I lead a small group at my church, CrossWay Community Church (Milwaukee), called “Christ & Culture,” where we examine various social and cultural issues of our day and try to consider how we might engage these things Christianly and Biblically.
Last night we had the privilege of hosting my dear friend, Jon Hanes, who delivered a talk on a Christian approach to environmental concerns with particular attention on the example of climate change.
Jon Hanes is an adjunct geography professor at University of Wisconsin Milwaukee (UWM) and a deacon at Lake Drive Baptist Church on the northside of Milwaukee, where I was a member with him for approximately eight years.
Many folks who were not able to attend asked me to record his talk, which I’ve provided below. We had some additional discussion and helpful conversation after the close of this recording. But the audio below reflects the “lecture” portion of his talk.
Dr. Jon Hanes January 16th 2019
Disclaimer:The opinions expressed by Jon in this audio are his own and are not representative of his employer or church.
The following is a list of discussion questions composed for a CrossWay Community Church small group, Christ & Culture, for use throughout December 2018 and January 2019.
What influences are at play in your own life shaping the way you react to and approach this topic (e.g., experiences, sources of news, upbringing, neighborhood, relationships, political views, etc.)?
What concerns do you have / what things are important to you in this controversy and subject matter?
What are our biases?
Understanding our Christian starting point:
What values, priorities, and principles should we, as Christians, be applying to this situation / question?
What Bible passages speak to this issue?
Are there any seeming tensions? If so, how do we resolve or reconcile them?
Understanding the role of government:
From a Christian perspective, what is the government’s obligation to immigrants and/or refugees.
As Christians, what should we hope or strive to see realized in our government when it comes to policy on immigration or refugees?
Evaluating society’s approaches:
What are the common approaches and reactions to immigration, immigrants, and refugees we find in our society? What messages are we hearing?
On the Right:
“A government needs law or order” (e.g., controlled borders). And with that, “If you come here illegally, you need to face the consequences” (e.g., deportation or sanctions of some kind).
“Immigrants need to assimilate to our culture and learn our language.” Or, resistance to immigration/immigrants on the grounds that, “We need to preserve our culture.”
“We need to spend our resources taking care of our own before we take care of others.”
“We might let in terrorists” (in the case of refugees).
“They are violent gang members and drug pushers” (in the case of immigrants).
“We’re not saying you can’t come here. We’re just saying, ‘Do so legally like other people.’ Follow the process that’s in place. When you come here illegally, you undermine those those who seek to come here legally.”
“They’re taking our jobs” (referring to immigrants, legal or illegal).
On the Left:
“Borders are an arbitrary or outdated concept. We don’t need them. It’s a human rights issue — people should be free to migrate and move as they please.”
“These folks are simply seeking a better life here.”
“It’s okay to break the laws” (e.g., sanctuary cities) “if those laws are unjust.”
“It’s not realistic to deport all these people who are here illegally.”
“This is the only life and country they’ve ever known” (speaking of illegals who have been here for quite some time, or who have grown up here). “They are American for all intents and purposes, even if they are undocumented.”
“You can’t punish children for the crimes of their parents” (speaking about so-called DACA individuals).
“You’re tearing families apart” (e.g., by deporting parents who are illegal, but who would leave behind legal children, or by not allowing individuals into the country who have family members here).
Why do you think folks think these ways? What concerns are at play in these sentiments? Can you see how these expression could be (or could seem to be) reasonable, or come from a place of genuine good-interest and sincerity (even if misguided or erroneous)?
How might we analyze, assess, or critique these arguments, beliefs, reactions, dispositions, etc. from a Christian perspective?
Considering policy questions:
How can we justly, fairly, and compassionately treat migrants seeking to enter our country?
How should we assess policies that demonstrate partiality towards would-be immigrants based on where they are from? Is this justifiable?
Should we build a border wall, as the Trump administration is seeking?
What do we make of the Trump administration’s policy of separating families at the border? What is a Christian response to this policy?
