Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The good news looking good in the news

I got up early this morning as I normally do. As I was making a pot of coffee I turned on the TV and tuned into one of the national cable news channels. In the midst of the headlines this particular network chose to show a clip from last night's The Colbert Report, a comedic news show hosted by Stephen Colbert. The subject of the segment was Pope Francis' decision to hold a Mass in a prison on Thursday and to wash the feet of some of the inmates. In his satirical way, Colbert underscored the wisdom in Pope Francis' efforts to follow the example of Jesus by expressing love through lowly acts of service.

As the clip was replayed on a national news show this morning I was intrigued. I did a little Googling and found numerous mainstream media outlets proclaiming the Pope's plan to visit a prison and wash the feet of inmates including this one in the Washington Post. The article points out that "in the Gospel of John, Jesus washes the feet of his disciples just before his trial and crucifixion."

I'm a Baptist, not a Roman Catholic, but I must say that I am encouraged by such news accounts. It seems that Christianity regularly gets plenty of bad press. But today we have major news agencies reporting on a snippet of the good news of Jesus Christ and the attempt of one Christian leader to live out the Savior's love.

In the course of my Googling I also found a column in the left-leaning Huffington Post in which Allan Brawley, a self-proclaimed non-believer, delights in Pope Francis' example of living "in accordance with the teachings of Christ." Brawley expresses the hope that the new Pope will lead "all self-professed people of faith to re-examine what it means to live a truly Christian life on Earth." He finds the Pope's acts "refreshing ... even to a nonbeliever like me."

It's good to see the good news cast in a good light in seemingly unusual places. Followers of Christ should take note. Let us all give the world plenty of reason to see the good news as truly good.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The number of young "nones" continues to skyrocket

There's a new poll out indicating that more and more Americans are parting ways with religion. Indeed, religious affiliation in the United States is now at its lowest point since it began to be tracked in the 1930s. But what struck me about the numbers in this latest survey is the alarming rate of increase in young adults who claim no religious preference. More than one-third of 18-24-year-olds now claim to have no religion.

Three years ago I saw an article about a Pew Research survey that said 20% of young adults claimed to be atheists, agnostics or had "no religion." I was appalled because the same article informed me that 'only' 11% of young Americans gave the same answers in 1988. I tried to go back and find that article of three years ago, but I couldn't locate it. I can't remember the exact age range of young adults in that Pew survey, but I did find that Pew released the results of another survey on October 9, 2012 indicating that 32% of 18-29-year-olds claimed no religion.

So, three years ago I was upset that that we went from 11% of young adults who had no religion to 20% in the span of 22 years. Now I learn that, in the last three years, that number has shot up to 32 or 33+ percent depending on whose survey I read. Isn't this truly alarming?

So I'm asking myself, "What are we going to do about this?" I certainly don't have all of the answers, but I am convinced that the solution, first and foremost, has to be about Christ-followers doing a better job of living and sharing the love of Christ. After all, Jesus said that the greatest commandment, the most important thing we do, is all about love (Mark 12:28-31).  

Jesus' kind of love isn't a sappy, easy thing. His love gives everything, to the point of death, for those who don't deserve it. His love turns the other cheek rather than retaliating. His love forgives those who do us wrong no matter how many times they do us wrong.

This kind of love is hard. But it is attractive to everyone of every age when it is exemplified in daily living.  

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A lesson from 500-year-old bones

The remains of Richard III, King of England from 1483 to 1485 have been found under a public parking lot. He died  about 528 years ago in the Battle of Bosworth. DNA testing confirms that his body wound up under a dreary municipal parking lot. 

So the body of a king was found in an unmarked grave where people parked their cars. That's not typically the way we picture the final resting place of a monarch, is it?

Of course, some might say that Richard III deserved an ignominious grave. His name is a virtual synonym for evil to many. Shakespeare certainly painted an unflattering picture of the king in one of his plays. But more recently some historians are saying that Richard's bad reputation may be rooted less in truth and more in an effort by his successor to tarnish his image. After all, in his brief reign, Richard implemented a few progressive reforms like the right of bail and the lifting of restrictions on books and printing presses.   

But what intrigues me is the revelation of the final resting place of this king: under a bleak parking lot with no marker. For hundreds of years no one knew the location of the remains of King Richard III.  If the grave of a king can end up paved over and forgotten, what of the legacy of those of us who do not hold such esteemed places in history.

Jesus advised us not to store up earthly treasures that always fade away. Rather he said that we should store up for ourselves treasures in heaven that never fade away (Matt. 6:19-21). In 1 Peter 1, followers of Christ are told that, thanks to the promise inherent in Jesus' resurrection, we have a living hope of an imperishable inheritance kept in heaven for us.

Maybe the news that King Richard III wound up in an unmarked grave under a parking lot should serve as a reminder that we should strive for a lasting legacy through ambition for something other than the typical trappings of prestige offered by our culture.