Archive for the ‘justice’ Category

In the Emmaus class last Sunday, we heard testimonies from Laurin Maddux and the Ingers. Laurin talked about training counselors who work with orphaned girls in Albania. The Ingers told us about their relationships with internationals in Memphis and their recent trip to India. In both cases, we were confronted with overwhelming need. The extreme abuse, neglect and exploitation of thousands of Albanian women. An Indian province of 100 million, with intense poverty and almost no awareness of the Christian gospel. As we have seen in the news lately, and in our own experience, Memphis has it’s own issues of overwhelming need. I often hear these numbers and stories and feel hopeless. As I thought about Sunday morning, I was reminded of a video I saw of man raising awareness for adoption from China. In the video he was walking along the beach with a little Chinese girl. He told the story the familiar story of a man walking along a beach covered with stranded starfish. As he walked along, he picked up a starfish and threw it back in the ocean. Someone asked him why he bothered, there were so many starfish, what difference did it make?  The thrower answered, “It made a difference to that one”. At this point, the storyteller stopped, picked up the girl and said, “You see, this isn’t a starfish we’re talking about, she’s my daughter.” That’s the answer. While Laurin and the Ingers saw the statistics, they also saw the stories of the people who make up those statistics.

As Steven Curtis Chapman (father of three adopted Chinese daughters) said- “One bed at a time…that’s how we’ve got to think about the daunting challenge of caring for so many orphans. One bed at a time.”


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This post went up last night on the Stop Human Trafficking blog and was written by Amanda Kloher (below). My questions- how can the church speak dignity into a sex saturated culture and world, one that is so distorted that the world’s children become the catalyst for the perversion? 

Christ’s Bride needs to model treating people with dignity, not as objects for entertainment but as image-bearers of the King. And we must push the gospel forward, that the Spirit might change hearts and that we might affect demand. Did you know that in a world where the “global sex trade” nets over 18 BILLION a year (estimated) that the US is responsible for over 25% of the money? i say that if Christ’s Bride can affect demand then we will make a dent in this horrific trade and practice. Of course there are other elements such as creating economies, fighting for prosecution of the perpetrators, among others but surely everyone of us can begin by fighting for the dignity of those in our communities and city and praying for those on the front lines. as you read below, please remember that our God has accomplished, and is applying His victory (Rev 21), and his chosen vehicle for this application is His people.  More mercy!
Yesterday, U.S. federal agents broke open what is being called the largest and one of the most complex international child pornography rings ever built. Over 1000 people traded over 1 million sexual images of children through a social networking website for pedophiles. It’s a huge victory for the feds and the thousands of children who were being constantly exploited in those images, but it’s also an indication of just how serious the problem of child pornography is.

The ring was centered around a secure, password-protected website, which members had to sign up and pay to access. There, they could access sexual images of children, talk to each other about fantasies and children they had molested, and share tips on how to find child pornography and avoid getting caught by the police. But the website was more complex than just that; it created a hierarchy among its members. Only the top, most trusted members had access to the full collection of images — over one million. The images were organized in a multi-layered file system, so users could search of browse by gender, age, or sex acts depicted.

So far, at least 26 of the members have been arrested, and 16 of the victims have been identified. But investigators certainly have a lot of work ahead of them, to find both the perpetrators and victims of this international operation. The alleged ringleader of this enterprise is Delwin Savigar, who is currently serving a 14-year prison term in the U.K. for sexually assaulting three little girls. But he is only one of many. There were over 1000 members of this website at its peak, and around 500 when it was broken open.

This case is perhaps one of the most compelling examples of how the internet is a child pornographer’s best friend. In the late 1980s, child pornography had almost been eradicated in the U.S., due to heavy screening in the post office and assistance from film developers. But in the age of digital cameras and video cameras, and where setting up and running a successful social networking site is so easy, you can do it from prison, child pornography has flourished. The Internet may be providing the way for these men to access child porn, but the more serious problem is that so many of them have the will to do it. And you know what they say about the relationship between the “will” and the “way.”