What policy changes could be made to improve the immigration system in our country?
Considering our responsibility:
What is the church’s responsibility in addressing or engaging these matters?
The individual christian’s responsibility?
On the ground:
What are some practical things we can do to make a difference here?
What are some ways we can helpfully speak to others (Christians or non-Christians) about these matters?
The following is a list of discussion questions composed for a CrossWay Community Church small group, Christ & Culture, for use throughout November and December 2018.
What does the Bible have to say about same-sex sexuality?
Is same-sex sexuality sinful?
What Biblical or theological questions do we have about this issue?
If someone is — as one might say — “born gay,” than how can we condemn their same-sex sexuality as sinful?
Can someone be same-sex attracted and Christian?
Is same-sex attraction a choice?
Is same-sex attraction itself sinful? Why is this distinction (if valid) important?
If someone is same-sex attracted and becomes a Christian, what should we expect their discipleship and sanctification to look like? For example, should we expect their same-sex attraction to go away? Why or why not?
Should same-sex attracted Christians embrace the label or self-identification of being gay (e.g., “gay Christian”)? Why or why not?
How should we evaluate the cultural phenomenon of linking one’s sexuality with one’s identity?
Are same-sex attracted individuals, by nature of being same-sex attracted, called to a life of celibacy?
What can we do as a church, as believers, to better help those in our midst or those in our community who are same-sex attracted? What has the church previously done well in this matter? Done poorly?
Many same-sex attracted Christians who choose a life of singleness can be susceptible to a sense of loneliness. How can we as a church help, encourage, and be more mindful of them?
Self-professing Christians disagree on this question — is homosexuality sinful? Is this an area where we can just “agree to disagree” and still maintain unity?
How can we help children (our own, or those in our church) navigate this topic in a culture that is increasingly affirming (and with insistence) of same-sex sexualities?
What should Christians make of “gay marriage”?
Should Christians support or oppose the legalization of gay marriage?
Should Christians attend their homosexual friends’ wedding ceremony?
Should Christians in certain professions (e.g., bakers, photographers) refuse to provide services for same-sex marriages?
How should we counsel someone who is in a homosexual marriage (according to law) and becomes a Christian?
How can we winsomely communicate our convictions to non-believers?
Transgenderism & Gender Dysphoria:
What should we make of “gender dysphoria”? Is transgenderism a choice, sin, disorder, and/or valid expression of self-understanding?
What does the Bible have to say, if anything, about gender dysphoria or transgenderism?
How can we help those experiencing gender dysphoria or self-identifying themselves as transgender?
Should we accommodate and use individuals’ “preferred pronouns” even if they conflict with their known biological sex?
How should we counsel someone who becomes a Christian and previously underwent sex reassignment surgery?
If you are overly excited about the results of the midterm elections, your hope and confidence are misplaced. And equally so, if you’re despairing or doomsday-like about the midterm elections, this also is symptomatic of a misplaced hope.
Christian, engage in politics. Exercise your Christian social responsibility. But do not place your hope in the political arena.
Christ is king. He was king before this. He’s still king today. And he won’t stop being king at any time in the future. God’s kingdom purposes are sure and immutable. Our politics neither make him king, nor hinder his kingship.
Christ’s kingdom is everlasting and without end. It is the only kingdom that will ultimately last; and it will eventually eclipse all worldly kingdoms. These midterms are a mere a blip, a speck, on the timeline of God’s eternal purposes.
Engage. Don’t make too little of politics and dismiss it altogether. But don’t make too much of politics either — leading towards either despair or misplaced confidence.
A Mother’s Day Reflection & Prayer CrossWay Community Church May 13th, 2018
Today is Mother’s Day. It’s a day we’ve dedicated to acknowledging, thanking, and celebrating mothers.
And as Christians, we have all the more reason to be appreciative.
We understand that God himself is the author motherhood. In the beginning, when God said, “Let us make humankind in our own image,” he followed it up with, “Be fruitful and multiply.” And in those words he created motherhood. Having moms was his idea.
