Risky Living: Good Risks and Bad Risks

Living with risk: almost 600,000 Americans have died of COVID as of April 29, 2021

(I started writing this one year and one day ago. I might as well finish what I started.)

As a child growing up, I learned to swim at a local swim club where I also spent many lazy, summer days in the water. The high dive was the ultimate challenge at the club, and the divers who trained there were the people I looked up to. The thrill of somersaulting in the air into water was alluring.

I never took diving lessons. We moved when I was still young, but high dives always called me. As a teenager, the Quarry which became my new summer hangout had a high dive and a tower. The tower was only opened on special occasions, and only the bravest of kids would jump off.

I never had diving lessons, but I learned to somersault through the air, swan dive and a host of other playground tricks. I didn’t pass up an opportunity to dive from the tower either. I was somewhat a reckless youth.

The tower is still there today, but I am told they never “open” it because of the liability. My experiences were 45-50 years ago now.

I recall these things because I woke suddenly from a dream early yesterday morning to a man curled tightly in a rotating somersault spinning in the air. At 60 years old, now, the thrill of somersaulting in the air is more tinged with fear than it used to be, and the sudden vision of it jolted me awake with Adrenalin.

Every once in a while, I show my kids I can still do it, but the body doesn’t move like it once did. I can’t bounce or curl or rotate like a 15-year old anymore.

The moment of fear-tinged thrill I felt as I woke was more like the feeling I had when I was younger when I was tempted to see how close I could jump from the high dive to the edge of the swimming pool without hitting it. The “thought experiment” conjured up the same kind of feeling.

The two things – somersaulting from a high dive and trying to jump close to the edge of the pool without hitting it – are risky things to do. A misstep doing either one might result in injury or even death.

Not being instructed in the matter of high diving, I probably had more confidence than I should have in my own abilities. I pushed myself beyond what I feared I could not do. I might have been a bit brash about it, but I wasn’t foolish. Attempting to jump as close to the edge of the pool without hitting the concrete would have been not only brash, but utterly foolish.

Life is full of risks. Just swimming in water comes with the risk of drowning. (How many times did our mothers scold us about not swimming within an hour of eating?) The mother who doesn’t teach her kids to swim, though, isn’t doing them any favors. A person who never learned to swim, for fear of drowning, is much more likely to drown in a sudden fall into the water than a person who learned to swim.

For me, swimming was as natural as riding a bike. I did it for hours every day all summer long. Swimming in the water was familiar to me, so I didn’t fear it. Perhaps, I was even overconfident in my abilities and didn’t take seriously the warnings from my mother (though I listened to her anyway because she was my mother).

There are good risks and bad risks. Any business person knows that, as going into business is full of risk.

We are currently in the sixth week of sheltering in place from the corona virus threat here in Illinois. People throughout the country are starting to get restless, calling for the governors to declare an end to the stay-at-home orders and open up the states for business as usual. Many people are hunkered down because they are vulnerable or scared, while protesters are taking to the streets in defiance with no masks, daring government intervention.

How does the risk of COVID-19 fit into the spectrum of risk? It depends a lot on you.

Financial advisors always survey their clients’ risk tolerance. People have different levels of risk tolerance. Some of us are bolder, brasher and more confident than others. Some of us are timid and scared. People with vulnerabilities have reason to be concerned. Some people are just plain reckless.

Continue reading “Risky Living: Good Risks and Bad Risks”

Racial Justice: Having the Same Attitude Jesus Had

Loving our neighbors of color means not considering our rights and our position something to which we desperately cling

I consider myself fortunate to have been raised by parents who spoke about the evils of racial prejudice. I was rightfully appalled when I heard a racial comment spoken by a classmate in 1st grade. I was deeply affected by the assignation of Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. at age eight, so much that I remember what it was like walking to school the following day.

Dr. King’s death was a momentous event in my life, and it affected me, but the darkness I knew about was as far away from me as the clouds way up in the bright morning sky that day as I walked to school. As fortunate as I was to have had the good example of my parents’ just position on the issue of racism, I have been very slow to realize, personally, the real impact of racism in the lives of my brothers and sisters of color.

