Today, President Obama will give a speech at Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s 75th anniversary gala, making him the first sitting president to address the group. Here are nine things you should know about the nation’s largest abortion provider.

1. Planned Parenthood Federation of America has 95 affiliates and 865 health centers, according to its latest annual report, which covers the 2008-09 fiscal year. They require that at least one clinic per affiliatemust perform abortions. PP performs over 320,000 abortions a year.

2. The motto for this year’s gala is “Our past is our prologue.” Part of the past the organization will be celebrating includes its founding by the notorious racist and eugenicist Margaret Sanger. Sanger wanted to control the reproduction of immigrants, the poor, certain religious groups, and anyone else she thought was from an “unacceptable” heritage. Sanger referred to such people as reckless breeders who were “unceasingly spawning a class of human beings who never should have been born at all . . .” In 1939 Sanger started the “Negro Project” and attempted to get Christian ministers to aid her effort. As she wrote in a letter to a fellow eugenicist, “we do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.”

3. Last year PP reported excess revenue of $87.4 million and $1.2 billion in total assets. Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood’s CEO, makes nearly $400,000 a year.

4. The amount of taxpayer money PP got in 2012 ($542,000,000) equates to $61,836 an hour, 24 hours a day for 365 days.

5. PP has repeatedly and consistently turned a blind eye to reports of statutory rape.

6. PP strongly opposes sex education that focuses on abstinence and has gone so far as to file lawsuits against school districts that have decided to implement abstinence-only programs. The organization claims to offer “value-neutral” sex education. (As an example, on their website aimed at teenagers, they include an article (“All About the Anus”) which teaches kids that, “Some straight couples use anal sex as a way to preserve the woman’s virginity.”)

7. Last month a Planned Parenthood of Florida lobbyist, testifying against Florida’s Born Alive Infants Protection Act, told lawmakers that if a baby survives an abortion, it is debatable whether that baby should live or die.

8. Some Planned Parenthood clinics have demonstrated a willingness to partner with pimps and sex traffickers to exploit young women instead of safeguarding their health and safety.

9. While in the Illinois state senate, Obama worked with PP to determine how he should vote on a partial-birth abortion legislation. With Planned Parenthood’s blessing, he voted “present” to protect his “100 percent” record on pro-abortion votes.

Joe Carter

Philly Accent

April 26, 2013

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Will Philly no longer be a place where residents drink wooder and root for the Iggles?

Gid eowt!

A University of Pennsylvania linguistics professor says the Southern-inflected sound of the Philadelphia dialect is moving toward a more Northern accent. Some of Philly’s trademark twangy, elongated vowel sounds are becoming less so, though others are getting stronger.

“Certain changes have continued in the same direction over 100 years and everybody’s doing it,” said Bill Labov, who has studied the Philadelphia accent since 1971 and recorded hundreds of native speakers born between 1888 and 1992 and living in dozens of neighborhoods. “It doesn’t make a difference if you come from Port Richmond or Kensington or South Philadelphia.”

With apologies to comedian Jeff Foxworthy, you might be a Philadelphian if: you say beggle (bagel), wooder (water), tal (towel), beyoodeeful (beautiful), dennis (dentist) or Fit Shtreet (Fifth Street). Your pronunciation of your own hometown might come out more like Philuffya, you call your football team the Iggles, you say “ferry” and “furry” the same way, and “radiator” rhymes with “gladiator.”

Technological advances have allowed Labov and his colleagues to turn their decades of field recordings into voice spectrographs — computer-generated visualizations of the human voice like an EKG — to track speech variations over time. Regional dialects are cemented by adolescence, so a recording of a 75-year-old Philadelphian made in 1982, for example, should provide a snapshot of what people sounded like around 1925.

The researchers’ recent paper in the journal Language, titled “One Hundred Years of Sound Change in Philadelphia,” concludes that the city’s linguistic character is not disappearing altogether — but it is changing, with the most dramatic shifts occurring in the mid-20th century. The reasons aren’t entirely clear but higher education appears to be a factor, as does simply being aware that certain local inflections are disparaged by outsiders.

