The Curious Language of Liberal Church Activists: A Handy Guide

It has been said that in order to know what’s going on, you must speak the language. Nowhere is this truer than when dealing with the pronouncements of the “religious left.” Statements made by liberal church leaders on issues like the war on terrorism or the conflict in Iraq often appear incoherent or muddled to the uninitiated. However, to the individual liberal church agencies, a certain logic becomes readily apparent. Part of the problem in deciphering liberal church missives and commentarie

Transforming the Political Culture

In a previous blog post, I lamented the current state of the republic, and the complicity of many Christians in the debasing of the political culture. The tone of that piece might be described as pessimistic, expressing my frustration in where we currently are and how we got here. In general, however, I am a “silver lining” kind of person, finding possibility in the face of frustration, and glimmers of hope when hope is in ill-supply. In that vein, I would like to offer my thoughts as to how Ch

Who's My Neighbor?

On January 30, three young brothers were canoeing the Salmon Creek in Washington state.  The river current was strong that day, swollen by a week’s worth of rain, and the boys found themselves unable to control their small craft in the rushing water.  The boat capsized, sending the three boys—the youngest of which was eight—into the icy cold water. On shore, Nelson Pettis heard the screams of help from the frightened youngsters.  He quickly scanned the creek, and saw three heads bobbing in the

Johnny Cash: Prison Reformer

Most people remember Johnny Cash as a legendary country music singer – the iconic “Man in Black” who sang tales of hard living and fighting against the system.  Christians are familiar with his story of redemption – a rebel turned evangelist who often used the stage to proclaim the saving grace of God through Jesus and the transformative power of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps less familiar to listeners of Cash’s music is his commitment to the legal reform of the prison systems in the United States.

On “Toxic Masculinity”

A term that that has been popping up on news feeds and television screens more and more frequently of late is “toxic masculinity.” It has been identified as the root of everything that is wrong with modern America—from mass shootings to the rise of Donald Trump to the recent slate of sexual harassment charges. It has been uncovered as the dark underside of the Jedi Order in the Star Wars movie franchise, and is said by some to be inherent in carnivorism. The basic premise behind the phrase is t

Bigger than Ideology

The American political system is broken. This has been the case for quite some time, but recent elections and events have served to lay bare the dysfunction which has become the norm in Washington. The balkanization of the nation into micro-tribes has been thorough, with utter enmity evident between political parties, within political parties, and between the administration and the media. If democratic politics is the art of compromise, then politics, as we have known it, is dead. The combinati

The Agony of No Pain

A recently published article tells the story of Steven Pete.  Steven and his brother were both born with a rare genetic disorder called congenital analgesia.  While Steven has the sense of touch, he is unable to experience anything that could be considered pain. It is tempting to be envious of Steven.  Who wouldn’t want to enjoy a life free from hurt?  A life where you wouldn’t have to hesitate to try something that might result in discomfort, or worse?  Such a person wouldn’t have to fear the

The Good Person

“Everybody does it. … At least I’m not doing what they’re doing!” The argument should sound juvenile to most adult listeners.  Indeed, if we haven’t heard our children make such a case, we can most certainly remember a time when we ourselves presented such a defense to our parents.  I can also remember, vividly, my father’s response: “You are not everyone else!  You are my son!” While most “grown-ups” would avoid such argumentation, recent research would indicate that the desire to be graded o

Finding Joy in Uncertainty

Recently, during a fit of spring cleaning, Beth and I were going through a stack of books and notebooks, trying to determine which were worth keeping and those that would better serve not taking up valuable shelf space. In one of those notebooks, I came across the following—a reflection written by a younger, still-single Steve (circa. 2007) who was contemplating marriage and the future. It reminded me that there is joy in uncertainty when you trust the One who holds the future in His hands. ‘Tis

Preschooler Art: An Appreciation

Welcome to Art Appreciation 101 – An Introduction to Preschooler Art.  Today we will be looking at “mixed- and multi-medium expressionism,” an exploration of the many and varied artistic approaches that can be undertaken by a single artist.  Our case study for this session will be the young, upcoming artist Grace Rempe. For starters, we need to acknowledge that Ms. Rempe’s art is quite controversial in certain circles.  Some critics have argued that many of her pieces (or, “projects,” as Grace

Saving College Football from Itself

Ladies and Gentlemen, We are once again nearing the end of another exciting college football season. There have been some stellar individual accomplishments, great team performances, and heart-stopping finishes. Traditional powers and perennial doormats alike have made their way through the minefield of the college football season, and are preparing for the upcoming conference championships and bowl games.