The intricacy of this system proves that child pornographers are willful, resourceful, and smart. But thankfully, in this case, the federal agents on their tails were even smarter.

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recent events in my world have caused me to realize that i need to use my voice a bit more to help Christ’s Bride understand what it means to really help, walk with, serve, and learn from the poor. the good news is that there are resources and opportunities out there so i do not have to re-invent the wheel. my job is to try and point people in the right direction, i guess. i should applaud people who, when faced with injustices and sin that result from poverty, allow their compassion to swell up and move them to action. but not all action is good, or even helpful! our tendency is to want to treat the poor like project and not people. two resources i want to point you to here are a book and video. please add in the comments any other quick and effective resources you might add (of course there are a TON more!). lastly, before the resources, i have seen these theories work firsthand at Memphis’ very own Advance Memphis in the lives of several friends i have met through their program. Their volunteer opportunities are worth checking out.

OK, here are the resources-

When Helping Hurts

Acton Effective Stewardship Series of which you can find a taste of here:

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Last week’s quiz asked readers to identify the speaker, the event, and the passage from which the cited material came.

Who said it?

Sanders Willson, 2pc senior minister and The Gospel Coalition shareholder.

At what event?

AMEN Bible study for men, Thursday mornings at 6:15 AM.

What passage was being preached?

Revelation 18.

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Quiz time

It’s a three part question.  (1)  Where was this said?  (2)  Who said this?  (3)  What passage of Scripture was being preached/taught on?  The first one with all three answers wins some of the extra-credit merits that Matt Terhune has in his heavenly bank account for being an elder.

“Most in this city are simply trying to figure out where they can get their half-acre, 500,000 dollar home, with their wall, and their gate, locked, so that nobody can get in and steal their stuff.  That’s what they’re thinking about with [[[insert city/region name here]]].  They’re not thinking about, “How do I get down there where people don’t even have a half of a half of an acre, and don’t have anything to put in their house and give something to them?!”  I’m telling you, that is WICKED!  IT’S MORE WICKED THAN THE STRIP JOINTS IN OUR CITY!   People simply trying to suck the city for all they can get out of it, and then get as far away from it as they can, with all its corruptions.”

“And most of the rest of the people are just complicit partners, who want to claim that by being passive, they haven’t done anything evil.  If you are passive, you WILL do evil!  Because we’re seeing here [in this passage], with this light shed on the world order, IT IS EVIL!  IT’S ALWAYS BEEN EVIL!  And it takes just men who will stand up constantly, not in just one great heroic moment, but CONSTANTLY standing up, checking things to see if they be right…see if they are fair and equitable and merciful.  And reversing the order, and always CHALLENGING IT.  And of course, always making people angry…”

“…the people of God are not so.  They are always the people who challenge the status quo when the status quo is built upon an evil system.  And there’s a lot of evil that you’re working with today, and I’m working with.  And the light of the Scripture is meant to come and shine light on it, and blow its cover….it blows the cover of all these underlying and sometimes very sophisticated evils.

So Babylon ensnares the nations.  This is how she destroys them..she takes them over, because no one rises up, because most of them are being paid off through her system….don’t go down with her.”

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In a recent Times Literary Supplement review, Natasha Walters’s tragiscience book <i>Living Dolls: the Return of Sexism<i> hits on a common conversation piece in the Hood household:  the slutting of dolls and the inevitable negative impact on our girls:

When girls aged five to eight played with a Barbie, and were then asked about their own body image, they reported more dissatisfaction and a greater desire to be thin than did girls who had either been playing with a larger doll or who had not been playing with any doll. Barbie, with her long legs and large breasts [[Hoods’ note:  we had to create new clothes for the last Barbie my daughter was given]], and Bratz [[Hoods’ note:  we’ve drawn the line here:  no Bratz allowed]], with fishnet stockings, feather boa and up-for-anything attitude, are not “just toys”; they indoctrinate girls into the culture of pornography wherein girls are raised not only to be thin and compulsively critical of their own physiques, but also to be “babes”. These dolls form part of the pornography that has entered mainstream culture to transform girls into animate versions of the sexist and sexy dolls they embrace in innocent delight.

