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Is it ever okay to celebrate a sinner’s downfall?

Sin is frightening and dangerous. Its seed is within all of us, lurking and waiting for its moment to act. It slithers beneath the surface, never proclaiming its presence until it is too late. In many ways, it knows us better than we know ourselves, and it definitely knows what buttons to push.

Sin’s allure is hypnotic and seductive. It can even be beautiful. Sin appeals to our own hedonism and promises us the world. It assures us that there is nothing wrong with it, that it’s actions are victimless, and that it feels really, really wonderful. And most importantly, it assures us that we will never get caught—provided we are uber-cautious in covering our tracks, we have the power and finances to silence any witnesses or bury any evidence, or we have a good alibi or rationalization to at least minimalize our guilt and shame in the event we get caught. read more

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The outsiders: Faith and exile in America

5130991619_5f2a3bd38d_zLately I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to live as an outsider, marginalized by society.

Being an outsider is the focus of a chapter I am currently working on for my next book: when I am not researching, I am writing and reflecting on the topic.

I have always struggled with a feeling of “outsiderness,” but the feeling has been getting stronger recently. I really don’t “belong” anywhere. Academically, I wear the scarlet letter of a failed PhD. Philosophically, I am a small-town Montana boy whose beliefs and values go against those of my city (Portland, Oregon). Temperamentally, I am an introvert in a society which prizes extraversion. And politically, I find the most popular candidates for president to be either childish and vulgar, or lacking in credibility, or both. So even in my own country’s political process, with “outsider” candidates capturing huge numbers of votes, I feel like an even bigger outsider than they are because I don’t understand what their supporters see in them. I don’t get it; I just don’t fit in. I keep thinking, Why am I so out of step with everyone else? What am I missing? read more

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Three words only the smartest people can say

Current events can be hard on one’s mental health. Reports of terrorism, racism, and other insanities flash across our TV and computer screens faster than we can follow. We’re only a decade and a half into the twenty-first century, yet already so much has changed that we hardly know how to make sense of it.

But it doesn’t matter; we don’t have to think for ourselves because there are others to do that for us. For every headline in traditional and online media, there is an endless parade of experts proclaiming an endless parade of sure-fire solutions.

Some of these people are really smart.

But the more I read, watch, and listen to them, the more I believe this: if their confident solutions were given the free rein they desire, the crises would not be solved but in fact could be made worse. read more

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