keeping an eye on the tree and the forest

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Richard Cizik on NPR


Caught a part of this in the car last night and found it totally fascinating.  He makes some very notable remarks about the direction of broader American evangelicalism.  The full transcript is available at the link below.

Fresh Air from WHYY

Ousted Evangelical Reflects On Faith, Future


July 28, 2010 9:25 AM

For 10 years, the Rev. Richard Cizik was the chief lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents roughly 30 million constituents across the United States.

But he was forced out of that position in December 2008, after remarks he made on Fresh Air about his support of gay civil unions, among other things.

On Wednesday, Cizik returned to Fresh Air to discuss how his life has changed since he left the association and why he started a new group called the Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, which he hopes will be an alternative to Christian groups that focus on the culture wars.

Cizik says he has no regrets about what happened to him after appearing on the show.

“In so many ways, this has been good for me,” he tells Terry Gross, adding that his support of same-sex civil unions wasn’t the only reason he was asked to leave the NAE.

“It was a sum total of everything [I said on Fresh Air],” Cizik explains. “It was speaking out on behalf of creation care, climate change, a broader agenda — speaking out on a host of levels that just offended the old guard. Civil unions, well that was just one part of it.”

Cizik says that he still strongly believes that same-sex couples should be allowed to obtain civil unions.

“While I haven’t come to a conclusion on [gay marriage], I am convinced that you can’t deny rights to people based on their sexual orientation. It’s wrong,” he says. “It’s even wrong, I think, as Christians to take that position. Because we should support human rights for all people even when they don’t agree with us.”

He also explains how he believes the evangelical movement has changed in the past several decades — and why he believes the evangelical movement is overdue for another ideological shift.

“Most important, [we need to become] independent of partisanship and ideology rather than subservient to partisanship and ideology,” he says. “Evangelicalism [has] become so subservient to an ideology and to a political party that it needs, as I say, to be born again.”

Interview Highlights

On his comments about same-sex marriage on Fresh Air that forced him to resign from his position at the National Association of Evangelicals

“It came out of the depths of the heart the mouth speaks and so it just came out. I hadn’t planned on saying it, but I had been thinking about it a long time. And that’s because I had been looking at constitutional arguments that are now being weighed by the California Supreme Court. In other words, can we deny rights to others whose rights we don’t especially share? Or, in fact, may disagree with strongly? And yet, yes I agree with what I said then and I agree with it now. What’s changed since then — even over the last year — according to a poll released just this week by Public Religion Research Institute, is that a majority of evangelicals — not just younger evangelicals — say that they agree either with same-sex marriage or civil unions. That’s a majority of white evangelicals in California. And evangelicals around the country are looking at this in new light and new ways and evaluating this in terms of the Constitution and in light of our Christian values. And that’s good.”

On being asked to resign

“We have an evangelical saying that goes like this: ‘When God closes one door, he opens another.’ Well, absolutely right, I found out about that. But [God] doesn’t say anything about catching your fingers in the doorjamb as you leave. What I’d say to people who have been sacked, fired or whatever — don’t get your fingers caught in the doorjamb while leaving. In other words, don’t try to pull yourself back in. … But God is bigger than those events that precipitate your departure from that job. I’m not the only only who lost my job in recent days, weeks, years. So recognize it as an opportunity and see how God is going to help you in the future.”

On how evangelicalism has changed

“It became perceived by millions and millions of Americans as captive to a conservative ideology. Not captive to Jesus or to the Gospel but captive to an ideology that has departed, in so many ways, from historic evangelicalism. The movement has always been a reactionary movement. It was born out of reaction to the 19th century biblical criticism in biology in which evangelicals reacted to that and moved away. The new evangelicals of the 20th century saw the fallacy of that kind of approach towards society but after a number of decades, that kind of neo-evangelicalism that was founded by the National Association of Evangelicals — well it’s fallen back into the same kind of subservience to reactionary-ism. Evangelicalism is [seen] today by what it’s against, not what it’s for. And we’re trying to say, we’re for these things. And among those is this command to first and foremost follow Jesus — not the Republican Party or Rush Limbaugh or anyone else, but to follow what the Gospel says.”

On the Tea Party movement

“The Tea Party movement is irreligious and significantly so. It’s got lots of problems. I wouldn’t join it if I were an evangelical and I would urge others not to or at least to be suspicious of it because it doesn’t bring with it the whole biblical concept of responsibility and the rest to God and so I’m not a Tea Party fan.”

On religious imperialism

“[Religious leaders across the world] look upon our advocacy on behalf of religious freedom as intervention. And they resent that. And so we really have to be careful when engaging overseas that we understand how these pivotal players in these religious communities view us. And not attempt to manipulate them but understand their importance. … And we just can’t view religion through the lens of counterterrorism policy. We have to understand that religions play pivotal roles on all of these issues of poverty, development, disease and the like. Even climate change. And we have to engage these players.”

Related Links

Oil Leak News Resource


I must say that I am entirely impressed with the New York Times coverage of the oil leak in the Gulf.  It is updated constantly, tracking the presence of the surface oil slick, the coastal impact, the environmental impact, and the clean up efforts.  It is a combination of great information that is easily organized and uses available tools to communicate.  The short (less than 2 minute) video on the blowout of the pump is super helpful.  If you want a primer, a refresher, or one new source to track the spill, I would encourage you to bookmark this page:

Be sure to click through each tab:

Where Oil Is in the Gulf
Where Oil Has Made Landfall
Efforts to Stop the Leak
Effects on Wildlife
Investigating the Blowout
Live Video of the Leak

Deep Church


Jim Belcher was at Gordon College (his alma mater) on Monday from 7-9 PM to talk about his book Deep Church (  I boot-legged the audio from  midway up the lecture hall.  Audio is below.