And don’t miss this. The Bible calls this a blessing. Right before God says, “Be fruitful and multiply,” notice how he introduces this statement. What does the passage say? “And God blessedthem, and said, ‘Be fruitful and multiply.” The command to be fruitful and multiply, and with it the institution of motherhood, is described as a blessing by God.
As James tells us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift comes from our Father above.” And so when we give thanks for moms, we express thanks first and foremost to God himself. Motherhood was his idea. It’s a blessing from God.
And this is something many of us know from our own experience. Many of us have personally experienced the blessings of motherhood – whether that’s through your own mom, or maybe you’ve had the privilege of being a mom yourself. –Or we might add here, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers.
Moms are an expression of God’s grace towards humanity – for the rearing of children, for the good of the family, and for the betterment of society.
At the same time, we’d amiss if we failed to acknowledge the fact that for many Mother’s Day is a difficult day.
Some today are reminded of mothers that have since passed away. The grief is still real.
Some may struggle with bitterness, anger, or guilt. Maybe their relationship with their mom was less than what God intended it to be.
Others still are haunted by the pain of infertility, miscarriage, or past abortion; or we think of those here who are single and would desire to be married and become mothers. For many in our midst, Mother’s Day may feel like little more than a cruel reminder of loss and heartache. And far too often they suffer in silence. Because these situations are often private, their pain is often overlooked and forgotten.
The list goes on: Sometimes motherhood begins with unplanned or unexpected pregnancies – at times with fear, shame, or uncertainty. We can think of single mothers who may be raising children on their own. –Grandmothers who, for a variety of reasons, may be raising their children’s children. –Mothers of children with disabilities, and any unique challenges or demands those circumstance may bring.
There are undoubtedly a variety of stories represented in this room. And all of our experiences are unique, with differing mixes of joy and difficulty.
And so we experience Mother’s Day with a certain level of ambivalence. As Paul says, we are a body. We consider ourselves, not as separate, isolated individuals, but as those connected to one another. When one part of the body hurts, we all hurt with them.
And so Mother’s Day is a day in which we practice Paul’s exhortation to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” We hold up – on the one hand – the joys and blessing of motherhood. We thank God for our mothers, and show appreciation to our moms. Yet at the same time we show sympathy, care, and sensitivity to those for whom today is difficult.
As we do so, let’s pray towards that end:
God, on a day like today, we are simultaneously aware of the great gift you have given us in motherhood, and yet deeply grieved by the effects of sin upon it. We can hold these two together because we know that you have given us motherhood as something good; and yet things are not always the way you designed them to be. And so we are joyous and thankful; and yet at the same time we embrace those who mourn.
God, we thank you for motherhood. We give you thanks for mothers and grandmothers who raised us well. We give you thanks for moms who were with us during hard times, for moms who prayed for us when we were wayward, and for moms who served us in ways that often went unnoticed.
For those here who themselves have had the privilege of being mom and grandmoms, we thank you for that gift. We thank you for the joy of being able to welcome a newborn baby into the world – of seeing their first steps, and hearing their first words. We thank you for the children you have put into their stewardship, and the privilege it is to raise them to follow you.
We also recognize those in our community here who experience pain and a sense of loss today. We think of those mothers or grandmothers whose circumstances may be difficult or trying. We think specifically of those who have lost mothers, for whom today may feel like an anniversary of their grief. We think of those who long to be mothers, but mourn the absence of new life within them; those who’ve conceived, but suffered loss through miscarriage or abortion; those who have given birth, but endured the tragedy of having to bury their own child.
With them we cry, O Lord, how long must death get its way at the outset of life?
But you, O God, have answered our cry. You have shown concern for our plight by sending your very Son. He himself bore our sorrows and is deeply acquainted with our grief. Because of his resurrection, death no longer has any sting. And so, when we grieve, we now grieve as those with hope. We await a new heavens and a new earth in which all pain and suffering will be undone.
We thank you for this hope in the name Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.