More teens becoming ‘fake’ Christians

This is a great article that explores why so many teenagers struggle to form a robust faith. It begins with these words:

(CNN) — If you’re the parent of a Christian teenager, Kenda Creasy Dean has this warning:

Your child is following a “mutant” form of Christianity, and you may be responsible.

Dean says more American teenagers are embracing what she calls “moralistic therapeutic deism.” Translation: It’s a watered-down faith that portrays God as a “divine therapist” whose chief goal is to boost people’s self-esteem.

I remember hearing Campolo one day say that ‘youth is made for heroism and not for pleasure’ and it struck a chord. When we try to offer young people more pleasure we actually work against the inner passions that are forming them, but when we call them to an adventure of faith that involves risk and courage then we begin to form something more substantial within them.

Some quotes from the article:

“Many teenagers thought that God simply wanted them to feel good and do good — what the study’s researchers called “moralistic therapeutic deism.”


“Some adults don’t expect much from youth pastors. They simply want them to keep their children off drugs and away from premarital sex. Others practice a “gospel of niceness,” where faith is simply doing good and not ruffling feathers. The Christian call to take risks, witness and sacrifice for others is muted, she says. “If teenagers lack an articulate faith, it may be because the faith we show them is too spineless to merit much in the way of conversation,” wrote Dean, a professor of youth and church culture at Princeton Theological Seminary”.


“Corrie says she sees no shortage of teenagers who want to be inspired and make the world better. But the Christianity some are taught doesn’t inspire them “to change anything that’s broken in the world.” Teens want to be challenged; they want their tough questions taken on, she says. “We think that they want cake, but they actually want steak and potatoes, and we keep giving them cake,” Corrie says.”


“She says parents who perform one act of radical faith in front of their children convey more than a multitude of sermons and mission trips. A parent’s radical act of faith could involve something as simple as spending a summer in Bolivia working on an agricultural renewal project or turning down a more lucrative job offer to stay at a struggling church, Dean says. But it’s not enough to be radical — parents must explain “this is how Christians live,” she says. “If you don’t say you’re doing it because of your faith, kids are going to say my parents are really nice people,” Dean says. “It doesn’t register that faith is supposed to make you live differently unless parents help their kids connect the dots.”

Is it Broke?

I reckon the last 8 days have been a quite embarassment for the Australian people as we have been unable to form a government and even now it still looks pretty shaky.

Which leads me to ask ‘is it the system that needs fixing?’

When all of Australia votes and it then ends up all coming down to the goodwill of 3 or 4 independents isn’t that a pretty dodgy system? Perhaps it needs a damn good overhaul.

Now of course it will be interesting to see how strong each parties convictions actually are and what turns out to be up for grabs. To sell out on your (apparent) convictions is going to really look bad for the major parties, but then if they aren’t willing to compromise it could be the end of the road for one of them.

Who’d like to be in that position hey?…

Do Not be Overcome by Evil but…

Ok, so parking your bike illegally is hardly evil, but this creative initiative by the City of Copenhagen shows that the biblical idea of ‘overcoming evil with good’ does actually turn a cog in people (so to speak…)

Here’s a teaser for the story:

The City of Copenhagen has been on a ‘charm offensive’ since April 2010. The goal is to get more people to use the bike racks around the city’s Metro stations, instead of leaning them up against everything else.

Here’s the simple trick. If you park your bicycle illegally, the City will move it over to the bike racks. Instead of finger-wagging, they will then oil your chain, pump your tires and leave a little note on your bicycle asking to kindly use the bike racks in the future.

How brilliant is that? And the great thing is that the initiative has worked

I wonder how many other annoyances could be overcome with this approach?…

Business Philosophy

I like this and its pretty much how I work.

I’ve discovered that people are rarely satisfied with cheap – and nor am I. But there aren’t many who complain about a fair price for a good job and even fewer who get irate about a good job for free.

Make life easier – don’t do cheapies…


Lately I’ve been reminded yet again that those of us who follow Jesus really ought to be living lives that don’t make much sense unless there is a God. I’m a little cautious using the word ‘ought’ because I think a lot of faith has been distorted by an abuse of it, however that’s not to say there aren’t times when it ‘ought’ to be invoked!

The obvious tension here is that most of us live in suburban Australia and we share a similar experience of life to most other Aussies. We live in houses, drive cars, eat food, go on holidays etc etc… So the question that then develops is ‘what might there about our lives that only makes sense because there is a God?

I don’t think we want to be at all ostentatious in our distinctiveness, yet I fear for many of us there is very little to distinguish us from your average good living Aussie.

So where would you start if you considering how we might live lives that are genuinely distinctive because they have been shaped by the life of Christ?

Well Paid Sickie

The good thing about running your own business is that you can take a sick day whenever you like – so long as you don’t mind not earning the $$.

But today I managed to do both.

