Payday Lending and the Church

A week or so ago, the small group I lead watched this video at the suggestion of some of the pastors at my church. I had planned to write a little more about it, but haven’t really found the time. This is an industry that preys on people’s poverty and need, and there is a lot of hesitancy to do things to regulate it, mostly because so many politicians have been bought off by the industry.

I especially appreciate the irony of the one Texas city councilmen who said he wished the Federal government would do something (as his excuse for doing nothing).  I figured saying the Federals should tell local cities how to run things would get you kicked out of the Republican Party in Texas.

Another difficulty seems to be that there aren’t great solutions. There are many other issues associated with poverty and emergencies and other reasons people may need more or lack access to traditional credit. I like the attempt here, to cap how much you can take from people and to require more transparency.

I was very happy to see some churches taking the lead in helping to care for the poor. For one, we are literally told to do this in the Bible. Not just the ‘love your neighbor’ type Gospel message, but there is much in the Old Testament, especially the Prophets about fair treatment and wages for the poor. Also, this issue of high interest rates has been something the church has been against for at least 500 years. Both Martin Luther and John Calvin wrote about the problems of high interest rates. Luther called people who take advantage of those in need through high rates as bad as the worst people on earth. Calvin considered the maximum allowable rate to be around 6% (while debatable, the 400% or so payday and title lenders charge now is clearly wrong.)

Check out the video (just over 30 minutes and pretty well done) and go look into rule in your state. See if there is something you can do to curb the abuse.

Book Review: The Christian Life

The Christian LIfe: A Doctrinal Introduction

Rating – Must Read

Level – Quick, easy read

Summary
The subtitle of this book is really illustrative of what this book is about. It is an introduction to doctrine for Christians, more specifically reformed theology. This is probably the best intro book I’ve ever read. You won’t get the full intro that you’d need to tackle Systematic Theology, there is no doctrine of church, sacrament, eschatology, etc., but his chapters on man, sin, grace, election/adoption, justification, and christian living are possibly unmatched in their accessibility to the average Christian.

I’d highly recommend this book for anyone looking to understand more about doctrine, to go above a Sunday School level, and it may even work as a gateway book into deeper study of theology. Ferguson was a theologian and professor, but this book is written by a pastor first and foremost and can easily be read by any Christian at any level of education and knowledge.

My Thoughts
If I’ve somehow been unclear, I’m really high on this book. Clocking in under 200 pages but with 18 chapters, anyone can hope in and out of the different doctrinal chapters with ease. As I mentioned above, this is a great intro for anyone looking to expand their knowledge. It is also a great reminder to pastor and theologians of the basics of doctrine. A way to bring those who greater knowledge back down to a simpler level, a more concise study of what others need to know.

This is written almost as a series of sermons and could be a great book for a Bible study or community group looking for something to read. For pastors and elders in the church, this should be the go to suggested reading for anyone inquiring about doctrine. Overall, it is a must read for every Christian.

Generational Theory

Tomorrow I will have my first book review up in quite some time. It is called Generation Z, and is basically an overview of the upcoming generation, how they are different, and what our actions/reactions should be as Christians.

Before I do that, I wanted to do a breif summary and some thoughts about generational theory as I feel like it is talked about a lot in the media and church right now – especially as it pertains to so-called ‘millenials’. I’ve also recentyl heard a podcast about boomers and there seems to be daily polls about the current generations. So, it was a post I was already thinking about, and then this book came and here we are.

What generations are around right now?

Greatest – basically anyone over 90, they lived through the Great Depression and fought in WW2. Also known as GI generation. They are the parents of the Boomers as the came back from the war, and popped out a record number of kids (the boom) during the great economic expansion and strengthen social safety programs.

Silent – Born in 30, basically didn’t do anything. Don’t take this as being harsh, but it is the reality. Mostly because there are just very few numbers of them. They are basically those too young to go to WW2, but not Boomers. Their time is short, and their numbers are excessively small due to the depression and especially the war (average age of the infantry in WW2 was 25).

Boomers – children of Greatest. They started during the post-war boom and depending on whom you read, ended in the early to mid-60s. This is a massive population, the largest ever (at the time) that spanned two decades. People argue over the stopping point (though everyone considers 1946 to be the starting point) and many (such as me) advocate seeing this as two different groups.

X – Children of Silent’s. They followed the boomers (whenever you finish them) to anywhere between 1978 and 1984. They are much smaller than the Boomers for one because they occupy a short timescale but mostly because they are children of the diminished Silent.

Millennials – Children of boomers, grandchildren of Greatest. Also known as ‘Y’ and Echo-Boomers. They start wherever you stop with ‘X’ and continue on to anywhere between 2000 and 2005. This is now the largest generation in history, first because they are the children of Boomers, but also because (taken to the fullest extent) they span 27 years from 1978 to 2005, which is obviously a terrible measure and they should also be considered as two distinct groups (more below).

