Category Archives: Uncategorized

WWYD: What Would You Do?

I recently asked friends on Facebook how they would like to make the world a better place. More specifically, I asked about a single change that would make a big difference. I’ve been trying to think about one action/change that would make a significant positive improvement in the lives of individuals and wider society.

What do you think? What one change would have the greatest benefit? An attitude change? Something about mental or physical health? Some form of social action? A religious or faith-oriented change? Something political?

My current thought is that if us parents turned off our TVs in order to read with our kids, that could have a substantial positive impact for people of every faith, political party, and socioeconomic level. I could also see “…in order to play games with our kids,” but for now I’m going with “reading.” I don’t have any data to back this up, so it’s just a theory that it would make a difference in multiple ways.

So what do you think? If you could make one change in society to have maximum ripple effects of goodness, what would it be? What reasoning or data backs your theory?

Here are the responses people shared:

Mike: “I would add smart phone browsing with that. What started out as communicating on platforms such as Facebook, has often turned into a non productive waste of time!”

Loralee: “In talking with my students, what would make the biggest difference for them is understanding why a rule is in place. Also, just plain and simple time for discussion where they can hear other viewpoints.”

Jeff: “Intentionally serving together as a family.”

Mary: “Yes, reading to our kids. If not reading, playing and spending our time with them making memories and bonding our relationship with them. Trips, cooking and baking together…etc.”

Kristina: “More volunteerism. Now that I’m not inside Adventism anymore, I have come to realize how few people are brought up to volunteer as a regular part of their life. I wish it was something more parents taught their kids.”

Andrew: “This is a huge question and really has me thinking. I agree with Kristina in that volunteerism is a big thing that is lacking, and something anyone can do to better the lives of others. It has to be done in a smart way though. I know, at least when I was a child and in the church, the big thing was going on mission trips to build a church. But I’ve read that doing that has no significant value to the community you do it at, and actually can make things worse economically. So intelligent volunteerism is a huge individual change we can be doing. On a bigger scale, a huge political improvement, in my opinion, is more socialist programs, especially in terms of health care and education. If we can, as a nation, improve those two things, we would be so much further ahead than we are currently.”

John: “I like all of them, but will go another direction. Parents need to teach their kids to accept and even love those that don’t look just like them, that go to a different church or religious affiliation (or none), that come from a different country. But who will teach the parents?”

Michelle: “I totally agree with you, Jeff, on reading. I was doing a best practices presentation recently on reading strategies, and in preparing my introduction, I came across this fact sheet – 11 Facts about Literacy in America. I knew some of the facts on here, but did not know all of them. What has struck me the most in my time teaching in corrections is the difference early literacy makes. Reading to children is the major determining factor in raising ACT/SAT scores. Reading to children and helping them develop early literacy skills prepares them to learn to read in school. Learning to read in school leads to the ability to read to learn. That’s why on the fact sheet 3rd/4th grade are so important–that’s where the switch happens. Being behind grade level reading in 3rd/4th grade is a huge factor leading to incarceration. This is why I volunteer one day a week to read with kids in the homeless shelter. I want so desperately for these kids NOT to end up in my classroom, reading below a 4th grade reading level.”

Karl: “My suggestion is quite simple. I wish Christians in general and SDAs in particular would teach the literal meaning of the Sermon on the Mount (or sea) over a period of months from all the pulpits AND stop rationalizing away what the itinerant carpenter from Nazareth actually said.”

Rebecca: “Other-centeredness instead of self-centeredness.”

What about you? What fundamental change would you most like to see?

2018 Reading Project — Adventist Edition

In 2017, I made a reading plan that included one book per month. I didn’t come close to finishing that goal, but by cutting out a lot of social media, I did get a lot done with my podcast and new YouTube effort.

For 2018, I plan to read one Adventist book per month. Included in the 12 are some books I’ve already read but that I want to revisit. Here are the twelve I’ve selected (for now; it may change):

12 Adventist Books for 2018

  1. The Peacemaking Remnant (Morgan, ed., 2005)
  2. Adventism & the American Republic (Morgan, 2001)
  3. Redemption & Transformation through Relief & Development (Kuhn, 2013)
  4. Do Justice: Our Call to Faithful Living (Brown & Darby, eds., 2014)
  5. Building Peace: Overcoming Violence in Communities (Holsopple, Krall, & Pittman, 2005)
  6. Seventh-day Adventists and the Civil Rights Movement (London Jr., 2009)
  7. Entrusted: Christians and Environmental Care (Dunbar, Gibson & Rasi, eds., 2013)
  8. Reformation and the Remnant (Miller, 2016)
  9. It’s Really All About God: Reflections of a Muslim Atheist Jewish Christian (Selmanovic, 2009)
  10. Should I Fight? (Bussey, ed., 2011)
  11. The Promise of Peace (Scriven, 2009)
  12. The Silent Church: Seventh-day Adventism, Human Rights and Modern Adventist Social Ethics (Plantak, 1998)

Alternates

The following books nearly made it onto my 2018 list. Maybe next year.