While lazing on the couch watching Valkyrie at 11.00am (how often can you do that?…) the phone rang and it was SGIO asking if I’d like a quote on house and contents insurance. I had just had a ridiculous renewal notice come in from GIO asking for $1057.00 for the year – up $200.00 from last year – which was up $200.00 from the year before. I wasn’t happy.

So I told the SGIO people to give it their best shot and without batting an eyelid they proposed $870.00. Pretty good considering I hadn’t told them what they had to beat.

So I rang GIO after that and began to ask some questions about why my policy had gone thru the roof…

“Maybe its because you are in a bushfire risk area?” the guy suggested.

“You don’t know where Butler is do you?” I responded

Turned out he was from Melbourne and agreed that maybe that was a bit of a mistake… After some haggling I got their price down to $900.00 and then some tailoring of excesses and the actual policy conditions got us down to $700.00.

So for staying home today I figured I earnt near enough to $350.00. I normally check around insurers but over the last few years have found GIO to offer a good product at the best price. Not so any more it would seem.

Second Life Surfing?

A little while back I mentioned the ‘Church of Second Life’ and today as I was checking the surf online I came across this youtube of ‘Surfing in Second Life’.

The graphics are pretty dodgy (even if they managed to get the girl in the bikini in correct proportions) but its worth a look, if only for the chuckle factor.

A chance for those who no longer surf big waves to get back into it?…

Somehow I don’t think it even gets close. Still its amusing to ponder virtual life and what goes on in this weird and wacky world of ours.

Why I Voted Green

I really don’t like all the secrecy that surrounds our political choices. It seems that to ask someone how they voted is like asking them how often they have sex and how they do it. I have had a few open conversations around politics, but I’m also concious that many people are quite guarded on the topic. (I probably won’t be so open about sex 🙂 )

Unfortunately as a church community we have been busy with some other pressing stuff these last few weeks and haven’t had time to address the election question at all, otherwise I would love to have spent some time as a community asking the question ‘how do we decide how to vote?’

The last time I did this I realised just how little thought anyone had given to the question – in fact simply letting people know it was the topic for discussion raised audible groans. I think many people consign their vote to the too hard basket or they simply vote as they have always done. (Or perhaps I am just speaking for myself and my own sloppy approaches.) I would have liked to have some open discussion as a church community around ‘how we decide’ and why we vote the way we do, but it wasn’t to be. Maybe next time…

As we approached this election I don’t think anyone was inspired by what was on offer and it became a very tough call to make a decision to actually vote for anyone.

I found myself totally uninspired by the two major parties. If push came to shove I would have chosen labour, but given the way Kevin Rudd got shafted I couldn’t with any conscience give my vote to that crew. I dunno how long Julia will last if she gets in either. I guess it all depends on what the back room bullies who really run the country want to happen…

The Libs really played the ‘boat people’ card really hard and cashed in on the fear factor. I do think we need sensible policies, but Abbott’s ‘stop the boats’ mantra reminded me of a ‘f*ck off we’re full’ sticker but in slightly better clothes. The garb might be nicer but its still ugly at core. Apart from the budgie smugglers which are enough to make anyone vote for a silly party, I was generally cringing every time I saw Abbott turn up at a sporting club, as the man has the most terrible gross motor skills and only made himself look a goose. Despite what Peter Costello may think of Abbott’s economic skills, I do tend to think his mob would be better financial managers of the country and if the economy was my primary concern then I guess I’d see past bad swim wear, xeno/homophobia and poor sporting ability to give them a vote. Of course I’d love to see Abbott get in and then resurrect Costello as his treasurer just so we could say we have a legit Abbott and Costello show…

Then there are the Christian parties and perhaps you ask ‘why wouldn’t I vote for them?’ Well I imagine we do share many similar positions, but I’m not convinced that trying to Christianise a country is actually of benefit in the long run. I don’t believe we should be legislating for a Christian way of life. God doesn’t ever force his way on us and and I think we can learn from that. I am convinced the most profound way to influence society with the gospel is to live it – to live counter-cultural Jesus centred lives that make absolutely no sense to anyone unless there is a God. We could get into separation of church and state but that is a bit more than I have time for here on…

So I finished up voting Green, and it wasn’t a protest vote. My reasons are below:

– If I had been really diligent I would have compiled a grid / table of the things that I believe matter most to God/Jesus as we read in scripture and then lined up every party alongside those issues to see how they stack up. I guess I did that mentally and saw the Greens performing much better on issues of caring for the poor, overseas aid, the environment and refugees than any other group. The issues of justice and environment (which of course is also an issue of justice if you live in a developing world country) seem to be primary ones for Jesus and on these the Greens score well. The Micah Challenge overseas aid ‘scorecard’ saw them top the class in all areas and that was impressive.

– Secondly I voted for the Greens because they seemed a bit more visionary than the other parties. I think some of their goals seem unattainable, but I like they have them on the radar. Much better to aim high and hit low than start low and stay there.