“When we came to one of the most important Philadelphia features, of saying ‘gow’ for ‘go,’ it got stronger and stronger,” Labov said, “until people born around 1950, 1960, when it turned around and it went the other way.”

The Philly accent is getting thicker in other ways, however. Younger speakers use sharper “i” sounds than their parents and grandparents, pronouncing “fight” and “bike” more like “foit” and “boik,” and their “a” sounds are closer to “e” so words like “eight” and “snake” are closer to “eat” and “sneak.”

“Children speak like their peer groups, not their parents,” said Penn linguistics doctoral student Josef Fruehwald, so changes tend to occur by generation.

The familiar Philly-ism “wooder” also might be drying up.

“That sound is moving toward ‘ah’ so instead of ‘cawfee’ more Philadelphians are saying ‘coffee,’ ‘wooder’ becomes ‘water,'” Labov said. “As people become aware … they tend to reverse them. They say, ‘Oh we shouldn’t talk that way.'”

Not sure if you’ve heard the Philly patois? Listen to TV commentators Chris Matthews or Jim Cramer and you’ll hear it leeowd (loud) and clear. “Jackass” star Bam Margera, who is from nearby West Chester, has it. So does Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his Philly-flecked American English a vestige of his childhood years in suburban Cheltenham.

Philadelphia characters often sound like New Yorkers — think Rocky Balboa — perhaps because Philly’s nasal twang is tougher for non-natives to mimic. In last year’s “Silver Linings Playbook,” Robert DeNiro hung out with an uncle of co-star (and suburban Philadelphia native) Bradley Cooper to get the dialect down, though his wife played by Australian actress Jacki Weaver comes closest to nailing it.

The generational shift in the dialect was evident during a recent school event at The Franklin Institute, a science museum. Labov and several graduate assistants conducted hands-on demonstrations including one that asked, “Does Mad Rhyme With Sad?” Most of the youngsters answered yes, as in “mahd” and “sahd,” while many adults said no, pronouncing “mad” with what linguists call a “tense a” — sort of like “meeyad.”

“I don’t know how they can rhyme,” said Betty McGonagle, who was on a field trip with students from the Harbor Baptist Christian Academy in Hainesport, N.J. “You’re mad (meeyad), and you’re sad (sahd).” For her teenage students, the words rhyme.

Mia Weathers, a freshman at the city’s Science Leadership Academy, tried with some difficulty to pronounce “mad” as McGonagle does naturally.

“That is just, wow. That’s strange,” she said with a laugh.

Now the researchers’ goal is answering what Labov calls “the most important and most mysterious” question about language change.

“How is it possible that people in every neighborhood in Philadelphia are moving in the same direction?” he said. “We don’t have the answer yet.”

In the midst of o a messed up world, doctors killing babies, govt trying to grant illegals rights for their benefits, and trying to take away our rights as seen in the homeschooling and religious freedom case, I am reminded and encouraged: from Neh 4:14…
“Don’t be afraid of them (spiritual darkness, the world, naysayers and discouragers). Remember The Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes (for truth, justice, righteousness).”

How Important: News?

April 25, 2013

If you’ve been following the news the past few days you may believe that an Elvis impersonator from Mississippi is being held for mailing ricin-laced letters to President Obama, that more than 60 people died in a fertilizer plant explosion in Texas, and that two Eastern Orthodox bishops were kidnapped by terrorists and released the same day. But while each of those items contains a grain of truth, they are mostly false. The bishops were abducted, but major news agencies were fooled into believing they had been released; the death toll in the West, Texas, explosion is 15; and Paul Kevin Curtis was released by investigators who believe he might have been framed. The irony is that the people who were blissfully unaware of the latest news would be accused of being uninformed, when news hounds were likely to be the most ill-informed of all.

The problem isn’t merely that the latest news is inaccurate—that is an inevitable feature of daily news—but that most news is largely irrelevant to our lives as Christians. Most of us realize that the events of last week’s news cycle—just like the previous 51 other news cycles this year—will probably not have a significant effect on how we live. Indeed, if we’re being honest with ourselves, most of us would have to admit that what is sold as news—on newspaper pages, the Internet, or cable news programs—is rarely newsworthy at all. For those news-junkies who disagree, I suggest pondering this question: Why is Dan Rather not considered one of the wisest men in America?