  • Church and Society: Missiological Challenges for the Seventh-day Adventist Church (Maier, ed. 2015)
  • Humanism and the Death of God (Osborn, 2017)
  • Flee the Captor (Ford, 1979)
  • Anarchy and Apocalypse (Osborn, 2010)
  • I’m Not Leaving (Wilkens, 2011)
  • Planet in Distress (Christiansen, 2012)
  • Black Maverick: T. R. M. Howard’s Fight for Civil Rights and Economic Power (Beito & Beito, 2009)
  • The Lost Meaning of the Seventh Day (Tonstad, 2009)
  • The Religious Roots of the First Amendment: Dissenting Protestants and the Separation of Church and State (Miller, 2012)
  • I Pledge Allegiance: The Role of Seventh-day Adventists in the Military (Phillips & Tsatalbasidis, 2008)
  • Living Soul: We Shall Overcome (Cleveland, 1974)
  • Millennial Dreams and Moral Dilemmas: Seventh-day Adventism and
  • Contemporary Ethics (Pearson, 2008)
  • Pursuing the Passion of Jesus (Nelson, 2005)
  • The Eleventh Commandment (Nelson, 2013)
  • Conscience on Trial: The Fate of Fourteen Pacifists in Stalinʼs Ukraine, 1952-1953 (Kuromiya, 2012)
  • E.G. White and Church Race Relations (Graybill, 1970)
  • Seeking a Sanctuary: Seventh-day Adventism and the American Dream (Bull & Lockhart, 2006)
  • Seventh-day Adventism in Crisis: Gender and Sectarian Change in an Emerging Religion (Vance, 1999)
  • Seventh-day Adventists in Time of War (Wilcox, 1936)
  • Bert B. Beach: Ambassador for Liberty (Beach, 2012)
  • The Transformation of Culture: Christian Social Ethics After H. Richard Niebuhr (Scriven, 1988)
  • The Unlikeliest Hero: The Story of Desmond T. Doss, Conscientious Objector Who Won His Nation’s Highest Military Honor (Herndon, 1967)
  • Ellen White on Leadership: Guidance for Those Who Influence Others (Tutsch, 2008)
  • Keys to Adventist Community Service (AdventSource)
  • Ministries of Compassion (A Handbook for Adventist Community Services, Inner City Programs and Social Action Projects) (Sahlin, 2000)

|Research: Peace & Justice Journals

I attended an academic writing workshop today. One of the presenters recommended these two books:

Part of the time focused on analyzing journals to determine their level of respect within academia. I subsequently went searching for peace journals, and I found the following lists:

This is redundant, but I also came across these specific journals while locating the larger lists above. I haven’t studied them enough to know which ones are respected, so it’s probably safer to start with the lists above, which are collected by reputable universities and libraries.

I haven’t published anything for a couple of years, so it’s rolling around in the back of my mind. Since I’m in the research office at my university, I’m not in an academic setting of publish or perish, but I know I still need to engage more.

|Random Articles

I posted links to two stories about the racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, on another blog, and there will be more to come on that. But here are some other articles regarding Christian social ethics. Posting them here doesn’t mean I endorse everything in them; just that they are thought provoking. The first two are a topic that has been on my mind recently — patriotism and nationalism — and the last three were shared with me.

|More Podcast Episodes

Looking for some quality conversations to listen to, here are some podcast episodes I’ve really appreciated recently. Spring blossoms lining my walk to and from work add to the listening experience; sorry I can’t offer you that here. 🙂

1) “The Fear is Real” (The Dirtbag Diaries). “Loosely speaking, there are two kinds of fear. There’s the fear of external, objective hazards–like getting caught in an avalanche, or taking a bad fall climbing or getting mauled by a grizzly bear. Then, there’s the internal, more slippery kind of fear, like the fear of not being pretty enough, or not being popular enough or not being perfect enough.”

2) “The Shorts: Catching Hope” (The Dirtbag Diaries). “We’ve heard the stories of addicts who found salvation in the outdoors and the outdoor community, but that’s not the way the narrative arcs for everyone. For Paddy, recovery looked less like slashing pow turns with his ski-bum buddies, and more like a game of catch with his dad on the back lawn of a treatment facility in Minnesota.”

