Working for a Better World

This week I talked with two friends who are searching for their place in this world. I can relate. :) They are looking for different things, but they both expressed a desire to find ways to use their talents more directly and fully. Both are Christians, so that gave the conversations a certain shape. One friend spoke about social justice; he wants his life’s work to somehow make this world a better place for people who are under society’s heel or are neglected at the margins (my words, not his). He asked about finding work in a social justice organization, which made me think of the following bits.

Geography versus Mission

First, you have to be clear about your priority. Which is more important to you — (a) where you live or (b) the specific issue you engage or organization you work for? If you want to live in the PNW, you might look into World Vision. If you want to live in Colorado, check out Compassion International. But if you want to fight human trafficking, look at International Justice Mission (Washington DC), Exodus Cry (Grand View, MO), or Tiny Hands International (Lincoln, NE).

Nonprofit versus For-profit

Many of us start our search for our better-world-job in the nonprofit sector. Makes sense. And here is a list on my site to help you in that quest. If you want to support abused women, fight AIDS, drill wells, or respond to disasters around the world, you’re probably going to find yourself in the nonprofit world. But these are not the only organizations making the world a better place.

For-profit businesses are also important for a better world. Nonprofits rely heavily, though not exclusively, on donations and grants. These funds come from people and organizations that make money and have some left over to give to nonprofits. So they are important sources of funds, and certain ones are also doing good through their work. The rise of the social entrepreneur is an important feature of modern capitalism (since that’s what we’re working with here). And this is a lot bigger than just Toms.

If you’re into fair trade, check out Ten Thousand Villages or other similar importers (I toured two cooperatives in Guatemala and was really impressed with the difference they make). If your focus is the environment, check out basically everyone who contributes to 1% for the Planet.

Also, B Corporations are worth looking at (see The Economist). Maybe Patagonia would fit the bill, or how about Textbooks for Change (B Corp job list).

So maybe you’ll find your work in an important nonprofit, or maybe you’ll find it in an equally important business. Or in a school, a hospital, an engineering firm, a research lab, or a film company. There are just so many different ways to use your skills and experience to make the world a better place. It can be overwhelming.

Christian versus Secular versus Interfaith

Do you want your faith or world view to play a direct role in your work?

US versus Abroad

I’m writing from the US, so that is my home base, so substitute your home country for the U.S. Basically, do you want to work around the world or closer to home?

Government versus Private

Does USAID or Blood:Water more closely align with your aspirations? Does it matter to you?


No, this list is not exhaustive; there are more considerations. :) So yes, it can be overwhelming. But it’s a grand quest. Talking with friends and family, experimenting locally through volunteerism, taking time away for prayer, and the passing of time are all things that help the search. May we all engage the on-going process of connecting our skills with the world’s need. Probably the best sermon I’ve heard on the topic is by Shane Claiborne–Finding Your Calcutta. Kingdom Calling (Sherman) might be easier for most people to get their hands on.

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
― Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC (Good Reads)

I Want Jesus to Return

“I want Jesus to return.”

I heard this phrase and sentiment voiced in sermons, songs, and sales pitches at the recent General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. This desire is at the core of Adventism; it’s right there in the name.

I also want Jesus to return. But why? What does this mean to me? I pondered this after hearing the slogan at every turn in San Antonio. Here are some of the reasons I want Jesus to return, that stone that crushes every empire.

I want love to win. Finally, fully, and forever.

I want the proud, powerful, and pretentious brought low. I want the oppressed, marginalized, and abused to be free and safe.

I want love, compassion, justice, goodness, fairness, respect, and equality—peace—to reign.

I want scientists and theologians alike to be humbled and shown the limits of human knowledge of both the universe and God.

I want the end of every economic system that favors profits over both people and the environment.

I want governments to see the ludicrous nature of warfare and the never-ending arms race.

God, humble us all—everyone. May Your will be done on earth as in heaven. And may I play my part in that now as a foretaste of how it will be then.

NOTE: After writing this, I see Mary already said the same but with much greater power and poetry:

“He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty” (Luke 1:51-53).