Why the Incarnation Matters

A merry Christmas to everyone!  No, I am not late with that proclamation—it is, as I write this, the 10th day of Christmas.  (Be sure to go out and pick up your ten lords a-leaping while they are no doubt on sale.)  At least, this is what I plan to tell all those people who have yet to receive a Christmas card from me. The holidays were enjoyably hectic at the Rempe house, which, I guess, is to be expected with three kids three and under.  Grace and Caleb have just recently bought into the seas

Lessons Learned by a Dad of Four

I know, I know … it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything to this blog, and many of you have been wondering, ” So Steve, why aren’t we hearing more from you about your newly expanded family and those sweet, cherubic children of yours?  When are we going to see more pictures and hear more about their humorous escapades?”  My typical response to this is, “I’m getting around to it, mom – be patient.” The truth is, the reason I haven’t written more about the madhouse I share with four children

Making My Mother Cry

The following post was written in February 2011.  As I type, Beth and I are about three weeks out from meeting our third child.  Rest assured, Children of the Heavenly Father will be sung at his baptism, and yes, I will probably cry again. One of the lasting memories of my childhood was seeing my mother cry in church.  This was not for anything my brothers or I did, mind you (although I’m sure such moments did occur), but because of one particular melody that had (and has) the unique ability to

"Amazing Grace" and Personal Prisons

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found; Was blind, but now I see. The words are, no doubt, familiar to many of us who learned to sing the hymn “Amazing Grace” at a young age.  The tune might be even more familiar – you don’t have to be religious to recognize a song that seems omnipresent in movies or on TV; at private funerals or public memorial services.  We hear it played in grandeur on a stately pipe organ, or by solitary trump

The Power to Forgive

“How do people forgive a crime like murder?”  The headline from a BBC News Magazine story asks a question that most of us hope we never have to answer, but it is a question that we would all be wise to ponder. The BBC article interviews Bill Pelke.  In 1985, Pelke’s grandmother was brutally killed by four teenaged girls in her home in northwest Indiana.  Fifteen-year-old Paula Cooper, viewed by prosecutors as the leader of the group, was convicted of murder for the stabbing death of the 78-year

The Cost(s) of Incarceration

When one thinks of exclusive addresses in New York City, the first thing that likely comes to mind is a penthouse overlooking Central Park, or perhaps an historic brownstone in a trendy part of town.  But when it comes to expensive living quarters, those addresses have nothing on the more spartan surroundings in the middle of the East River. A recent study performed by the Independent Budget Office in New York City reveals the staggering amount being spent to house inmates our nation’s largest

Viewing Prisoners Through a New Lens

The perceptions that many people have of prisoners are harsh and unforgiving. They are formed by television and movies, augmented by the nightly news, and used by politicians seeking to sway voters that they are “tough on crime.” The general sense is that the men and women behind bars are there because they are unable to be a part of the larger society, and that we are all better off with them isolated from “regular people.” This was the view of M. Leann Skeen.  In an article for the Marshall P

Sins of the Fathers: Three Generations of Prisoners

“Generation to generation, it all stems from me.” The lament of Sheldon Johnson, Sr. is a familiar one for many families stuck in a cycle of crime and incarceration. A deaf child raised by parents who showed little interest in communicating with him, Johnson struggled with feelings of inadequacy and nonacceptance. After graduating from the New Jersey School for the Deaf, Johnson became an apprentice for an upholstery company in Newark. Weekends spent partying in Harlem ignited a deep dependency
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