3) “Bears Ears” (The Dirtbag Diaries).  “In the beginning, Josh came to Bears Ears, Utah in search of adventure. But the more time he spent there, the less his relationship with the landscape had to do with first ascents, and the more it had to do with connecting to the current people and ancient cultures who call Bears Ears home. Now, Josh is a leader in the fight to protect the 1.9 million acres of wild, history-rich, red sandstone landscape.”

4) Onleilove Alston (Chasing Justice). “Speaker Onleilove Alston joins us today to discuss black representation in the Scriptures and justice from a Christian perspective. Follow her vital work at https://wholeness4all.wordpress.com/propheticwhirlwind/ and on twitter @PropheticWhirl.”

5) “The Word of God in Print and in Person” (Bruxy Cavey). “How are other pastors and church leaders responding to Greg’s proposal for interpreting the violence of God in the Old Testament? In this sermon, we get to hear from the perspective of Bruxy Cavey, pastor of The Meeting House in Toronto, Canada. He summarizes his interpretation of Greg’s writings, and offers his take.” NOTE: I actually haven’t finished listening to this one, but I’ve appreciated the first 30 minutes.

Sometimes I enjoy a quiet moment in the day walking to work or heading home, but most of the time it’s a brief window for me to think about the deeper things of life. Podcasts (and for some people audio books) can be a great way to nurture a reflective spirit when life is so busy with family, work, and service commitments.

|Podcast Episodes on Race, Bigotry, and a Bit of Politics (Updated)

I often listen to podcasts while walking to and from work. In the past few weeks, a number of episodes have dealt with racial issues and bigotry in one way or another. Here are five (listed in the order I heard them, I think):

1. The RobCast (Rob Bell) — The Priesthood of Alexander Shaia (Ep 137). “No hate.” Thanks for sharing this with me Andrew.

2. The Ingredients Podcast (Michael Nixon) — Andrew Gerard (Ep 004). The former US president, the current president, and what it might mean.

3. The Ingredients Podcast (Michael Nixon) — Garrison Hayes, Pt 1 (Ep 008). Racial reflections on Andrews University. Part 2 is also now posted, but I haven’t listened to it yet. [More: Spectrum articleIt Is Time AU Video, & AU Response. I don’t have a link to the original sermon by Dr. Kowlessar; the one listed in the Spectrum article is no longer working.]

4. Chasing Justice (The Justice Conference) — Cornel West (Ep 9). “Justice is what love looks like in public.” Too bad it’s hard to link to specific episodes.

5. Voices of Social Justice (Center for Social Justice, Human and Civil Rights; University of Georgia) — Reverend Attorney Francys Johnson  (Ep 1027). Johnson “gives an impassioned keynote address at Athens 1st Social Justice Symposium.”

Okay, one more that kind of somewhat a little relates at some some level — The Dirtbag Diaries: 2017 The Year of Big Ideas.

6. Update: Chasing Justice (The Justice Conference) — Shane Claiborne (Ep 14). Against the death penalty.

|Resurrection as Biblical Theme

This past Sabbath I led a few friends in a morning “meditation” on resurrection (15-min introduction, 45-min contemplation, 60-min conversation).

Here’s a run-down of my introduction:

  • We usually think of two instances of resurrection–Easter Sunday and Jesus’ second coming. (1) Jesus’ resurrection became the center of my faith when my faith fell apart during seminary. (2) Resurrection at the second-coming is obviously important in the Adventist understanding of biblical interpretation.
  • But… resurrection is a bigger theme than these two critical instances of resurrection. For example, Ezekiel had a vision regarding bones that God would bring back to life. God resurrects the hope and dreams of Israel. So if God is in the same business of resurrecting hope today, what dreams has God brought back to life for you, and what dreams still make you long for resurrection? This was the first of our ten reflection questions (see attached PDF).
  • Taken further, we see the theme of resurrection in any action or situation where we see something comes back to life–a relationship, a neighborhood, a piece of clothing. Little things also convey resurrection; it’s not only the big things like Easter Sunday.

To explore this theme further, I gave everyone a 4-page handout. The final page instructed people how to use it. Yes, that probably should have been the first page, so I pointed everyone to it before we split up for 45 minutes of prayer and reflection. During those 45 minutes, I took the kids out to play in the mud so it would be quiet in the retreat house for the adults.

Then during the final hour of conversation (more or less), my wife played with the kids in a separate room. In that time and also during lunch we shared what we had been thinking about and journaling about during those 45 minutes.

Here is the document we used for the morning — resurrection-feb-2017. [The order to follow is (a) the beginning through Ezekiel, then (b) page 4.]