In another (far more mature) review of the same book, to which I won’t link, the point is made that the pornification of our culture is having far-reaching negative effects on girls, women and society:

“Some years ago, four ingenious psychologists conducted a study in which young men and women were instructed to complete a short maths [[Brit-speak…they are either so smart or so postmodern in the UK they have more than one math]] exercise while wearing either a sweater or a bathing suit.  The women wearing the bathing suit performed less well on the maths test than did the women who were wearing a sweater.”

The upshot is that “with her painfully inflated breasts and surgically manipulated features,” the average woman “empowering herself” in the media “is as much a slave to cultural oppression as the poor African girl who has her genitals mutilated, or the Victorian virgin who would never dare to show an ankle.”

I think it’s safe to say that this is an issue of social justice, even if it is not trendy to name it as such.  So I’m filing it accordingly.

The more pornified we become, the less oppressive older customs look.  Maybe head-coverings weren’t such a bad idea.

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Pop quiz (sorry, former schoolteacher, I can’t help myself):  which statement is true?

(A)  Preachers, teachers, and individuals readers should use God’s redemptive actions (even supernatural miracles) to teach and learn about extending grace and mercy to others.

(B)  It cheapens God’s great miraculous acts when we use them to inspire our not-so-miraculous works.

For those who answered (B), Paul applies the manna passage of Exodus 16 in a surprising way.  He spends two chapters in 2 Corinthians on his fundraising for the poor in Judea.  Somewhere in between the spurring and the guilt manipulating, we get this:

“As a matter of fairness [are my kids right after all?] your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness.  As it is written, ‘Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.’”

The last sentence is a quotation from Exodus 16, a description of the perfectly equitable conditions that existed when God provided manna.  God’s miraculous provision for his people leads to God’s work in spurring his people to generosity.  Throughout this chapter Paul uses the word “grace” (xaris, = gift) to describe both God’s generosity to us and our generosity to others. (For more on this awesome in Scripture, click to see this great recent book by my friends.)

In 2 Corinthians God’s perfect provision is being recognized as the goal for the covenant community, even across continental and ethnic boundaries, and essentially across denominational lines as well, given that the Jewish Christian recipients of this gift kept Torah.  The early Christians who took that goal seriously and used their abundance to meet the needs of their brothers and sisters changed the world.  Those who take seriously the call to respond to divine generosity with generosity will do the same, in very small ways, one life and one gift at a time.

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Recently in Boston, abolitionist scholar Zoe Trodd stated that there are “Twenty-seven million slaves are in the world today.” He went on to say “They are enslaved in a variety of types of slavery: chattel slavery, debt bondage slavery and contract slavery.” The price of a slave in current economic terms is approximately $40, making slaves today the cheapest they have ever been in history, Trodd said. You can read the article here. If what he says is true, it is now cheaper in many parts of the world to buy a human being than it is to buy an iPod shuffle. 

Modern day slavery is an issue the church MUST address, and there are many roots to it. If you are interested in direct engagement with the issue go to http://www.ijm.org to educate yourself on what you and your church can do and how you can partner  with their mission. In the coming weeks I want to take time to reflect on what I think a major root to the issue is, namely the objectification of people. We will look at atrocities like Human trafficking but also at realities more close to home.

Somehow people have become objects for our enjoyment and our personal advancement rather than image bearers of Creator God. Human trafficking, the trade of humans for profit, shows us that in many parts of the world people are no different than toothpaste, tires, or trinkets. People can be bought, sold, used, and traded at will. This enrages me. But an honest look at our culture reveals that we are not far from this ourselves. Women occupy a place of objectification for men, becoming objects for enjoyment and entertainment rather than image bearers of the King! In our churches we see people as stats, the poor as problems and projects, and the wealthy as machines of provision. In the midst of it all dignity is lost leaving such a devastated state one can only ask, does human dignity still matter?. 

