Getting over the Duggar/Jennar outrage…for the common good

In Touch DuggarsImagine if *you* were Jim Bob or Michelle Duggar. Imagine the InTouch reporters and editors who broke the story on your son’s dishonoring innocent young girls turning up at your door and asking you for a personal interview. Now imagine that you gather your tribe together and knock yourselves out to serve them dinner. And afterwards you serve up coffee and strawberry shortcake and sit down to answer at least a few of their questions.

There’s a great precedent for such outrageous kindness. It’s what Christians have been famous for through the ages. Consider church father Polycarp (AD 69-155). When a cohort of Roman soldiers arrived to arrest him and take him to be judged in the amphitheater in Smyrna, Polycarp calmly greeted them. Noting they must be tired, he asked them if they would like to refresh themselves with food and drink while he took the hour to pray.  They agreed and he accompanied them without protest to his death.

And then there was Jesus.

As people who want to follow Jesus we honor the image of God in everyone. We have been champions of the image of God in the unborn. Champions of the weak and dying. But we tend to fall off the wagon in between. As the heat turns up over the the Duggars, Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner and the anticipated gay marriage ruling by the Supreme Court, we get angry. We attack. We mock. We say things on Facebook that make Jesus weep. How can we champion the image of God and the common good in the weeks ahead?

Some Deep Thoughts on San Andreas

San AndreasIt’s a disaster movie designed to be a roller coaster ride–the kind of scary fun you expect from summer blockbusters. Not quite a Spielberg roller coaster, but still, pretty intense, with a story of family reconciliation to boot.

My original title for a short post was going to be, “San Andreas: There is no thoughtful cultural commentary to offer on this movie. Just have fun.”

But even insurance companies acknowledge that earthquakes are “acts of God,”  so it’s natural to see a link between earthquakes and earthquake movies and God.

But first, the movie…

Before we throw stones at the Duggars…and some advice from a CPS pro

It’s been a terrible, no good, very bad week for the Duggars and their 19 Kids and Counting reality TV show. A few days ago a celebrity gossip tabloid reported that twelve years ago Josh, the oldest child, fondled 5 young girls, several of them his sisters. He was 14 at the time. The tabloid took the police report public and the web has exploded with condemnation.



(August 22, 2010 update: With Josh Duggar’s confession of unfaithfulness and holding an account on the Ashley Madison website that facilitates adultery, I’ve written a sequel to this post.)

Parents Jim Bob and Michelle have been publicly shamed for calling it a “very bad mistake” and covering it up. Last night CNN’s Don Lemon and his guests slammed them for dealing with Josh through a religious lens of sin and repentance rather than acknowledging “the reality”: his actions are a crime and he should be reported to the police. (Really? Keep reading…)

The Learning Channel is deciding whether to continue producing the show. Viewers are deciding whether they will continue to watch it. Or permit their children to watch it. Many of us are listening to the uproar wondering how to respond to fellow-believers with wisdom and grace. And no doubt many families with a similar experience are watching this unfold in horror of what this all means for the way they handle their own children.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: Boomers Take On Aging and Death

(“Best of” blog, review of the original Marigold movie, reposted as the sequel, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel releases)

best exotic marigold hotel“What will you do in the end?” asks the prophet Jeremiah. Sonny, a young Indian entrepeneur has an answer: “Outsource aging to India!” Where they respect their elders and where, instead of a tiny beige flat, your thirty-year civil service pension can afford life in his luxurious hotel.

In this movie seven retirees and widows with different baggage and longings accept the offer and fly off to spend their golden years in India.

OK, so it turns out to be a run-down, covered-in-dust and peeling-paint hotel. Photoshopping your brochure works better for Sonny than his guests.

A fine cast, including Judy Dench, Bill Nighly, Tim Hathaway, and Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton from Downton Abbey, shows us what happens to those who choose to work, love and overcome the losses of relocation and aging and those who choose to stay inside and read a book. What will YOU do in the end? Marigold explores several options. (Spoiler Alert)

Fifty Shades of Blue

Last Sunday at the 2015 Grammy’s our friend Brooke Axtell appealed to women trapped in abuse to raise their voice and escape like she did.

Brooke at Grammys

When the man she loved began to abuse her she said, “I was stunned…I believed he was lashing out because he was in pain, and needed help. I believed my compassion could restore him and our relationship. My empathy was used against me. I was terrified of him and ashamed I was in this position. What bound me to him was my desire to heal him.” The Grammys audience erupted in applause as did The Washington Post, ABC News, Time magazine, Salon, Slate and many more news outlets. You can watch the one-minute video here.

Not a week later 50 Shades of Grey opened in theaters across the nation. Do you have a friend or a daughter who is intrigued by the movie? Or maybe you are…Ask them or take one minute to watch the video of Brooke’s speech and compare it to this paragraph from the New York Times review:

Our friend Brooke Axtell made an eloquent appeal last night on the Grammys to women trapped in abuse

Please join me in spreading this video and Brooke’s story within your circle of influence. And praying for women to be set free. Also, please pray for Brooke as she stands against powers of great darkness.

When Brooke was seven her Mom, Mollie, was hospitalized with a severe reaction to environmental poisoning. Her Dad traveled extensively for his business so they decided to put their two sons and Brooke in the care of a series of nannies.