– I also liked the Greens forthrightness on issues where we would disagree. They have been portrayed as anti-Christian when in fact I think they simply are pro-secular. I realise that does mean they won’t be supporting Christian initiatives, but the stuff on which we disagree matters less to me than the stuff on which I see them doing well in. I think Jesus was much more concerned for matters of justice than for who our sexual partners are. I think we have enjoyed some great privileges as Christians at the moment, but they are not our right in a secular society and the playing field may change, but maybe it needs to.

I don’t vote unreservedly for the Greens as I don’t share their views on bioethics, sexuality and a few other things, but then I can’t vote unreservedly for anyone. Such is the state we find ourselves in…

They say you get the leadership you deserve and ironically the issues the Greens do well on are things that really ought to have been issues ‘Christian’ parties should have seen as primary a long time ago, because they rate so highly on God’s agenda. I get the impression that if the Christian parties really wanted to shape the future of Australia then they would have been wiser to base their policies around these issues of justice, environment, and care for others and create a vision for a better Australia that way. It would have been true to scripture and interestingly would have scratched right where many Aussies are itching.

We had our chance…

I realise a vote for the Greens is a vote for Labour and I can live with that. I don’t lose sleep that our PM may be an an atheist in a de facto relationship. I don’t lose sleep that Bob Brown is gay. I don’t know anything of Tony Abbot’s personal life but I’m sure if we scratched around we’d find plenty of dirt to hang on him (as we would with any of us)

So that’s why I voted Green this time around. In a sense it was like doing a multiple choice test and eliminating all other options so you are left with the most probable answer.

What I would add is that the political question is a complex and multi-faceted issue and I would happily respect the views of people who voted differently – however it seems that Christians who vote Green are often not accorded that same respect by their brothers and sisters. For the CDP to label the Greens ‘anti-Christian’ is rather lacking in perspective I would suggest, and may even be tapping into the ‘fear factor’ that motivates some Christians.

So I write this post partly because I want to give another voice to those who follow Jesus and see the world a little differently and partly because I think we can offer some very valid reasons for doing so. I don’t believe Christian Green voters should have to hide in the closet and be embarrassed by their choice. Nor should they be vilified for it.

I’m hoping this post won’t be me hanging my chin out there and giving you a free swing – because that’s not the goal. But feel free to disagree in a spirit of respect and grace and I’m sure we could have a great conversation.

‘Be not content to merely look upon atrocities’

What if God asked you to take your family to Afghanistan and to get involved in helping the people rebuild their country?

‘But he wouldn’t do that’ I hear some of you say.

Why not?

Sure, there are plenty of sane, sensible and logical reasons that I could offer. I reckon I could pose a pretty good argument for ‘not going’ but none of those reasons stack up at all alongside a compelling sense of the spirit’s leading.

Some of you will know Phil who blogs at Itinerant Indigent and who is yet again travelling back to this place with his wife and kids to love, serve and help the people who live there.

Personally I have found Phil’s journey to be an inspiration and a prophetic challenge to all of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus and live in these comfortable suburban streets. The word ‘apostle’ gets bandied about pretty carelessly at times, but here’s a bloke who embodies the courage, devotion and sense of ‘sentness’ that I believe needs to pulse thru the veins of every person with that gift/calling.

If you’re interested to know why someone would do that then you need to check out Phil’s latest post as he explains why this is their choice at this time. Here’s an excerpt:

‘When Christ calls a man, he bids him “Come and die” ‘. Thus said Bonhoeffer, and while he meant it in a spiritual sense – that is, the death of one’s private ego and aspirations – I think he also meant it literally. And as it turned out for Bonhoeffer, it was a literal and a spiritual command. I suppose it could turn out that way for us. We are ok with that. Shouldn’t anyone of faith be ok with that? Jesus, whom I follow, called people – anyone who listened – to abandon security and safety and the protection of their own life. Heck, we are going to die anyway, and who says my life is so tremendously significant that I ought to fiercely protect it? ‘Ahhh’, you say, ‘but you have children now. Fine to go and die for your dreams, but what about them?’ Good point. For what it is worth, the kids are very happy to be going back to Afghanistan. They are looking forward to the TVs on the plane, they tell me. And if I tell them to live lives of committed faith, but fail to do so myself, isn’t that some kind of hypocrisy?

That is not meant to sound trite, or cheap. It is simply that it is easy to turn away from atrocity and hardship: that is in fact the mantra for modern living – ‘take it easy, enjoy, relax, you deserve it.’ This is a particularly powerful message as you get older, when you are supposed to be settling down and end your youthful adventuring. ‘Let someone else go to Afghanistan’, is a message we have heard many times in the last months.

Go well my friend.

Our world (and especially our churches) need many more of your ilk to challenge the messages of comfort and security we are fed daily and to be reminded that our lives are not our own.