We could substitute “intelligent” or “knowledgeable” for wisest, though I suspect the reaction would be the same. The question appears random, even absurd. But consider Rather’s 56 year tenure as a reporter and broadcaster. His career spanned from the assassination of JFK to the Iraq conflict. He covered eight U.S. presidents and hundreds of global leaders. He witnessed hundreds of conflicts, from Cold War battles abroad to civil rights struggles a home. A conservative estimate would be that he spent roughly 75,000 hours reporting, researching, or reading about current events.

If that level of intimacy with the news does not make Rather notably more wise, intelligent, or knowledgeable, then what exactly is the benefit? And what do we expect to gain by spending an hour or two a day keeping up with the latest headlines?

Another question we should ask ourselves is what makes any particular story important to us and what distinguishes it from mere gossip or trivia?

One aspect of any answer would have to include an explanation of how the story fits into a broader narrative or has an air of permanence. But how often does this apply to our weekly, much less daily, news? How much of what happens every day is truly that important? How many have ever stopped to question the fact we even have daily news, much less the effect it is having on our culture?

C. John Sommerville is one brave soul who has dared to ask such questions. In the October 1991 issue of First Things, Sommerville explained “Why the News Makes Us Dumb”:
What happens when you sell information on a daily basis? You have to make each day’s report seem important, and you do this primarily by reducing the importance of its context. What you are selling is change, and if readers were aware of the bigger story, that would tend to diminish today’s contribution. The industry has to convince its consumers of the significance of today’s News, and it has to make them want to come back tomorrow for more News—more change. The implication will then be that today’s report can now be forgotten. So News involves a radical devaluation of the past, and short-circuits any kind of debate.

In the book based on the article, Sommerville points out:
The product of the news business is change, not wisdom. Wisdom has to do with seeing things in their largest context, whereas news is structured in a way that destroys the larger context. You have to do certain things to information if you want to sell it on a daily basis. You have to make each day’s report seem important. And you do that by reducing the importance of its context.

The late media critic Neil Postman once wrote that the media has given us the conjunction, “Now . . . this,” which “does not connect anything to anything but does the opposite: separates everything from everything.”
“Now . . . this” is commonly used on radio and television newscasts to indicate that what one has just heard or seen has no relevance to what one is about to hear or see, or possibly to anything one is ever likely to hear or see. The phrase is a means of acknowledging the fact that the world as mapped by the speeded-up electronic media has no order or meaning and is not to be taken seriously. There is no murder so brutal, no earthquake so devastating, no political blunder so costly—for that matter, no ball score so tantalizing or weather report so threatening—that it cannot be erased from our minds by a newscaster saying, “Now . . . this.”

This focus on change, devoid of context and connection to a greater reality, has a deleterious effect on all forms of public life—whether cultural, political, or religious. Many Christians once considered change to be something to be undertaken slowly and with prayerful reflection. After all, the important institutions—family, church, government—shouldn’t change on a whim. But the focus on dailiness has led many of us to adopt attitudes of hyper-progressivism. For instance, we don’t just ask what our church or government has done for us lately, we ask what they have done for us today. We don’t just ask for change when it is needed, we ask for it to change—for the better presumably—on a daily basis. We are addicted to the process of change.

The most disconcerting consequence of this addiction is the belief that it is normal, and that those who aren’t tuned into a daily news feed are ill-informed. Take, for example, an article Steve Outing wrote a few years ago for the Poynter Institute in which he describes an “experiment in mainstream-media deprivation.”

Outing documents how Steve Rubel, a blogger and public relations executive, conducted a news experiment in which he gave up his regular media habits and learned what was going on in the world solely by checking blogs. Rubel claims that he “definitely lacked the depth of knowledge of current events” gained in a normal week. “I felt a little naked,” he says, “having received the basics of the week’s news from blogs, but not getting the real meat.”