The racism I understand (very incompletely) has has only slowly come into focus for me from the other side of that world. I have never experienced racism directed at myself. I have not lived with the ever-present reality of racism bearing down on me from seen and, mostly, unseen sources.

I have never walked into a retail store knowing that someone, somewhere in that store, was watching me, suspicious of my every move. I have not driven my car in my own neighborhood conscious of the fact that eyes were following me from somewhere unseen, wondering what I am up to. I have not been stopped multiple times in my life on a pretense, though I was doing nothing wrong.

I do know the fear of being found out when I was doing something wrong, but that isn’t the same thing. I remember as a rebellious youth the fear that gripped me when I encountered a squad car at an intersection or when one pulled behind me while I had an open container of alcohol in my car. But I could control my circumstances and change my ways to eliminate that fear.


I don’t know what it’s like to live in constant fear of circumstances I can’t control or predict – circumstances controlled by the fate of my birth in modern America with dark-colored skin.

As a child, I had hope and faith that we could truly see Dr. King’s dream come true: the dream that is deeply rooted in the American dream that this nation would rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

We have made great strides, but the racism in this country is a more deeply rooted and pernicious cancer than I believed it to be when I was child.

The deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd are just the most recent examples of decades, generations and centuries of this cancer. The rioting that occurred last year is hard to understand from a purely rational perspective by those who don’t personally know the pain, grief, frustration and anger that wells up in response to injustice as people of good will sit silently by.

We have not, yet, achieved the goal of the civil rights movement that was inspired by the tragic death of Dr. King. Half a century later, we aren’t colorblind. In fact, colorblindness has become a way of denying the racial disparities that still exist. Racial issues have gone underground and have become more insidious.

How does a white guy like me, who once thought that we had overcome racism with civil rights laws on the books, speak to these pernicious issues that remain? How do I conduct myself? Some would say I have no legitimate voice to speak to these issues. 

Continue reading “Racial Justice: Having the Same Attitude Jesus Had”

Immigration History and Confusion in the Church

Polls suggest that just 12% of evangelical Christians say that they think of immigration primarily through the lens of the Bible.

We have a somewhat romanticized view of immigration in the US. All of us in the United States reading this article are the benefactors of immigration, unless your ancestors were all Native American. Thus, the vast majority of us have benefitted from the various waves of immigration to the US in the past.

My ancestors immigrated at various times from England, Wales, Germany, Switzerland and France. It’s no wonder, then, that I view our history of immigration with some appreciation and sentimentality, and I believe most people with European ancestry feel like I do in that respect unless.

If you have much Native American or African ancestry, then, your view might be a bit different. If you have Chinese ancestry, you might feel differently. If you had German ancestry in 1750’s, you also might feel differently, but I will get to that.

We also tend to view our immigrant ancestors as hard-working, honest, and lawful people checking off the right boxes, jumping through the right hoops and diligently observing the protocols demanded of them to enter the country. We have earned the right to be citizens through their noble and respectful efforts.

Most of us, me included in years past, don’t really know the history of immigration to the United States other than the generalized and romanticized notions we carry from the US history we learned s children.

I am not a big fan of the new approach to American history that downplays the great positives that characterize the birth of our nation and its unique place in the world as a leader in many facets of human existence from governance to industry, science, and technology, medicine and human rights and in many other ways. At the same time, I think we should be honest about our history.

Immigration in the New World was relatively open, with exceptions, before 1882. Benjamin Franklin advocated in 1751 to exclude Germans and Africans from settling in the New World because he was “partial to the complexion of my country”.[1] Alexander Hamilton “warned of the dangers of absorbing and especially naturalizing too many foreigners”.[2] In fact, it seems that fear of immigrants is (at least) as old as the New World itself.[3]

People like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington opposed those views at the time, though Jefferson’s opinion may have been motived by a perception that German immigrants were more apt to support him politically. Some things don’t change!

