• Update on my beardedness: advice taken.
• G.W. Carlson served as our special correspondent covering the Clarence Jordan Symposium.
• GW’s post covered several of the same topics — civil rights, spiritual community, Jimmy Carter — as David Swartz’s Moral Minority, the reading of which inspired me to look at how one of my own denomination’s signers of the 1973 Chicago Declaration understood the connections between prayer and social concern.
• A new issue of one of my favorite periodicals (and not just ’cause I’m in it).
• Merry Christmas! It’s a Twitter feed.
…There and Everywhere
• For several years I lived less than forty-five minutes from Newtown, Connecticut. I have two small children whom I hugged to sleep on December 14. I can’t think of a right I would more happily cede than that to bear arms. I know several people who suffer from mental illness, and others who work with them. And yet I have nothing to say about that tragedy that others haven’t said already, and better than I could have. Two of my favorites: Mark Osler’s commentary on Newtown and evangelism, and Ross Douthat’s column about The Brothers Karamazov.
• Then ten myths about school shootings (don’t read if you want easy explanations, or reassurance that such tragedies can be prevented).
• Good one from Anna Williams: “Although trying to end bullying and bigotry would help us look better, this isn’t just about appearances. No matter what happens in the political realm with gay marriage, we have a moral obligation to fight the mistreatment of LGBT people. Again, that doesn’t preclude defending traditional marriage or pointing out the differences between the civil rights movement and today’s LGBT activists. But it suggests that we should at the same time acknowledge and make efforts to combat the abuse that gays and lesbians face.”
• John Turner on unity and division in the PCUSA and the larger Church: “One reason that Christian unity is so difficult is that it’s easy to rationalize discord with apostates and heretics. Any attempt at unity must begin with a rather capacious definition of Christianity.”
• Interesting update on the Church of England in the wake of the vote against ordaining women as bishops – though I’m tired of the sides being stereotyped as (1) those who hold to Scripture and tradition opposing women’s ordination and (2) those who support it trying to accommodate to modern culture. My own desire to see women fully exercise the gifts of preaching, teaching, administration, etc. has nothing to do with trying to update the church to the 21st century and everything to do with the authority of texts written in the 1st century.
• I find some of the statistics cited hard to credit (“Christians who call themselves evangelicals account for just 7 percent of Americans”?), but I’ll hop on board with John Dickerson’s conclusion in his widely-read “Decline of Evangelical America” op-ed: “We evangelicals must accept that our beliefs are now in conflict with the mainstream culture. We cannot change ancient doctrines to adapt to the currents of the day. But we can, and must, adapt the way we hold our beliefs — with grace and humility instead of superior hostility.”
• I’ve got a half-finished Advent reflection that’s probably not going to see the light of 2012, but one of its points ended up being made much more effectively by David Neff, in critiquing how modern hymnwriters misread the Magnificat.
• Nathan Gilmour on how Plato’s Republic (to his surprise) became his “signature teaching piece.”
• Chuck Hagel, the former senator and possible nominee for secretary of defense, is “haunted by Vietnam.”
• What the eurozone crisis and Taylor Swift‘s newest album have to do with each other.
• What Woodrow Wilson has to do with fellow — but very different — Calvinists Abraham Kuypers and J. Gresham Machen.
• Books and Culture editor John Wilson named his favorite books of 2012. Somewhat refreshingly (I say as someone with great interest in such topics) there’s nothing about the history of war, but there is a book about the history of books.