What was this “real meat” Rubel missed out on? Outing gave him a quiz:
While knowing why President Bush hired a criminal lawyer last week, and the official reasons cited for George Tenet’s resignation from the CIA, Rubel missed actor Daniel Radcliffe’s statement that he thinks his Harry Potter character will die at the end of the J.K. Rowling book series. He didn’t catch ex-Beatle Paul McCartney’s admission that he tried heroin and was a cocaine user. And he missed more obscure stories, such as one of Seattle’s famed monorail trains catching fire.

Nine years after that article was published, how much of that information would now be considered newsworthy? Who truly believes that Rubel was ill-informed for not being aware of such trivia?

But it isn’t just gossip-type “news” that is unimportant. Most of what occurs on a daily basis is inconsequential. At the end of his article Sommerville concluded:
Still dubious about all this? Consider the proposition: If it is no longer worth your while to go back and read the News of, oh, September 22, 1976, then it was never worthwhile doing so. And why should today be any different?

As Christians, we’re expected to take an eternal perspective, viewing events not only in their historical but also in their eschatological context. But I can’t do that while focusing on the churning events of the last 24 hours. Events that are truly important are rarely those captured on the front page of a daily paper. As Malcolm Muggeridge, himself a journalist, admitted, “I’ve often thought that if I’d been a journalist in the Holy Land at the time of our Lord’s ministry, I should have spent my time looking into what was happening in Herod’s court. I’d be wanting to sign Salome for her exclusive memoirs, and finding out what Pilate was up to, and—I would have missed completely the most important event there ever was.”

Addendum: Constantly in search of a sensational story, the American newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst once sent a telegram to a leading astronomer that read: “Is there life on Mars? Please cable 1,000 words.” The scientist responded “Nobody knows”—repeated 500 times.

Most days bloggers and journalists (like me) are like Hearst, always looking for material to fill empty space (and often we are like the astronomer, repeating what we have to say to the point of absurdity). One of the reasons TGC created the You Should Know section was to attempt to provide a space to discuss the broader context of news and stories we hear every day. Let us know if you find this feature helpful and how we might do a better job countering the decontextualization of our “Now . . . this” culture.

Joe Carter

Knowledge and Wisdom

April 24, 2013

Knowledge is knowing that tomatoes are a fruit.

Wisdom is not putting tomatoes in a fruit salad.

One of the criticisms of Gospel preaching is that it can, at times, be gloomy. “Do we have to hear about sin again?”, the complaint goes, “Do you have to be so down on humanity?”, “Can’t we talk about how great life is sometimes?”, “Can’t you give me some self-improvement tools?”

To these voices the Gospel preacher replies that life is often (perhaps mostly) hard, and that as much as we might crave a word of optimism, a little fuel for the part of us that longs to live in blissful ignorance (or denial), what we really need is not to have our humanity built up, but rather put to death. True hope – hope in God and his unbreakable love for us in Jesus Christ – comes only when we let go of our false hopes, and this happens only in the crucible of real, hard, life. In this view, church ceases to be a venue for fairy tales and bedtime stories, but rather a haven for sufferers. Church is the place where we come together to hear and tell the truth about our lives, our sin, and to receive grace and mercy. As Luther poignantly said, “If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear a true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners.”

Secondarily, we might also say that there is tremendous comfort in knowing that we are not alone in our suffering. Although our “better selves” may crave an environment of collective positivity, our real selves need fellow sufferers. Counterintuitively, we find a community of truth-telling to be a balm, not a depressant, in the midst of our own trials. Just check out your local 12-step meeting sometime.

Along these lines, there was a very interesting little piece on NPR this morning about a group in Verona, Italy which exists for the sole purpose of answering the over 6,000 letters written to Juliet every year. These letters are overwhelmingly sad; women (and some men) who have had their hearts broken, often repeatedly, and are reaching out to the love-struck suicidal teenager in search of some relief. While one might think that reading and responding to these letters would be the most depressing job imaginable, it is, in fact, quite the opposite:

Despite the heartbreak, many of the secretaries have been doing this for years — decades even. But the odd effect of witnessing so much loneliness, the secretaries explain, is that it actually makes them feel closer to humanity at large. “Seeing that so many people are sharing the same feeling,” says Marchi, “makes you a little less lonely.”