I am not going to recount all the history of immigration in the United States. I am sure I don’t know the half of it, but a few noteworthy historical markers might be instructive in these times.

My interest here is the evangelical church in the United States, of which I am a member. How should we as a church orient ourselves to the immigration issues in our time in light of Scripture?

Continue reading “Immigration History and Confusion in the Church”

Social Justice and Gospel Justice, Part II

The non-Christian world does justice from very different motivations and pursuant to a very different framework than the Christian

Imprisoned afro-american man looking at barbed wire, refugee camp, hopelessness


Jesus came to proclaim the gospel, which he described as “good news to the poor”, and he came to set the oppressed free. If we are to follow Jesus, the Gospel and justice go hand in hand. I wrote about the way Gospel and justice go together right from the start of the ministry of Jesus in Social Justice and Gospel Justice, Part I.

Among some evangelicals, though, we tend to see these things as almost diametrically opposed. Gospel and “justice” are almost viewed as the difference between orthodoxy and heresy, conservatism and liberalism. We have allowed a separation to creep in between the Gospel and Justice. And I dare say we have become unbalanced.

Of course, the same thing has happened in reverse. A “social justice” has developed that denies the gospel and is disassociated from the gospel. This, perhaps, explains the reaction of the orthodox church to the term “social justice”. 

I will try to make sense of this divorce of Justice from the Gospel in evangelical circles, and the divorce of the Gospel from Justice among non-evangelicals, in this blog post.

Continue reading “Social Justice and Gospel Justice, Part II”

What Does Archaeology Have to Do with Racial Justice in Modern Times?

A new voice is rising up that is reconnecting social justice to the truth of scripture

The Dead Sea Scrolls on display at the caves of Qumran that located on the edge of the Dead Sea in Israel.

“These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to one another, render true and perfect justice in your gates. And do not contrive evil against one another, and do not love perjury, because all those are things that I hate – declares the Lord.” Zechariah 8:16-17

A major archaeological discovery was made recently in some remote caves in the Judean Desert. Among the discoveries were, coins from the time of the Bar Kochba Revolt, the skeleton of a child dating back some 6,000 years, and a 10,000-year-old exceptionally well-preserved basket. (From 2,000-year-old biblical texts found in Israel, 1st since Dead Sea Scrolls by Rossella Tercatin for the Jerusalem Post, March 16, 2021.)

These items were found in “the Cave of Horror” in the Nahal Hever area of the Judean Desert. The Nahal Hever is an intermittent stream in in the West Bank, flowing from Yatta to the Dead Sea. At the head of the stream are two caves, the “Cave of Letters“, and, further up, the “Cave of Horror“.

Though the caves are hard to access, looters have raided them over the years. Archaeological efforts many years ago netted portions of the Book of Numbers, Psalms and Deuteronomy. Until recently, people might have assumed all artifacts to be found in those caves had already been removed.

The Greek scroll of the minor prophets found at Nahal Hever may even be the most significant find to date. Some date these fragments in the 50 years before Christ, and others date them in the 50 years after Christ. We don’t really know, but scholars seem to agree that the fragments come from “an early revision of the Septuagint in alignment with the Hebrew text”.


Modern archaeological finds continue to affirm Scripture and the continuity of Scripture through the ages. Poignantly for today in these times, the discovery of the scroll of the minor prophets found in the Nahal Hever speaks to an age old theme.

The passage in Zechariah 8 quoted above was found among the fragments. From old, from ages and ages past, we find that God desires truth and justice from His people.

“Speak the truth to one another, render true and perfect justice in your gates.”

I am reminded that God’s desire for justice and truth from His people is the same today as it was then. I think about these things after listening to the Disrupters podcast in which host, Esau McCalley, spoke to the political strategist, Justin Giboney. As they were talking about faith and politics, I realize that justice and truth continue to be priorities for God, and only the circumstantial details have changed.

Continue reading “What Does Archaeology Have to Do with Racial Justice in Modern Times?”