Read a Book, Write a Book

Tar Heel Reader

Tar Heel Reader

OK, here in Kansas we have forgiven the Tar Heels for stealing our coach, especially since we won the national championship last year with our new coach.  This year–uh, was a rebuilding year and some other team won  it.

The “Tar Heel Reader” is a fun site, sponsored the University of North Carolina.  You can write your own book or read books written by others.  The target users are children and teenagers.  The site provides authors with photographs; and so far there are books in eight languages, including Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and German.  It’s a great way to learn a little bit of a foreign language, or to express your creativity.

Thanks to Seumus MacDonald for the tip!

Changing the World, One T-Shirt at a Time

Today was graduation at MCC, the college where I teach.  The commencement speaker challenged the graduates to “Change the World.”

And the funny thing is, I think they will.  Three or four (or five or six) years ago, they were awkward, uncertain kids just out of high school, without too many clues.  Some are still finding their way; but some have a sense of confidence, focus, and purpose.

Three of my students and former students–actually, I don’t know if any of them are today’s graduates; one graduated a year ago, the other two have a year or two to go–have a plan to change part of the world.

They are going to an impoverished urban area in South Africa.  They want to empower women there.  One of them, diminuitive in size, has a big dream.  She has supported herself in college the last couple years by making T-shirts.

So this team of three young women from the US is going halfway around the world to help their sisters south of the equator set up a T-shirt shop.  They hope this adventure in small enterprise will do a small part in building a local economy and giving women some control over their own lives.

The alumna in our group will also be working in the public  schools, teaching girls how to reduce their likelihood of contracting AIDS and other STD’s.  It won’t be an “abstinence only” program–but she will be trying to give the girls confidence that they have the right to say “No.”

That will be a completely new concept for some of the young women.  They have never been told they have a right to choose what kind of life they want to have.

Other of our graduates will be doing different things.  Some are going on to graduate school in marriage and family therapy, some will be teachers, some are going into business, others into church-vocations as pastors, worship leaders, youth ministers.

And some are still finding themselves, even if that means moving back home and working for a while to pay off student loans.  There’s nothing wrong with that either.  I’m guessing there will still be things in the world that need changing three or four years from now.

I’d Love to Change the World

So, a Christian is someone who wants to change the world.  Since I’m trying to be clear, maybe I had better add the words “for the better.”  Many people have changed the world for the worse, but I  want to make the world a better place.  Maybe this is obvious, but I can think of three common objections; and I’d like to consider them before going on.

  1. There are a lot of people who want to change the world.
  2. I thought you Christians were only interested in another world.
  3. What does faith have to do with it?

There are a lot of people who want to change the world for the better.  There are a lot of people who care about war, poverty, disease, oppression, injustice, global warming, education.  There are a lot of people who have compassion and are doing something about it.

That’s great, the more the better.  I’m not trying to prove that Christians are better than other people or the only ones who care.  I’m just saying, if you are a Christian you should care.  I am saying among those who care, Christians are included.  In the civil rights movement, in health clinics around the world, in organizations like physicians without borders, engineers without borders, amnesty international, Christians work side by side with people of other faiths and people of no faith.

Christians want to go to heaven when they die, yes.  I recently wrote about my aunt’s passing, and I’m glad my family has the hope that she lives now in the presence of God.  When I think about Jesus’ teaching about the final great judgment one thing stands out.  We will have to give an account for how we have treated the poor in this world, here and now.  Belief that there is a better world coming motivates us to do what we can to improve conditions in this world.

What does faith have to do with it?  When we lived in Memphis I met a woman who had worked in the juvenile justice system for about thirty years.  Trying to make conversation I said,

It must be difficult work.

She agreed.  But then, wanting to say something positive I said,

But it must be gratifying when a young person comes back some day and says, “Thank you, you helped me turn my life around.”

She said,

That has never happened.

I’ve thought about that ever since.  Whatever it was that kept her going–I have to admire it.  For me, I need either to see results or at least to trust that it’s all in someone’s hands who is bigger than me.

Christians believe that changing the world is God’s work.  But he has called us to participate in his work.  A Christian is someone who wants to participate in what God is doing in the world.  Our motto is not pray instead of working but work and pray.

What Is a Christian?

I’m going to start a series on this topic.  I will speak from my own perspective because no one else has authorized me to present theirs.  I’m answering really, what it means to me to be a Christian, or what I desire to be.  I’m not trying to exclude anyone, I am just trying to clarify my own thinking and maybe help anyone else who happens to be looking over my shoulder.

  1. A Christian is someone who wants to change the world.
  2. A Christian is someone who want to be made whole.
  3. A Christian is someone who wants to connect with God and people of faith.

That’s all pretty simple, pretty basic, and also pretty important.  Maybe I need to elaborate a little bit.  I noticed that definitions 1 and 2 don’t say anything about God, and none of them even mention Jesus.  Further, they don’t really distinguish Christian commitment from other religious or nonreligious commitments.  Since I’m not trying to exclude anyone, maybe that doesn’t matter; but since I’m trying to be clear, maybe it does matter.

Alright, I’ll add a little detail to number 1.

A Christian is someone who wants to change the world.

More specifically, a Christian believes that God is working to change the world and that Jesus is God’s agent in changing the world. So,

A Christian is someone who is following Jesus in God’s work of changing the world.