Amen.

CNN PRODUCER NOTE TXBlue08, a mother of two teenagers in Texas, blogs about raising her children without religion. She said she shared this essay on CNN iReport because ‘I just felt there is not a voice out there for women/moms like me. I think people misunderstand or are fearful of people who don’t believe in God.’ What are your thoughts on this iReport? Share your written response via our Sound Off assignment.- dsashin, CNN iReport producer
When my son was around 3 years old, he used to ask me a lot of questions about heaven. Where is it? How do people walk without a body? How will I find you? You know the questions that kids ask.
For over a year, I lied to him and made up stories that I didn’t believe about heaven. Like most parents, I love my child so much that I didn’t want him to be scared. I wanted him to feel safe and loved and full of hope. But the trade-off was that I would have to make stuff up, and I would have to brainwash him into believing stories that didn’t make sense, stories that I didn’t believe either.
One day he would know this, and he would not trust my judgment. He would know that I built an elaborate tale—not unlike the one we tell children about Santa—to explain the inconsistent and illogical legend of God.
And so I thought it was only right to be honest with my children. I am a non-believer, and for years I’ve been on the fringe in my community. As a blogger, though, I’ve found that there are many other parents out there like me. We are creating the next generation of kids, and there is a wave of young agnostics, atheists, free thinkers and humanists rising up through the ranks who will, hopefully, lower our nation’s religious fever.
Here are a few of the reasons why I am raising my children without God.
God is a bad parent and role model.
If God is our father, then he is not a good parent. Good parents don’t allow their children to inflict harm on others. Good people don’t stand by and watch horrible acts committed against innocent men, women and children. They don’t condone violence and abuse. “He has given us free will,” you say? Our children have free will, but we still step in and guide them.
God is not logical.
How many times have you heard, “Why did God allow this to happen?” And this: “It’s not for us to understand.” Translate: We don’t understand, so we will not think about it or deal with the issue. Take for example the senseless tragedy in Newtown. Rather than address the problem of guns in America, we defer responsibility to God. He had a reason. He wanted more angels. Only he knows why. We write poems saying that we told God to leave our schools. Now he’s making us pay the price. If there is a good, all-knowing, all-powerful God who loves his children, does it make sense that he would allow murders, child abuse, wars, brutal beatings, torture and millions of heinous acts to be committed throughout the history of mankind? Doesn’t this go against everything Christ taught us in the New Testament?
The question we should be asking is this: “Why did we allow this to happen?” How can we fix this? No imaginary person is going to give us the answers or tell us why. Only we have the ability to be logical and to problem solve, and we should not abdicate these responsibilities to “God” just because a topic is tough or uncomfortable to address.
God is not fair.
If God is fair, then why does he answer the silly prayers of some while allowing other, serious requests, to go unanswered? I have known people who pray that they can find money to buy new furniture. (Answered.) I have known people who pray to God to help them win a soccer match. (Answered.) Why are the prayers of parents with dying children not answered?
If God is fair, then why are some babies born with heart defects, autism, missing limbs or conjoined to another baby? Clearly, all men are not created equally. Why is a good man beaten senseless on the street while an evil man finds great wealth taking advantage of others? This is not fair. A game maker who allows luck to rule mankind’s existence has not created a fair game.
God does not protect the innocent.
He does not keep our children safe. As a society, we stand up and speak for those who cannot. We protect our little ones as much as possible. When a child is kidnapped, we work together to find the child. We do not tolerate abuse and neglect. Why can’t God, with all his powers of omnipotence, protect the innocent?
God is not present.
He is not here. Telling our children to love a person they cannot see, smell, touch or hear does not make sense. It means that we teach children to love an image, an image that lives only in their imaginations. What we teach them, in effect, is to love an idea that we have created, one that is based in our fears and our hopes.
God Does Not Teach Children to Be Good
A child should make moral choices for the right reasons. Telling him that he must behave because God is watching means that his morality will be externally focused rather than internally structured. It’s like telling a child to behave or Santa won’t bring presents. When we take God out of the picture, we place responsibility of doing the right thing onto the shoulders of our children. No, they won’t go to heaven or rule their own planets when they die, but they can sleep better at night. They will make their family proud. They will feel better about who they are. They will be decent people.
God Teaches Narcissism
“God has a plan for you.” Telling kids there is a big guy in the sky who has a special path for them makes children narcissistic; it makes them think the world is at their disposal and that, no matter what happens, it doesn’t really matter because God is in control. That gives kids a sense of false security and creates selfishness. “No matter what I do, God loves me and forgives me. He knows my purpose. I am special.” The irony is that, while we tell this story to our kids, other children are abused and murdered, starved and neglected. All part of God’s plan, right?
When we raise kids without God, we tell them the truth—we are no more special than the next creature. We are just a very, very small part of a big, big machine–whether that machine is nature or society–the influence we have is minuscule. The realization of our insignificance gives us a true sense of humbleness.
I understand why people need God. I understand why people need heaven. It is terrifying to think that we are all alone in this universe, that one day we—along with the children we love so much—will cease to exist. The idea of God and an afterlife gives many of us structure, community and hope.
I do not want religion to go away. I only want religion to be kept at home or in church where it belongs. It’s a personal effect, like a toothbrush or a pair of shoes. It’s not something to be used or worn by strangers. I want my children to be free not to believe and to know that our schools and our government will make decisions based on what is logical, just and fair—not on what they believe an imaginary God wants.

