5 Articles on the State of the World This Week (1/1-1/7)

The battle over the Speaker of the House may cause us consternation, but it is not necessarily a bad thing. Democracy is tumultuous, and that is often its strength. Through hashing out ideas comes clarity. As Dominic Pino argues, “In the House, those arguments are supposed to be raucous.”

Where do you find the biggest pyramids in the world? In Central America, actually, including the largest, “La Danta”. Now, archeologists are using new technology to uncover our “American Egypt” that has lain buried under the jungle for centuries. Read about it here.

61% of Americans don’t get enough calcium. Part of that is it takes a lot of food rich in calcium to get what they need. Read here about some surprising ways to get and not get calcium, including coffee and alcohol!

Want to be encouraged? Read this list of 10 beautiful acts of kindness from 2022, including when famed chef Gordan Ramsey was substitute chef for a day at an English middle school.

Looking for some good movies that may be a bit different than what you are used to? Try this list of the top 5 movies from the writers of Mexico News Daily. Plus, in the same article, you can see five more places to visit in Mexico, one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world, with seemingly endless opportunities for culture, natural beauty, and food.

Photo by ElevenPhotographs on Unsplash

5 News Articles on the State of the World (Dec. 25–31)

Beginning this week, I want to share five news articles that I found interesting. These are articles from all over the world that are generally not the main things covered in the U.S. news. Here’s the articles with a few comments.

1. 8 Reasons for Optimism in Ukraine – There are some reasons for pessimism and a lot of challenges ahead, but there’s also a lot of reasons for optimism. Brian Mefford from the Atlantic Council explains. He says that Ukraine should not be underestimated: “A country that came through the horrors of the 1930s Holodomor terror famine and the brunt of the fighting on the apocalyptic Eastern Front during World War II should never be underestimated. And yet that is exactly what Russia did.”

2. The amount of uninsured in America has dropped from 16% in 2010 to 8% today. – Obamacare is an ongoing experiment, but it seems to be succeeding in reducing the number of uninsured. Continue reading “5 News Articles on the State of the World (Dec. 25–31)”

The Intractability of Racism: Niebuhr on Race Problems and Solutions

When Reinhold Niebuhr considered the ordeals of school integration in the 1950s, he pointed to an important lesson: “This whole chapter in our national history is instructive because it reveals that the group pride of men is one of the most ineradicable of human weaknesses” (Christianity & Crisis XVI, October 1, 1956, p. 122). This intractability was all the more surprising because the Western tradition contained so many elements that would commend a universalist perspective on human nature. “Despite all traditions of human universalism inherited from Stoic, Prophetic, and Christian sources, Western man—in common with all men—remains an unregenerate tribalist” (Christianity & Crisis, XXIV, no. 12, July 6, 1964, p. 133). Niebuhr believed that events like Southern resistance to integration could demonstrate the “intractability” of race problems. However, Niebuhr also believed that an understanding of human nature, particularly as set forth in the Christian faith, could help illuminate why racial problems were so difficult and point toward real though imperfect solutions to the problems.

In Niebuhr’s thinking, there are four important aspects of human nature that can illuminate the intractability of the race problem: the created tendency to value those closest to us, the anxiety over their maintenance and survival, the excessive pride and overvaluing of our groups, and the aggravation of individual sinful tendencies in group dynamics.

Christian Faith and the Illumination of the Race Problem
The first element is a created tendency to value those closest to us. The Christian view of human beings is that they are not created evil but that they become evil by the misuse of created good. Thus, in all evils there is an element of good. Valuing our own countries and families is good. This is seen most obviously in the care that parents have for their children and their desire that they would live, survive, and thrive. Thus, the race problem is to some degree rooted in our nature as biological and ethnic beings.

What smacks up against our desire for the survival of our families or races is our tenuous and finite position. Other groups oppose ours. Disasters can overtake us. We are small, but we can to some degree see the whole. In other words, “man is a finite spirit, lacking identity with the whole, yet [he is] capable in some sense of envisaging the whole. . .” (The Nature & Destiny of Man [NDM 1], Vol. 1, p. 181). This includes potential pitfalls, struggles, and disasters. The gap between what we want to see happen and the many challenges to making it happen is anxiety. Continue reading “The Intractability of Racism: Niebuhr on Race Problems and Solutions”

Why I Am Extremely Thankful to Live in America

I love Egypt. I went there last year, and I loved it. I loved the history and the tourism, but I really loved the people. That was the biggest surprise of the trip, how much I loved the people and how much I learned from them. I think there is much that Americans can learn from the people in Egypt as I wrote about here.

However, going to Egypt made me see America with new eyes. I appreciated many of the things that I had taken for granted. Here are ten blessings that make me extremely thankful to live in America. I made this list shortly after returning from Egypt last year, but I fleshed it out for July 4th. Here they are, but they are not ranked in order of importance.