Z – Children of X and Millennials. Born sometime around the Millennium (which means the name Millennials really makes more sense for them). Also known as i-Generation and Homeland Generation. They are born when you finish Millennials (though often much earlier, White puts it at 1993) to anywhere between 2012 to the current crop of children right now. The lines kind of blur here, and I think that is a good thing.

When I was in college and grad school a little over 10 years ago, and the issue of demographics came up, there was a focus on the ‘echo boomers’. These were basically us, the college students at the time, people born in the 80s to maybe early 90s, we were the children of the original Baby Boomers (echo boom, get it?) Kids in the 90s to early 2000s were often listed as “i-generation”, basically the generation that grew up with i-pods, phones, pads, etc. they were also (so as not to tie them to a product) referred to as the ‘millennials’, those born around the time of the millennium. The original idea of millennial was closer to what many call Z now. However, Straus and Howe consider Z (Homeland to them) to be from 2000 to now, making it two distinct groups.

Overall, we were often put together as the commonly referred to ‘Y’, but most demographers so the issue with have a Y generation follow X, mostly that the next would be Z, then you are out of letters. Partly because of this, the more trendy ‘millennials’ took over as the name people (especially the media) used. I’m honestly not sure why Echo-Boom never took off, other than technically an echo is quieter.

Likewise, some have split the boomers into two groups. For a great primer on this check out the podcast – Stuff you should know – What’s the Deal With Baby Boomers – the split them into the following:
1946-1955 – Leading Edge Boomers
1955-64 – Shadow Boomers (also knowns as Generation Jones)

Leading Edge are what you think of when you think 50s childhood. Those who were the young children of the GIs with the ‘idyllliac’ life as portrayed by politicians. The Shadow are known as the Jones (as in, keeping up with the Joneses) or even the ‘Me’ generation due to their focus on consumerism. This is the group most know for rapid consumption and selfishness.

If you want to think seriously about generational theory, these two interdivisions of the two massive groups is helpful. For one, you may have two different generations in the same ‘generation.’ I (’84) and my nephew (’98) by almost all accounts we are both millennials. However, he is my sister’s kid, and cousin to my daughter, quite literally the next generation in our family. Also, his life experience is quite different. He doesn’t remember 9/11, whereas it is a defining event for people my age. He doesn’t know pre-smart phone, let alone pre-ubiquitous cell phones. He basically only knows the Obama administration. The list could go on, and on.

Similarly, early boomers like my dad (’47) have a very different life/worldview that later boomers like my mother-in-law (redacted). My dad served in Korea and all my uncles went to Vietnam. They all remember JFK being shot; that was of the defining events for them. For Mrs. MMT’s family, who are generally about 10-15 years younger, they think more about events in the 70s, the stagflation and energy crises leading up to Reagan.

So, all that is a long way of saying that the generation stuff you hear about so often now is way overblown and generalized. I kind of laugh when I hear a colleague who isn’t even 40 talking about the problems with millennials. Millennials are much older than media portrayal for one, but they also encompass over 75 million people born in a time spanning 3 decades (about 23 years on average), five to six presidents, and countless different economic situations. Again, I finished grad school in ’08, meaning the Great Recession was a defining part of my life (like the depression for my grandparents), my nephew was 10.

Finally, I’ll point out that these lines aren’t perfect. For instance, my sister is an X. Some people with large families may have children that cross lines, or if someone was married very young, their children may fall into the next group. I think generally speaking, the time period in which you grew up is the best indicator, due to being shaped by the culture, and if someone is in some of the blurry edges, they are probably best classified by their parents’ generation. If you noticed, it was quite cycle. Greatest were shaped by the depression and war, then came their children who were shaped by war (but not a major recession/depression due to the law passed by their parents, which they would later repeal), their children are then affected by 9/11 another set of wars and the Great Recession. Likewise, you have the Silent, which is small and kind of off, who then have the ‘X’s who are also small and in a lot of ways, a reaction against the corporatism and greed for the second wave of Boomers. Now, their children and Millennials and whatever is next are all getting blurred together. Part of this is really just how ill-defined my generation is, but also because paths are less traditional. It isn’t men graduating high school then going to trade school/college/military, getting married at 22, then have their first kid within 2 years. That is how you end up with Mrs. MMT and I without question being the same generation (we are less than 6 months apart), but my dad was 37 when I was born, where as her mom was early 20s. Or my nephew who is closer to me in age than he is to my daughter because my sister was 19 when she had a kid and I was 30.