Chew on this!

April 23, 2013

I want to put a pebble in your shoe.

Human Govt

April 21, 2013

From J. Budziszewski, Evangelicals in the Public Square: Four Formative Voices on Political Thought and Action (Baker Academic, 2006):

God is the true sovereign; he ordained all human government for the good of man, whom he made in his image (Ps. 22:28; Rom. 13:1, 3-4; Gen. 1:27).
Although God originally chose only one nation, he desires ultimately to draw all nations into the light of his Word (Isa. 49:6; Rom. 10:12; Rev. 21:23-24).
He disciplines the nations according to their deeds (Jer. 18:7-10; Jer. 5:28-29).
He also disciplines their rulers (Dan. 2:20-21; Jer. 25:12; Dan. 4:27).
In general, disobedience to human government is disobedience to God; indeed, government deserves not only obedience but honor (Rom. 13:1-2, 7).
But there are exceptions: Any governmental edict that contradicts the commands of God must be disobeyed (Acts 5:29; Dan. 3:18; Ex. 1:17, 20-21).
The just purposes of human government include the commendation of good, the punishment of evil, the maintenance of peace, and the protection of the oppressed (1 Pet. 2:13-14; 1 Tim. 2:1-2; Isa. 10:1-2).
In pursuance of these purposes, God authorizes human government to use force on his behalf and in grave cases even to take life, though never deliberately to take the life of the innocent (Gen. 9:6; Rom. 13:3-4).
Yet human government cannot fully or permanently redress wrong, because it cannot uproot sin from the human heart; this can be done only by the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ (Jer. 17:9; Isa. 64:6; Rom. 3:22-25).
Moreover, the community of redemption is not the state but the church. No matter how much respect is due to the state, the church is never to be identified with it (John 18:33-36; Acts 20:28).

Multi-Site Churches

April 20, 2013

Over at the TGC Voices blog today, Christopher Ash’s excellent piece on objections to video preaching is especially of note. I mean neither to steal Ash’s thunder nor to pile on my friends who employ video preaching, but I thought this an appropriate occasion to second the aversion. Below is a recycled post of mine from the archives. You will notice in the first line that even then I was trying to horn in on somebody else’s thoughts.

Thabiti Anyabwile has written a provocative piece on the multi-site church movement. It created a bit of a stir. As a way of shamelessly piggybacking off his post, I thought I’d collect my own thoughts — up to this point, scattered here and there — on the church multiplication strategy known as “video venues.”