Seventh-day Adventists and Ordination

On Wednesday, July 8 , 2015, delegates to the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination voted to not allow the church’s 13 world divisions to decide if they would ordain women as pastors within their regions. Women may still be ordained as deaconnesses and elders or be commissioned as pastors, but the vote means there is no change in policy regarding the ordination of women to pastoral ministry.

This is the statement delegates voted on: “Is it acceptable for division executive committees, as they may deem it appropriate in their territories, to make provision for the ordination of women to the gospel ministry? Yes or No.” The vote was 1,381 against and 977 in favor, with 5 abstentions. This was actually a closer count than many of us expected.

I am in favor of ordaining (or commissioning) men and women equally, so I was disappointed in the outcome; however, the vote shows that opinions are moving in this direction. Past votes have been more lopsided against ordaining women.

I will continue to update the following list of blog posts and news articles about the vote and how people are responding to it.

BLOGS (Post-vote)

Seventh-day Adventist World Church Votes To Leave Ordination Decision with Unions (Adams, Pacific Union Recorder, 13 July)

My Daughters Shall Prophesy (Wilkes, Dunamis Insight, 13 July)

After San Antonio . . . what now? (Bruinsma, 12 July)

Post #GCSA15: 5 things Adventist Millenials can do after the General Conference (Wilson, Cross Culture Christian, 12 July)

Facebook post (Doug Hardt & Jeff Carlson, 12 July)

Reflections on San Antonio (Rosado, Adv Today, 12 July)

A Response to the GC Vote on Women in Ministry (Patterson, Vimeo, 11 July)

To Those Sanctified (Pierce, audio recording, 11 July)

The Highest Position for a Woman (Cortes, 11 July)

Reaching for the Church (Mackenzian, 10 July)

At The Intersection of Millennialism & Adventism (Hayes, Medium, 10 July)

Why I Am Thoroughly Upset With Adventism And I’m Still Here (Smith, Eumelanated, 10 July)

Nelson (Facebook, 10 July)

The Real Issues in San Antonio (Ed Dickerson, Outlook, 9 July)

Why I Love Being a Seventh-day Adventist (Despite A Very Disappointing Vote on Women’s Ordination) (Samuels, 8 July)

THE BIG TOPIC, Wednesday, July 8, 2015 GC (PA President’s Blog, 8 July)

God’s Crazy-Patient Grace: Thoughts on the “No Vote” at GC (Torres, TheHaystack.TV, 9 July)

What I want women in ministry to know (Imprrh, LEAD, 9 July)

My Resolve on Women’s Ordination (Simply Vinie, 8 July)

Ordain Seventh-day Adventist ministers without regard to gender effective immediately and end all gender discrimination in the SDA Church in Canada. (

Trans-European Division President Sends Letter to Women in Ministry (Kamal, Spectrum, 12 July 2015)

Reissued Statement of Clarification on the Roles of Women in Ministry (NAD, N.D.)

GC President Says Ordination Vote Doesn’t Change Current Policy (McChesney, Adv Review, 10 July)

University & Seminary Respond to GC Vote (Andrews University, 10 July)

GC Session San Antonio 2015 (Podcast, 10 July)

Women’s Ordination: DivisionsMay Not Decide (NAD News Points, 9 July)

3 Lessons for Surviving the Fallout of the Ordination Vote (Fernandez, Reflections, 8 July)

Slain Egyptians in the Sand: San Antonio and the “Ordination” Vote (Reflections, N.D.)


Seventh-day Adventists affirm women in ministry, but vote down their ordination (Kellner, Desert News, 9 July)

Seventh-day Adventists vote against female ordination (Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post, 8 July)


Losing My Religion for Equality (Carter, The Age, 15 July 2009)


San Antonio vote defines “future GC delegate” as “male Adventist with midlife crisis” (Barely Adventist, 10 July)

San Antonio sells out of Kleenex overnight (Barely Adventist, 9 July)

Emotional GC vote confirms horse and buggy as only Adventist transport (Barely Adventist, 8 July)

Systemic Racism for Dummies

Visual posted a short video on system racism. You can view it on Facebook here, where you’ll also have access to an extensive list of additional resources. I’ve also embedded the video below:

