The Secret of Western Success

Ofbyld:Westminster Abbey - 20th-century Martyrs.jpg

Credit: Wikipedia

Terry and I have been attending a Bible class at Zion Lutheran Church in Walburg, Texas, our home church. It’s been led by Matt Rochner, a very bright young Christian husband and father. A couple weeks ago Matt shared what I’m passing along to you today.

David Aikman was the bureau chief in Beijing for Time magazine for many years. When he was working for Time, he interviewed people like Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Mother Theresa, and Billy Graham. While in Beijing, he had access to significant leaders in the communist government.

Aikman interviewed a Chinese social scientist disciple of Mao Zedong who had carefully studied the West. The topic was the impact of Christianity on Western culture. His group explored what accounted for the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West all over the world.

“We studied everything we could from the historical, political, economic, and cultural perspective. At first, we thought it was because you (the West) had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system.”

“But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion. Christianity. That is why the West has been so powerful.”

Aikman goes on to say to us in the West: “Now, you don’t think that way. I don’t think that way. We think it’s our economy. We think it’s that we have more airplanes and smart bombs. We stretch from sea to shining sea. We have incredible breadth of landscape, we’re protected by oceans, and it’s too cold in the north. We have all these reasons, and here the smart people in China are asking: ‘What’s the secret? Aha, we’ve discovered it. It’s Christianity.’”

Many of us in the West are saying: “Are you kidding? We’re not even very good Christians. In fact, if you’re not a Christian, you’re saying, ‘Whoa! Don’t throw me in with that bunch of crazy people. I’m not even a Christian. Don’t blame what has happened in our culture on Christianity.’”

But an objective Chinese person stands back and says to us, “You may not know the secret of your power and success, but we’ve looked at it, we’ve discovered it. It’s not your bombs. It’s not your economy. It’s not your democratic form of government. There’s something else. It’s your religion. It’s your Christianity. That’s what makes you powerful.”

“Studies by Chinese sociologists looking at their own country reveal that in rural areas where traveling evangelists/missionaries introduce the Christian faith, opium addiction goes down, crime drops, and Christian families grow wealthier than their neighbors.”

“Chinese social scientists discovered what we have lost sight of. The church matters. The church makes a cultural difference regarding the freedoms we love and the opportunities we have as Americans. We want to chalk it up to a whole lot of different contributing factors.”

“But those on the outside looking in are saying that the secret sauce to Western success is that there’s a belief system, there’s a value system, there’s a dignity given to men and women and children. And it comes from our Christian heritage. That’s the secret of Western success.”

So here’s my word to fellow pastors, professional church workers, and lay leaders. Keep working. Keep praying. Keep passing to your children and grandchildren the simple and even the complex concepts of Christianity. Allow your life to be a living testimony to your faith. And if necessary, use words. It makes a difference! It’s the secret of Western success!

Advertisements

Mother’s Day or Mothers’ Day or Mothers Day?

son-2935723_1920.jpg

What’s the correct way to spell the event to be celebrated this coming Sunday? The internet provides a number of options, including all three of the formats in the title of this article.

One website titled Communications Syllabus adds this note: Anna Jarvis, the woman largely behind this holiday, wanted the day to “honor one’s own mother, not mothers in general.” And so the apostrophe fits snuggly between the r and the s, and nowhere else.

Actually, in all transparency, the purpose of this article is not to argue the correct spelling of the day but to share a thought I passed along to a fellow pastor who recently asked how I handled preaching on Mother’s Day. Here’s what I told him, not verbatim, but pretty close to it.

In my humble opinion, preachers make a mistake when they only or even primarily honor the mothers in the church pews the second Sunday in May. That may be well and good for those who just happen to be mothers, but what about those who have never been thusly blessed?

In my pastoral career I’ve encountered no small number of women who have not been blessed with children. Some have learned to accept that reality. Others still grieve deeply.

That grief may be exacerbated when the pastor makes a big deal of honoring mothers in church on Mother’s Day. Doing so may not be helpful to women in attendance who are not mothers.

The suggestion I offered my friend was that pastors do well when they encourage their listeners to honor their mother, whether she is still living this side of heaven or is already a heavenly resident.

Everyone has a mother. Some are still living. Others are not. Mine passed away this past January. Some have or had positive, fulfilling relationships with their mother. Others not so much. Mine was a great blessing. But the reality is, everyone has or had a mother.

Emphasizing on Mother’s Day the importance of thanking God for our mother avoids embarrassment and discomfort experienced by non-mothers when mothers in the crowd are the ones primarily, or exclusively, honored.

Some pastors who read this article may disagree. It won’t be the first time I’ve encountered disagreement with fellow “brothers of the cloth” and I doubt it will be the last. But I betcha’ many women readers, both those who are mothers and those who are not, will say Amen!

This Sunday I’ll thank God for my mother. I encourage you to do the same.

Lexophile

Image result for dictionary words from f

“Lexophile” describes those who have a love for words, especially in word games. Examples: “You can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish.” “To write with a broken pencil is pointless.”

An annual competition is held by the New York Times to see who can create the best original lexophile. One year’s winner is posted at the very end. Here are some of the entries:

  • I changed my iPod’s name to Titanic. It’s syncing now.
  • England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.
  • Haunted French pancakes give me the crepes.
  • A girl said she recognized me from the Vegetarians Club, but I know I’ve never met herbivore.
  • I know a guy who’s addicted to drinking brake fluid, but he says he can stop any time.
  • A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.
  • When the smog lifts in Los Angeles, U.C.L.A.
  • I got some batteries that were given out free of charge.
  • A dentist and a manicurist were married. They fought tooth and nail.
  • A will is a dead giveaway.
  • With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.
  • Police were summoned to a daycare center where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.
  • A bicycle can’t stand alone; it’s just two tired.
  • The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine last week is now fully recovered.
  • He had a photographic memory but it was never fully developed.
  • When she saw her first strands of gray hair she thought she’d dye.
  • Acupuncture is a jab well done. That’s the point of it.
  • I didn’t like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.
  • A crossed-eyed teacher lost her job because she couldn’t control her pupils.
  • When you get a bladder infection, urine trouble.
  • When chemists die, they barium.
  • I stayed up all night to see where the sun went, and then it dawned on me.
  • No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationery.
  • I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. I just can’t put it down.

Hope you enjoyed this creative use of words, even without specific theological significance.