  1. The availability of jobs and economic opportunity. In Egypt and many other places, you often have to work very hard just to survive. In America, you can work hard and thrive. You can get ahead. There are virtually innumerable opportunities to advance. You can work one job during the week and add extra hours on the weekend. America affords amazing opportunities to make money and get ahead for almost anyone who wants to and has the ability.
  2. Toilets that work and in which you can flush toilet paper. The first night I was in Cairo I was somewhat surprised to learn that you can’t put toilet paper in the toilet. It will clog the public water system. It’s something that simple and that we take for granted, but the ubiquity of good water and plumbing systems is a huge blessing.
  3. Regular trash service. In Egypt, the trash often sits there for a long period of time. I have been in many places where they simply pile up trash because that’s what they have to do. We have systems for these things, and they are reliable and efficient. It is a huge blessing that we don’t have to figure out what to do with all the trash we generate.
  4. Completed buildings. One thing that is surprising in Egypt is how many uncompleted buildings there are. It gives them a tax advantage not to complete their buildings. As a result, they don’t finish them. That makes total sense in terms of their family interest, but it doesn’t look good. I’m thankful that we have so many completed buildings. It looks much better.
  5. Plenty of space for single family houses. It’s amazing how we take for granted the fact that we can enjoy single family houses separate from one another. In much of the world, houses are crammed right next to one another. In America, with hard work and often some help, you can own your own single family housing. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to enjoy your own outdoor space. It is very common here. Approximately 70% of Americans live in single family housing. Many who don’t want to and eventually will.
  6. Abundant education opportunities. While it is true that the rich often have more educational opportunities, education is very democratic in the U.S. People have access to good education. This is not always true around the world. In other countries, the good schools are for the elites. We have much better opportunities here.
  7. Ease of learning English. The overwhelming majority who live here have the opportunity to grow up speaking English either in home or in school. This is a blessing that we have that not everyone has that we often take for granted, but it opens up all kinds of doors around the world. It’s really a marvel that we have the opportunity here to learn without much effort the most widely used language in the world.
  8. Abundant food. When I have gone to other countries, I have had the opportunity to eat a lot of great food. It makes me sad, though, that in many of those countries, people do not have access to that kind of food. In America, we have an abundance of cheap food. We are major food producer. If we are out of one thing, we can substitute it with another. It is a real blessing to have food security.
  9. Freedom and opportunities for women. In many other countries, the opportunities for women are much more limited. Here, women can do whatever they want. They can say what they want. There is relative equality in the home. They can go into the world and work in whatever field they desire. I am thankful for these opportunities.
  10. Orderly driving. I live in an area of the country that can have “crazy” traffic by American standards. However, even the craziest traffic here is extremely orderly compared with many other countries. It may be busy, but people drive in an orderly way. It’s rather astonishing really.

This list came from the thoughts that occurred to me after traveling, but there are many more things I could list. I am extremely thankful to live in America with all its blessings, opportunities, and freedoms. In some ways, I can’t believe that I had the blessing of being born here. It’s such a great opportunity. I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve had to travel to help me see the things that are here that I take for granted. July 4th is a day worth celebrating and reveling in. Happy 4th of July everyone!


Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Freedom and opportunities for women.
Orderly driving.

A Pastor Perspective on the Ukraine Crisis

I was on a call with someone not from our church, and the wife of this man was in the car. She said, “What’s your Pastor’s perspective on what’s going on in Ukraine?”

I replied jokingly, “You don’t want my geo-political analysis or thoughts on the military tactics of the respective armies?”

She insisted that she wanted to hear my “Pastor” thoughts, so here’s the substance of what I came up with.

First, there are people who are hurting. A lot of innocent people are getting killed, injured, and displaced because of this war. Our church decided to take up an offering for our denomination’s efforts to help these people. If you want to do so, you can go here.

Second, it is legitimate to fight in defense of one’s homeland. Christian thought through the ages has tried to work out a “just war theory” in light of Scripture and reason. This is clearly one of those instances.

Our own leaders need great wisdom on how to help these efforts without escalating things unnecessarily. The Bible recommends that we raise “petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority . . .” We need to pray for the leaders of all the countries involved that they will have wisdom and act justly.

Third, as Reinhold Niebuhr put it, we should be “in the battle and above it.” We have to fight battles in this world and so have to be “in the battle.” However, we also sometimes need to be “above the battle.” This means, we recognize our common need for grace and forgiveness on all sides, the imperfection of even the most just causes, and the sense of tragedy that we are taken up in these sorts of things at all. Such crises require a humble boldness.

Fourth, we recognize that God is in control. Nations have fought and battled before, but God will always have the last word. God says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” As a result, we can declare with confidence, “The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Psalm 46:10–11). We need to process our anxiety over these events before the Lord so that we may find the peace He has for us even in the most difficult situations.

Fifth, we look forward to the day when wars will cease and all these things will come to an end. I am preaching this week on Jesus’ arrest. When Jesus was arrested, the disciples asked, “Shall we strike with our swords?” Then, one of them cut the high priest’s servant’s ear. Jesus told them to stop, and he touched the servant’s ear and healed it. This reminded me that though people strike with swords and cause real damage, Jesus will come with His touch to heal. This is a promise for this world and the world to come.


Photo by Gleb Albovsky on Unsplash