mindset) than a demographic reality. GenFlux folks embrace and even enjoy instability in careers, business models, and assumptions. And as the article notes, most of our institutions are not built for flux. Here's the challenge and the opportunity for the church: "When businesspeople search for the right forecast—the road map and model that will define the next era—no credible long-term picture emerges. There is one certainty, however. The next decade will be defined more by fluidity than by any new, settled paradigm; if there is a pattern to all this, it is that there is no pattern. The most valuable insight is that we are, in a critical sense, in a time of chaos."

PREACHING ANGLES: Change; Culture; Uncertainty

Say, "Wake Up!" to the Millennial Generation
The latest installment of research about the Millennial Generation (born between 1982-2000) isn't very encouraging. While there are certainly exceptions to the norm, the overall pattern is pretty clear: "The trend [for Millennials] is more of an emphasis on extrinsic values such as money, fame, and image, and less of an emphasis on intrinsic values such as self-acceptance, group affiliation, and community." For instance, the proportion of students who said being wealthy was very important to them rose from 45 percent for Baby Boomers, to 70 percent for Gen Xers, to 75 percent for Millennials. The importance of "developing a meaningful philosophy of life" fell from 73 percent for Boomers to 45 percent for Millennials. One of the researchers noted the importance of these trends because "[millennials] reflect the culture, and young people show the changes in culture the strongest."

PREACHING ANGLES: Apathy; Consumerism; Involvement; Materialism

Sir David Attenborough Risks It All to Bring Us Nature Shows
The British star of nature shows like Life On Earth and The Frozen Planet is celebrating his 60th year in broadcasting. During that span, Attenborough has been respected and admired by viewers, scientists, and explorers. For sixty years he's been creeping through undergrowth, crawling across deserts, traipsing through jungles, and climbing ice caps to give us some great shots of nature. He also shared an interesting story about the worst thing he's ever eaten. In a remote Indian village, "The old women take guava and sort of mumble it between their teeth and then spit it into an old canoe. They leave it for four or five days when it starts to bubble and smell …. I remember thinking, I am not going to be able to do this twice, so I had better get it down properly first time. So I did and managed to summon a smile afterwards, and someone cried: 'He likes it. Give him another!'" His dedication to make films about nature should challenge any Christian who's reticent to share his faith in Christ.

PREACHING ANGLES: Commitment; Dedication; Evangelism; Risks

The Strange Happenings at the Unreal Hotel
"In Room 101, a man and a woman are lying together, and in more ways than one. In Room 102, it is a man and a man. In Room 103, a fellow named George, who has grown weary of his life, is meeting with his physician, to determine what will be the best medicine for him to bring his days to an appropriate end …. In Room 108, a lobbyist hunkers over his desk, writing up new regulations for his employer's industry … which will drive many of his employer's competitors out of business." This is a provocative piece by Anthony Esolen at a place he calls the "Unreal Hotel" (a.k.a. life in America and many other places around the globe). Whether you fully agree with his analysis or not (Esolen is a Roman Catholic), and whether you'd choose different scenarios of what's happening in the Unreal Hotel of our world, Esolen has provided a creative way to set up a sermon about our moral mess. Of course you could also add a few details to this story—like God in the flesh moved into the Unreal Hotel; Jesus died as a substitute so people could get out of the Unreal Hotel.

PREACHING ANGLES: Christ, death of; Culture; Incarnation; Sin

The 101-year-old Paragliding Great-Great-Grandmother
A 101-year-old Utah great-great-grandmother has been officially recognized as the "Oldest Female to Paraglide Tandem." Mary Hardison said she wanted to try it because her 75-year-old son started paragliding as a hobby. The article concluded, "As for future flights, Mary Hardison, who spends her days quilting for charities, is just playing it by ear. 'If the notion strikes, I'll go again,' she said."

PREACHING ANGLES: Growth; Old Age; Risk

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