McKinney, TX, Pool Party + More on Race

Pool Party Incident

Additional Articles Addressing Racial Issues in America

On the Murder of Nine African-American Christians in Charleston, SC [UPDATED]

These articles offer commentary that I either appreciate or will soon read. :) I’m thankful for the articles people share with me, but I’m having a hard time keeping up. I’ll keep track of my list here, updating as I learn more. Listed in reverse chronological order:

Somewhat related:

About Rachel Dolezal and Identity and Integrity [UPDATED]

When the story of Rachel Dolezal’s secret identity broke, I had no idea how to think through it. Naturally, I turned to “hashtag research” to see what others were saying. Here are some of the posts that stood out to me. Below are articles that I found or that were shared with me later.

The ‪#‎AskRachel‬ meme showed me how little I know, so I appreciated this –

This showed up along the way – – reminding me that I had just been learning about the TX incident when the identity story went live. Too many stories too fast. I can’t learn from one before the next one hits.

Deeper Analysis:

Race, Crime, Perception and Consequences in America

Recently, I highlighted a book by Michelle Alexander that looks at race and incarceration in the United States. I also included a link to the following speech that she gave in Chicago in 2013.

AJ+ offers a shorter, less-detailed summary of this reality:

Continuing with this theme, Marquaysa Battle has posted 12 Heartbreaking Facts About The School To Prison Pipeline That Every Person Should Know,” a compilation of stats and graphics that you may have seen floating independently on social media. Taken together, it adds breadth to the arguments Michelle Alexander advances. For instance, it adds foster care statistics to the conversation. Naturally, correlation and causation continue to be issues to think through when digesting statistics.

Two articles in the Baltimore Sun represent the priorities of incarceration and education. Arguments are not lacking for either side, but in the end, the decisions reflect society’s priorities.

This week we witnessed another case study in law enforcement and race; however, this time it was from the other side–police action to stop a fight between biker gangs in Texas. This situation is not entirely identical to the situations in Ferguson or Baltimore (or…), so we have to be careful about drawing conclusions. Regardless, these two articles make some meaningful observations about law enforcement’s approach in Texas:

Differences in perceptions of black and white individuals are also explored in the following scenarios:

ABC 20 20 What Would You Do Racism In America, Part 1 HQ (YouTube, Uploaded 2009)

ABC 20 20 What Would You Do Racism In America, Part 2 HQ (YouTube, Uploaded 2009)

Black Man Vs. White Man Carrying AR-15 Legally (YouTube, Uploaded May 2015)

Deleted material from AR-15 stop above (YouTube, Uploaded March 2013)

Taking this conversation in a different direction, The Real News posted a conversation between Cornel West, Eddie Conway, and Rev. Sekou on building a mass movement for racial justice (link).

Two additional articles on race in America:

Finally, I’m not sure how to overcome the psychology of the human brain described in this article — The Most Depressing Discovery About the Brain, Ever (Kaplan, AlterNet, 16 Sept 2013). It seems like we learn from experience more than from statistics, but how do we enable one group to experience the reality of another group so that learning can take place? In an era of self-segregation, how do people of good will overcome racism? What role can and should faith communities play in working for and demonstrating the beloved community?

It’s easy for my wife and I to march a bit, and we should, but I see that we also need to be about the harder work of building community.

Why Do I Believe What I Believe?

Many things affect what we believe about the world, God, ethics, politics, and other valuative topics–how we were raised, the type of education we received or sought, the kinds of people we associate with, the type of work we do, our life experiences. What we do and who we spend time with seem to affect our beliefs as much as the other way around. Those who took Social Psychology know I’m splashing in the shallow end of the pool here.

I thought about this again while reading an article in The Daily Beast, “Half of Atheist Kids Wind Up Believing” (Zavadski, 13 May 2015). The article looks at a few reasons for this trend (even questioning the trend itself), and “reference group” seems to be important here, though it’s not an all-powerful factor as the anecdotes indicate. (That article is based on this Pew Research project–America’s Changing Religious Landscape.)