An importance thing in understanding how the church reacts going forward is seeing how history is repeating itself. The Echos, like me (80s) are already known for being more frugal and rediscovering things like cooking and sewing, the same way our grandparents were. While the people just now interring the workforce down to middle schoolers are rejecting the consumerism and self-centeredness of the second half of the boomers (much like ‘X’). While there is a mix of people in the 90s that grew up in the expansion and mirror those boomers in their sense of entitlement and expectations for life.

I’m not as pessimistic about the changes in the next generation as others may be. They will be more diverse and more liberal, but that has been true in every generation. Probably the biggest difference, and the one that does bring them outside of these generational patterns is that they are not growing up a majority Christian culture. I think White does a great job addressing this in his book. So, there is that, I’ve already written much more than I had originally intended, but it is one of the topics I geek out on, so I hope you liked it and that it was helpful

Good Metal Friday 2017

Posting has been spotty, but I’m on my last paper of the courses for this semester tonight. Book reviews should return as early as next Wednesday, and my random ramblings will be sporadic as always.

So, I post the guys all the time, but only because they have the best content of any Christian Metal out there. I had hoped to have this up earlier, so that my dozen or so readers could reflect on this longer. This song is taken/based on a quote from the puritan John Flavel. See the quote below, watch the video, listen to the song, and think (maybe even ponder) and the bargian that Christ made for us. He took on our debts, our sins, and tresspasses, and paid them all, paid them in full; with his blood. He drank the cup of God’s wrath, that we would have everlasting life.

Today, on Good Friday, we commerate His death, His propitation of our sins, that we me be seen as blameless before God. His death was the subsitutanary atontement for our sins. He took our place, so that we can have a place with Him, as adopted sons and daughets of God. Reflect on this tomorrow, as we await the commeratation of the resurrection and think of the hope we have.

“Here you may suppose the Father to say when driving His bargain with Christ for you.The Father speaks. “My Son, here is a company of poor, miserable souls that have utterly undone themselves and now lay open to my justice. Justice demands satisfaction for them, or will satisfy itself in the eternal ruin of them.” The Son responds. “Oh my Father. Such is my love to and pity for them, that rather than they shall perish eternally I will be responsible for them as their guarantee. Bring in all thy bills, that I may see what they owe thee. Bring them all in, that there be no after-reckonings with them. At my hands shall thou require it. I would rather choose to suffer the wrath that is theirs then they should suffer it. Upon me, my Father, upon me be all their debt.” The Father responds. “But my Son, if thou undertake for them, thou must reckon to pay the last mite. Expect no abatement. Son, if I spare them… I will not spare you.” The Son responds. “Content Father. Let it be so. Charge it all upon me. I am able to discharge it. And though it prove a kind of undoing to me, though it impoverish all my riches, empty all my treasures… I am content to take it.”

  • The Works of John Flavel, Vol.1, “A Display of Christ in His Essential and Mediatorial Glory”, 42 Sermons, Sermon Number 3, “The Covenant of Redemption between the Father and the Redeemer”, Use 6.

I’ve posted this video before (last Easter, actually), but this one is put to a movie. I have no idea why Jesus is super white and pretty, or the reason for the Spanish subtittles. You can reflect on the words and images, nonetheless.

The Recent Police Shootings

UPDATE – My editor has suggested that I revise some of the language regarding the police, especially in light of last night’s events. The concern being that it may come off as overly biased towards cops. However, I have decided to leave it unchanged. The post isn’t about police. I’m trying to explain my experiences, and these were the thoughts we had. It sets up how we interacted with and thought about cops. The main point is that my views, due to my life, are vastly different than those experienced by others (see linked article at end).
Very little, if anything, about last night’s actions are good. They are clearly bad for the cause and were acts of hate. This is not how we change to world for the better. Paul tells us in Romans the way we need to follow – Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Also, go read Russell Moore’s latest on how preachers can react.

***

I’m not even really sure how to write what I want to say. There are so many odd reactions to the recent shootings of black men by the police, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, that it is tough to know where to start. No surprise that race would be an issue, though it is disappointing that it is also turned into a political issue, almost of as one side supports police shootings. Worst of all is the reaction I hear from fellow Christians. It especially bothers me when they are the supposedly libertarian/limited-government types whom should be suspicious of the government. From the Christian side (though, it’s not just Christians), I tend to hear one of two things – that they shouldn’t have been doing anything wrong to be stopped by the police or that ‘all lives matter.’

Philando was stopped for a broken tail light. Think about that. We are saying that the loss of his life is his fault. That a minor traffic infraction is punishable by death. I don’t care if they found 10 kilos of blow in his trunk, that’s not a reason to kill someone. Mrs. MMT drives a baby blue Mazda 3. She had a tail light out for a bit once, but she didn’t get pulled over. Let’s not pretend that was really the only reason he was pulled over. Continue reading