Ravi's Lies, Better Online Arguments, and Finding the Sacred
|Phillip Johnston & Andy Patton||Mar 3|
The Ravi Scandal
Diane Langberg and Glen Scrivener on victims, accountability and power
It's nearly a month since Ravi Zacharias International Ministries released the findings from an independent investigation of its deceased founder. It is now undeniable that one of the world's most visible Christian apologists was a deviant and vicious sexual predator.
This came as a shock to some, a confirmation for others. No matter where you are on (or off) that spectrum, the conversation in this video is an important one. The hosts of Unbelievable? are joined by trauma abuse psychologist Diane Langberg and evangelist Glen Scrivener to discuss supporting victims, ensuring accountability, and the problem with placing anyone on a pedestal.
At the heart of this scandal is an institutional failure to consider that allegations Ravi Zacharias could possibly be true. No matter how outwardly "godly" the accused may seem, Langberg says, this is a deeply unchristian posture:
To come alongside the victim is to take risks. It is to look at yourself. It is is to see where you are not safe and where you are not like Jesus Christ, who spent his lifetime among wolves and never looked like one – and was safe for the sheep that all the wolves wanted to toss out because they were disruptive.
Listen to the conversation. For an essential primer on responding to these issues, see Diane Langberg's Redeeming Power: Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church.
How to Have Better Arguments Online
Ian Leslie on the power of face-work
Online arguments can always get worse, but could anyone possibly know how to make them better? In this insightful article, journalist Ian Leslie offers a surprising answer: hostage negotiators.
Successful negotiators aren't simply out to win an argument, but to win a person. More often than not, this is accomplished via face-work – the art of observing and responding to the public image a person wants to establish, particularly in terms of social status and identity:
People skilled in the art of disagreement don’t just think about their own face; they’re highly attuned to the other’s face. One of the most powerful social skills is the ability to give face; to confirm the public image that the other person wishes to project. In any conversation, when the other person feels their desired face is being accepted and confirmed, they’re going to be a lot easier to deal with, and more likely to listen to what you have to say.
Leslie offers compelling examples of how this plays out in hostage situations, resulting in some counterintuitive wisdom for our own disagreements. Next time the heat turns up on Facebook? Take it offline or offer an unexpected compliment. You might be surprised where the conversation goes.
Read "How to Have Better Arguments Online" over at The Guardian. It's a substantial excerpt from Leslie's new book Conflicted: How Productive Disagreements Lead to Better Outcomes.
God of All Things
Andrew Wilson on how trees, viruses, pigs, sex and children reveal God
It’s a Christian commonplace that the created world points beyond itself to its Creator. But is it possible that God gave dust and flowers and bread and water their own unique forms in order to reveal specific things about himself?
If this sounds like a stretch, you might not be reading Scripture with sufficient imagination. The Bible is a book about things where the stuff is always preaching.
This conviction drives Andrew Wilson’s delightful new book God of All Things: Rediscovering the Sacred in an Everyday World. Consider rocks:
We describe God as “the Rock” not just because rocks exist and they provide a good picture of safety and stability. Rocks exist because God is the Rock: the Rock of our salvation, the Rock who provides water in the desert, the Rock whose work is perfect and all his ways are just. When we flip things around like this, we get a very different picture of the purpose of creation, of physical stuff, of things. Ever since the beginning, the surface of this planet has been covered with rocks, and every one of them has been preaching a message of the faithfulness, security, and steadfastness of God. “For their rock is not as our Rock; our enemies are by themselves” (Deut. 32:31).
In lively, six-page chapters, Wilson whirls throughout the Bible to show how God reveals himself in thirty things. Ready? Dust, earthquakes, pigs, livestock, tools, horns, galaxies, stones, honey, sex, mountains, gardens, rainbows, donkeys, sun, salt, rain, sea, flowers, wind, water, bread, trees, trumpets, pots, fruit, viruses, cities, light and clothes — each of them structured to reveal something about God.
Paul tells us that God's "invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made" (Romans 1). Though you may have been outdoors more than usual of late, when is the last time your meditation on “the things that have been made” has spoken deeply to your spirit of His eternal power and divine nature?
Enter Hannah Anderson’s new book of reflective essays, Turning of Days: Lessons from Nature, Season, and Spirit. Starting with an introductory essay called “Venturing Out,” Anderson acknowledges our inexperience and callousness in observing the natural world: “It’s hard to see what the world is meant to teach you when you’re balled up into yourself and all your attention is given to resisting the elements.”
And so Anderson acts as a guide to opening ourselves to God’s self-revelation surrounding us, leading the reader through seasonal reflections using aspects of the four seasons as experienced in her home of the Appalachian mountains of the southeastern US. “I chose this form to invite you into a way of seeing ... by modeling observation and repetition over time," Anderson writes. "I’m inviting you into a kind of field work.”
Are those of us who live in urbanized landscapes still able to see and hear God’s glory revealed in creation? The answer is a resounding yes. Turning of Days pauses often to consider common, seemingly unremarkable subjects that convey deep truth, such as soil, dew, and weeds. But more than that, it offers you the lenses of someone else for a time, that you might learn to see what is around you more fully.
The gift of being able to see in this way is that you will find, as Elizabeth Barrett Browning observes, “Earth's crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God: But only he who sees takes off his shoes.”
~ Christa Johnston
Andy has been doing some business writing on Medium. Here is one on the Enneagram and workplace conflict styles and another with some thoughts on lean blogging.
Reading Ever wonder what Donald Miller did after Blue like Jazz and his other Christian books? He started a marketing company and wrote Building a Story Brand and Marketing Made Simple. And actually, they are great. If you are in business, Andy gives them a hearty recommendation.
Listening Andy is following along with Poor Bishop Hooper’s EveryPsalm project. As the name indicates, the duo is creating a song for every psalm with a new song each Wednesday. The haunting Psalm 61 is their latest.
Phillip is thinking about signing up for Doorway to Artistry, a Saturday Theopolis workshop with Esther Meek this spring. You should too! He also has a recent L'Abri lecture called "Creatures Together: Francis Schaeffer's Ecology for Today".
Reading: Francis Spufford's new novel Light Perpetual dazzled Phillip this month, so much so that he might put the journey to Paul Kingsnorth's Alexandria on hold. The premise: Five London children are vaporised by a German rocket in 1944, but what if the rocket never landed?
Listening: A weekly trip to the Liss pizza van earns accompaniment from this playlist and the In Tune Mixtape continues to bring delightful surprises to dish washing. A choral version of Bach's Goldberg Variations has also been a go-to since last he wrote.
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