In the next few weeks I am going to be posting on and off on the state of the dignity of people in our world and ask questions of the necessary response of God’s people. This will be an informal series rooted in three things- God’s word, God’s people, and God’s world. The church cannot remain silent on major atrocities of our day. If you have ideas on topics you want discussed include them in the comment box. If not, stay tuned…

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Today is Monday, and it’s my daughter’s fifth birthday.  We usually have the trash out on Monday for pickup.  But today, April 5, there’s no trash pickup in Memphis.  42 years ago Memphis sanitation workers (click for chronology; also note the video) were striking and had a guest in town supporting their cause.  My kids have been learning about Elvis, and they’ve learned that he’s part of the reason Memphis is famous.   But we’ve not yet covered the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. with my kids.  But we will at some point.  It’s not something one can or should sweep under the rug.

There’s another mid-south area story not to be swept under the rug of history (this event happened on my wife’s birthday).  I’m telling it from John Perkins’s own words and from James Boice’s retelling of the same.

“On February 7, 1970, a Saturday night, a van of black college stuents who had been taking part in a civil rights march was pulled over by highway patrolmen from Brandon, Mississippi, and the students were arrested.  Perkins and two of his associates went to the jail to post bail, but when they arrived they were surrounded by five deputy sheriffs and several highway patrolmen who arrested them and began to beat them…

“Perkins was beaten most of the night, along with some of the others. They stomped on him and kicked him in the head, ribs, and groin. One officer brought a fork over to him and said, ‘Do you see this’? Then he jammed it up his nose. After that he shoved it down his throat. For part of that terrible evening Perkins was unconscious and so mutilated that the students who were watching over him in his cell thought that he was either dead or about to die.

Yet it did something good for Perkins.  Up to this point he had been in Mississippi only to preach to black people.  It was all he was allowed to do, of course.  The doors of virtually all white churches were closed to him.  But the beating changed (Perkins) and gave him a new vision. He wrote, “’I remembered their faces – so twisted with hate. It was like looking at white-faced demons. For the first time I saw what hate had done to those people. These policemen were poor. They saw themselves as failures.  The only way they knew how to find a sense of worth was by beating us. Their racism made them feel like ‘somebody’…

“’When I saw that, I just couldn’t hate back. I could only pity them. I said to God that night, ‘God if you will get me out of this jail alive’ – and I really didn’t think I would, maybe I was just trying to bargain with him – ‘I really want to preach a gospel that will heal these people, too.’”

We’re covering Eph 2:11-3:6 in Sunday School the coming week.  In passages like that in Paul, in Perkins’s story and in MLK’s body of work, there’s real life application for Christians today in Memphis and around the world, for in telling those stories and soaking in truth, we learn how and why we treat God’s people as one family…

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In response to several of Jason’s recent and powerful posts I am moved to make a brief recognition of what happens when God’s people respond faithfully to God’s mission of making all things new. Here is a stellar quote that touches on several things Jason has written:

Andrew Peterson, song, “All Things New”: “The world was good, the world is fallen, the  world will be redeemed, so hold on to the promise. The stories are true that Jesus  makes all things new. The dawn is upon you. Rise up, oh you sleeper, awake, the light of  the dawn is upon you. Rise up, oh you sleeper, awake, he makes all things new.”

The practical implications of this reality born out in our life is nothing short of transforming. The practical implication of this reality born out THROUGH our life is nothing short of a call for us to surrender and be faithful vehicles of God’s work in this world. And this message of the life of the way things are supposed to be will be met with resistance in a world where things are the way they are. Today, as we remember the resurrection, we also remember those who have been bearers of its reality in our world, particularly Dr. Matin Luther King Jr. His dream was the reality of the resurrection applied THROUGH his life and work and if we have truly been caught up in the reality of this day we will have the same resolve to bring the same realities to bear in this world as we seek to make all things new.

Thank you, Dr. King, and men and women like you who are, and have been, faithful (but still fallen) vehicles of the reality of the resurrection and new creation, putting things that have been disorded by the sin of this world back into right and resurrected order through the person and work of Christ.


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