One, a seminary student they thought they could trust, repeatedly sexually abused Brooke, even trafficked her to other men, as she recalled in a piece titled “What I Know of Silence,” written for an anthology of women’s writing in 2012. She was so ashamed it was years before she shared her experience with her family.

Last night, after a clip by President Obama on the subject of violence against women, Brooke briefly shared her story of another, more recent episode of sexual abuse by her boyfriend.

A Christian Response to Those Who Question God’s Judgment and Heart

Exodus Gods and KingsAnother week, another new big-budget Hollywood movie that condemns God as unjust and uncaring. And it’s not just Hollywood. We hear it more and more in schools. In the marketplace. From unbelieving friends and family. How do you respond?
It hurts my heart. God is such a Treasure. I wonder how people can miss it. But clearly they increasingly see themselves as more moral and compassionate than the God of the Bible. How might we respond?

Five Ways Unbroken will Enrich Your Life–the movie and (even more) the book

UnbrokenFor all Lauren Hillenbrand’s in-depth research and narrative craft and Angelina Jolie’s movie-making chops, only God could create the story of Unbroken on the canvas of Louie Zamparini’s life.

Our little family did our part to make it #2 at the box office this past weekend (second only to the final Hobbit movie), but I first heard of the book four years ago when my friend Rosie, who reads stacks of books and rewards only the best, grabbed me by the shoulders; looked me in the eyes and said, “You have got to read Unbroken.”

This was now the fourth friend endorsement (and definitely the most physical) for Laura Hillenbrand’s World War II saga of the Olympic runner, Army bombadier and Japanese POW. So a group of us gathered together to read it.

The Tyranny of the Expected Response…What lies beneath?

Not so long ago…if someone phoned you and you didn’t answer…they just called you back.
Then, If someone emailed you…you responded within a day or two. All was well.
Then came instant messenger and Facebook messaging. We see you are logged in on Facebook so we kind of expect you to respond…
Then came a river of  tweets rushing by…I know you’re always checking your feed…Tweet me back!

Then came texting. Immediate. In the moment commentary. Can you believe that touchdown?! And this:

Tweet 1

Now there is a demanding expectation. Answer me, dang it!

Downton Abbey: A Technicolor Story Enfolds a Black and White World

(“Best of” blog)

Downton Abbey

The final episode of Downton Abbey aired Monday. “Keep calm and wait for January” the Facebook icons reassure. You wouldn’t expect to find such a cool- set-must-see-TV-water-cooler-buzz show on PBS, but Masterpiece Theater has struck gold (four Emmys) with its story of Lord and Lady Grantham, their three Jane Austinesque daughters and the downstairs intrigue of butlers, valets, footmen, ladies maids and cooks. What hooks millions of viewers all over the world?

A world of daily candlelight dinners, beaded Chanel gowns, side-saddle hunts and Christmas pheasant shoots is rocked by World War I, the explosion of technology (automobiles, electricity, telephones), the rise of modern media and women’s and workers’ rights and a plot laced with secrets, theft, jealousy, midnight rendezvous, dead bodies, romance and a fairly astonishing moral clarity and commitment.

Duck Dynasty. Reinforcing the Backwoods Redneck Stereotype of Christians?

(“Best of” blog)
On a Kansas visit a few years ago my husband Jack joined some friends to go hunting. They introduced him to their friend, Willie Robertson, a guy with now-familiar long hair, beard and bandana and an easy-going smile. While the guys hunted, my friend Patty told me stories she’d heard from her son who had been down to Louisiana to go duck hunting with Willie and his Dad, both guides.

A Visit to an Emerging Church: The Gospel According to Lost

 (“Best of” blog)

Gospel According to LostSaint Sayid gazed across the congregation, cool yet conflicted. The “humanitarian torturer” his tagline read.  Next to him, Saint Jack and next to him Saint Kate—all rendered on large canvases with bright colors. Like portraits of the apostles in a medieval church, the cast of Lost, complete with gold halos, surrounded the congregation, reminding them…

“Together We Survive. Alone we die.”

After his brother Robbie led the people in thoughtful, sometimes haunting praise and prayers, pastor Chris Seay settled onto his stool in Ecclesia, the emerging church they founded in the artsy Montrose district of Houston, and introduced a video story of his Hawaiian adventure the previous week.

Faith and Culture: The Guide to a Culture Shaped by Faith (Zondervan)


It’s back to school time. Send your student off with a book…

…that will strengthen their worldview, help with critical thinking and also inspire their faith. Kelly’s and my daily reader will give them readings in Bible/theology, history, philosophy, science, literature, the arts and contemporary culture. Over seventy of the finest Christian thought leaders will guide them on a tour through many of the paintings, laboratories, rock arenas, great books, mass movements, and private lives that have shaped the ways we think and live. And each reading pivots to help them understand what this means to their faith and their relationship with Jesus.

A student says:“This book took me by surprise. Not once have I found a devotional so full of fascinating information that I find myself telling my friends about it right after I read it. I love that it has truth, real truth, but in bite-size chunks. With my school schedule I never have time for heavy theology books to just pick up in my spare time, but this gives me answers to questions that I frequently hear and can now confidently know how to answer without having to be a studied expert on the subject. Big fan!”
– Natalie, high school junior, 16