Do you belong to a faith community? Why did you choose to join this group? Why do you stay? Did mental beliefs about theology or philosophy play a role at the beginning or later? How about the relational aspects of an individual or of the community? Or the group’s moral aspirations or sub-culture? Other factors? (believing, belonging, behaving)

Zavadski’s article spoke about the power of the people we date and marry. Our closest peeps tend to have a significant influence on us. Widening that a bit, who are your reference groups?

I think I have two primary reference groups, though there are many more at various cultural and religious levels. First, there is the social activist community, specifically radical Christian activists whose primary focus is embodying and working for God’s peace and justice in the world. Possibly the most well-known person in this reference group is Shane Claiborne.

My second mental reference group is the dirtbag adventurer–people who want to experience life outside more than anything else. Viva los funhogs, the conquerors of the useless. Get out stay out. Going out is going in. Keep it wild; keep it simple. Yvon Chouinard could be the figurehead of this group.

One of the few commonalities between these is a commitment to simplicity in order to keep the main thing the main thing. Dedication to the core pursuit. There is also an element of activism to both since many dirtbags do work for environmental conservation. The area of conflict is the action to pursue–spend the majority of time on social action or adventure?

What I wear, the books I read, the way I spend my “free” time, the food I eat, and so many other decisions are affected by the reinforcing loops of these two groups, regardless of the tension between them. I was somewhat into those things, had those values, and when I began to connect with those communities, I was further reinforced by both social and intellectual factors (friends and books/films). Positive feedback loops. If I met either Shane or Yvon, what would they think of my life? If they came over for dinner, how would they evaluate our place, our menu? If they saw my bank or credit card statement, what would they think of my priorities?

A professor asked me about this before applying to an Anabaptist seminary. He asked about career goals and personal interests, but I remember he finished our conversation by asking, “Are you sure you want to be shaped by this community?” The social context you choose will become an important reference group, so are you sure this is a group you want to influence you over the next few years?

I think of Jesus eating a meal with Zacchaeus. Jesus (and Jesus’ community) was a new reference group for Z, and he wanted to show he fit in. “You are a man of integrity and compassion, so I’m going to be a man of integrity and compassion. See, I mean it.” (Luke 19)

Christians may think of Jesus in these terms today, but I’m not sure sociologists would consider Jesus part of someone’s reference group now since he doesn’t play a social role. Rather, our reference groups today have some influence over how we think of Jesus and discipleship. Paul gets at this when he says, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1; CF 4:16). In essence, “I’ve seen Jesus and been taught by Jesus [roadside + 3 years training]. I’m living like him, so make me leader of your reference group.” I think essentially this is the “discipleship” model. Christians know to keep one’s eyes on Jesus, but the religious reference group we look to is actually to help us do this very thing, oddly enough.

Who are your primary reference groups? Whose approval matters most to you? Can you clearly name them? A political party, a denomination or religion, a specific congregation, a musical genre, an occupation, classmates, family, etc.? How do these groups affect you? What role do you play in these groups as people look to you? How free are you to act outside of the direct approval of these groups without having negative repercussions?

Selma and Cesar Chavez

Tonight we watch the film Cesar Chavez, and it reminded me of Selma, which we watched shortly before listening to Senator John Lewis speak. (As an aside, almost a decade ago we attended an event where Dolores Huerta spoke, so it was interesting to see how she was played in the film by Rosario Dawson.) Both movies look at social movements, exploring the leaders, tactics, economics, politics and spirituality of social change.

An important theme in my mind is unity in diversity, the bringing together of different people groups. In Selma, it was white and black, to oversimplify. In Cesar Chavez it was Hispanic and Filipino, later American and European. And others like the various unions and even consumers and workers. Connections and coalitions are vital for positive change.

I saw this embodied in a small, local way recently. We attended a march hosted by two student groups at a local university–the Black student union and the Muslim student union. We walked and chanted, “Black lives matter. All lives matter.” It was a limited event in both time and scale–we marched, some gave impromptu speeches, we marched some more, some shared ideas for how to work for change, and then we dispersed–but I appreciated these different student groups were working together.

Here are trailers for both films:


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