First, a couple of disclaimers:

1) I would not word my opposition as strongly as Anyabwile’s. And my opposition is not really to the multi-site concept but to the use of video preaching (and video music) as the features of a worship service. There are quite a few churches that appear to do multi-site well, by which I mean, they feature live preaching, have dedicated elders shepherding a community rather than organizers attracting a crowd, and they function for the most part like church plants. I think some multi-site approaches are viable means of a church’s gospel mission. In any event, my aversion to the video venue multi-site movement is not morally framed. What I mean is, I am not saying video venue multi-site is sinful (or even unbiblical). I am not speaking to its wrongness per se, but rather hope to suggest it is not wise. Sort of a “not everything that is permissible is profitable” kind of thing.

2) Secondly, some of my best friends are multi-site pastors. And they are all fantastic, humble, godly men who love Jesus, love the Church, and love seeing lost people get saved. I am not against them.

So: why I’m averse to video venue multi-site whatchamacalits:

1) I do not think it is wise, in our consumer culture, to go down the path of continued un-incarnation.

This applies to the “virtual church” phenomenon in general, as well. In a day when the idolatry of the self and the mass production of “beauty” and the disconnection of individuals from each other are daily, constant, pernicious struggles, I don’t think the church can afford to un-incarnate anything, much less its preaching. Video is by definition un-incarnational.

2) Video venues are not counter-cultural.

You can go a lot of ways with this thinking, sometimes overboard, but the kingdom of God is supposed to run counter to the way of the world. What I see in the worst examples of the video venue movement is just more accommodation of cultural values begun in the modern church’s idolization of “relevancy” twenty years or so ago. All churches should be seeker sensitive (in the best sense of the phrase), by which I mean seeker comprehensible and seeker welcoming, and all churches should be good students of the culture and good workers at contextualization, but there is a line between contextualizing and accommodating, and I think video venues often cross the line. At what point do we look at cultural trends not as things to mirror and ape but to challenge and subvert? Technology, as some insist, may be neutral, but that does not automatically mean that all technological tools are suitable for uncritical ecclesiological appropriation. I am afraid many churches have moved from “leveraging technology” to merely mirroring whatever they think the world finds appealing or slick.

3) Video venues can reinforce the kind of pragmatism that has not served the church well at any point.

We are just now seeing the data revealing the fruit of the attractional paradigm, and it is not good. Big churches are increasing, but the numbers of Christians are not. By some accounts, all debatable of course, the most churched states in the nation are in danger of soon-coming evangelical decline. Much of the video venue stuff is clearly from the same school of thought as the ecclesiological trajectory we are only now discovering was wrongheaded and, moreover, impotent to grow disciples.

4) A video preacher can’t be shot in the face.

Seriously.

5) Video venues assist the idolization of and over-reliance on preachers.

This is something Matt Chandler, himself the pastor of a church using video venues, brought up: “Twenty years from now are there fifteen preachers in the United States?”

There are a lot of sub-points under this general point:

– Would your church be able to open its satellite campus if the main pastor was not the one doing the preaching? If not, doesn’t that say something important about the viability of your church and where it is centered?

– What happens if your pastor gets hit by a bus? Would your church collapse? Do you lose major attendees? Do satellite campuses have to close down? (To be fair, this is not just a problem with video venue churches, but with any church unhealthily centered on the personality of the preaching pastor.)

– What happens to the men in your church with preaching gifts? Where do they go to exercise their gift and bless their church family? (Somewhere else, that’s where.) How do video venues develop future pastors and preachers?)

I understand that God raises up certain men of unusual anointing to lead in unique and higher-profiled ways. But what does it say about the gospel if, where the rubber meets the road, we minister as if it requires a certain level of homiletical talent to do its work?

Just some bullet points. I hope they are received in the spirit with which they are given: not as having it all figured out, but just as having some concerns. I am assuming common ground between all of us is that we want to see the fruitfulness of the Church and Christ glorified by it.

Jared C. Wilson