Here is the blurb:

WENHAM, MA—Jim Belcher graduated from Gordon College in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in political studies. Today, he is an experienced pastor and scholar whose wisdom has been widely recognized through his award-winning book, Deep Church.

Belcher, the founding pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, California, will return to campus, Monday, July 19, from 7–9 p.m. for, “A Conversation with Rev. Dr. Jim Belcher.” His talk will take place in the Jenks Library, room 237 with a reception immediately following. Sponsored by the Office of Alumni and Parent Relations, the event will be free and open to the public.

Chosen as one of Christianity Today magazine’s Top 12 Books of 2010, Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional explores the emerging movement in evangelical churches as well as traditional models and offers insights of all sides to forge a third way between the two. Deep Church is a term taken from a letter C.S. Lewis wrote in 1952 to the Church Times to describe the body of believers committed to mere Christianity.

“This book is written for those on the outside who want to understand the debate,” Belcher writes in his book’s introduction. “But this book is also written for . . . those who are attempting to work out their ecclesiology—their theological view of the church, its purpose, structure and goals.”

Belcher, who earned his M.A. from Fuller Seminary and his Ph.D. from Georgetown University, is also the co-founder of the Restoring Community Conference: Integrating Social Interaction, Sacred Space and Beauty in the 21st Century, an annual conference for city officials, planners, builders and architects. He previously led the Twenty-Something Fellowship and co-founded The Warehouse Service at Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena. He has been published several articles, and until recently, he and his wife and four children live in Costa Mesa, California. Next year, Belcher and his family will live in Oxford, England, while he researches a new book.

“As an alumnus, Jim has given Christians good help and perspective on understanding and making decisions about their church connection,” said Nancy Mering, director of alumni and parent relations and organizer of the event. “I’m very excited he can speak to folk in the Gordon community and neighborhood. It’s great to have him back.”

Mark This Day


Amazon has announced that for the first time, their e-book sales have surpassed print book sales.  This is important.  After Gutenberg invented the printing press, there were still those people who preferred scrolls for a time.  Now that computers have been invented, paving the way for “sit-down” reading devices to be created, the shift is happening before our very eyes.  The clock is ticking on the extinction of print media in the developed world.  All it takes is one generation…

July 19, 2010

E-Books Top Hardcovers at Amazon


Monday was a day for the history books — if those will even exist in the future., one of the nation’s largest booksellers, announced Monday that for the last three months, sales of books for its e-reader, the Kindle, outnumbered sales of hardcover books.

In that time, Amazon said, it sold 143 Kindle books for every 100 hardcover books, including hardcovers for which there is no Kindle edition.

The pace of change is quickening, too, Amazon said. In the last four weeks sales rose to 180 digital books for every 100 hardcover copies. Amazon has 630,000 Kindle books, a small fraction of the millions of books sold on the site.

Book lovers mourning the demise of hardcover books with their heft and their musty smell need a reality check, said Mike Shatzkin, founder and chief executive of the Idea Logical Company, which advises book publishers on digital change. “This was a day that was going to come, a day that had to come,” he said. He predicts that within a decade, fewer than 25 percent of all books sold will be print versions.

The shift at Amazon is “astonishing when you consider that we’ve been selling hardcover books for 15 years, and Kindle books for 33 months,” the chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, said in a statement.

Still, the hardcover book is far from extinct. Industrywide sales are up 22 percent this year, according to the American Publishers Association.

The figures do not include free Kindle books, of which there are 1.8 million originally published before 1923 (they are in the public domain because their copyright has expired). Amazon does not specify how paperback sales compare with e-book sales, but paperback sales are thought to still outnumber e-books.

The big surprise, Mr. Shatzkin said, was that the day came during the first period that the Kindle faced a serious competitive threat. The Apple iPad, which started sales in April, is marketed as a leisure device for reading, and it has its own e-book store. Yet sales of the Kindle also grew each month during the quarter, Amazon said.

Amazon is being helped by an explosion in e-book sales across the board. According to the Association of American Publishers, e-book sales have quadrupled this year through May.

Amazon said its sales exceeded that growth rate. One reason Kindle book sales have held their own is that owners of iPads and other mobile reading devices buy Kindle books, which they can read on computers, iPhones, iPads, BlackBerrys and Android phones. But, except for the free uncopyrighted books, Kindle owners must buy or download content via Amazon. “Every time they sell a Kindle, they lock up a customer,” Mr. Shatzkin said.

Some industry analysts say that many people do not consider the iPad to be a reading device the way the Kindle is, and see a need to own both. Amazon’s latest sales figures are “clearly an indication that the iPad is complementary to the Kindle, not a replacement,” said Youssef H. Squali, managing director at Jefferies & Company in charge of Internet and new media research.

The growth rate of Kindle sales tripled after Amazon lowered the price of the device in late June to $189 from $259, Amazon said. That was moments after Barnes & Noble dropped the price of its Nook e-reader to $199 from $259.

During roughly the same period, Apple sold three million iPads, it said.

Analysts said Amazon’s announcement could assuage investors’ concerns that the iPad threatens Kindle sales. Amazon’s stock price is down about 16 percent in the last three months, in part because of those fears.

“The sentiment’s turned a little more negative on the stock because of iPad issues and concern that Amazon would lose market share in the book segment,” said Aaron Kessler, director of Internet and digital media equity research at ThinkEquity.