Christians believe that the essence of humanness is the imago dei—the “image of God”. In other words, we are human insofar as we mirror the qualities of our Maker.
As I interact about this topic with college students, I invite them to observe two fairly obvious characteristics of humanity: (1) that we are singular—unlike any other species in terms of what we are capable of—and (2) there is clearly something very wrong with us. No other species enacts such ugliness and evil.
And so I was intrigued by the review of the book The Creative Spark by Agustín Fuentes, the chair of Anthropology Notre Dame, in the Economist.
He argues from the idea of niche construction (studying how animals interact with their environments) that humans are “niche constructors extraordinaire”. There is almost no limit to which humans shape the world around them. (Unlike, say, a beaver who is limited to waterways and trees.)
Imagination is what makes us essentially human.
That is a controversial case to make. Man’s distinctiveness has been attributed to an aptitude for violence, exceptional intelligence or a preternatural ability to co-operate. Mr Fuentes contends that this fails to take into account the full range of evidence available to researchers.
I find it fascinating that two of the clashing en vogue views on human uniqueness locate it in either imagination or violence. (One of those, “I’ve been saying this all along!” moments.)
It’s a quick 5 minute read. (Incidentally, have you ever noticed that the Economist doesn’t have bylines? Why is that? To force their writers to focus on writing well and not on padding their egos!)
Russell Moore is the president of the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. As such, he is often asked to provide a public insight into the SBC perspectives on current events.
During the course of the presidential campaign, Moore was vocal about his concerns about Trump and his sorrow over the willingness of Christian leaders to maintain their support of him.
He has continued to be vocal (as is incumbent on his position) about concerns regarding the Trump administration and religious liberty. But a small mutiny is abrew in the SBC, and Moore has come under fire from Baptist leaders including former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who said he was, “utterly stunned that Russell Moore is being paid by Southern Baptists to insult them.”
Moore is popular among the younger set and minorities in the SBC, but has fallen out of favor with some of the old guard.
I hate to draw attention to this. But I’m really wanting to draw attention to the fact that this rift is drawing attention to itself (as I mentioned a couple weeks ago).
Huckabee’s statement was telling. Could it be that they are paying him to tell them uncomfortable truth? (Didn’t the original Baptist get in trouble for speaking truth to immoral power?)
This Washington Post article is only about a 7 minute read.
THE SANCTUARY MOVEMENT (99PI)
If you don’t listen to 99% Invisible, you should. It’s a great podcast that showcases the often inconspicuous aspects of design in our world; i.e., design is 99% invisible.
They took a detour from this during two of their latest shows, however, to highlight the origins of the “Sanctuary” movement. Presently there is much debate over the idea of “sanctuary cities“. It’s an imprecise term, but it indicates when a city is willing to accommodate immigrants and refugees regardless of legal status. It typically means they won’t assume the federal role of immigration enforcement.
But did you know that this whole movement began among a network of churches in Tuscon, AZ?
99pi features the story of Reverend John Fife and his Southside Presbyterian Church, who were among the first to take up the cause of desperate Salvadoran migrants fleeing to the US across the Mexican border in the 1980s. As they encountered these forlorn people seeking safety and asylum, they concluded that they were obligated to help them in whatever ways they could!
They essentially created an underground railroad, complete with screening, social services and a network of partner churches throughout the US. They took their cues from history, and the failures and triumphs of Christians in serving vulnerable people during the slave trade and the Nazi era. They believed that the call of Christ offered them a mandate and authority that transcended national legalities.
They were eventually infiltrated by federal agents! Sixty-three immigrants were arrested, as were 16 church leaders. In the second episode one of the lawyers representing the sanctuary movement leaders breaks down in tears of frustration simply recounting the ordeal of trying to pursue justice on behalf of those being served by the movement.
It’s an inspiring, challenging listen.
They are 30 and 25 minutes respectively.