Can We Afford to be Multicultural in Education?

In the next 30 seconds, a little boy or girl in Africa will die of malaria.[1] Other research tells us that nearly 1 billion people in the world are illiterate[2] and another 1.4 billion can’t get to clean water[3].  So, what would those stuck in poverty have to add to a discussion about education and what could they possibly teach those of us who not only have drinking water flowing from a faucet, but who also sleep free from mosquito nets, with the ability to read ourselves to sleep? Let me pose the question a different way: are there universal methods of education that transcend cultural and socioeconomic lines to the point that we can articulate a core set of principles that may guide educators around the world, thus forming an international set of ideals that blurs the lines of the literate and illiterate and transcends the borders of East and West, North and South?

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A Biblical View of Vomit

Does God get sick of the whole world? At first glance, it seems like indeed there is a link between events in the world and the anthropomorphic description of God getting ill. On one particularly slow Sunday in church (confession here: I do sometimes take notes on the sermon and when the sermon doesn’t lend itself to notetaking, then I still write some things down anyway) and so I began to think to myself, ‘is there really something that makes God sick to the point of actually vomit?’ And, to my surprise, I actually found out that there is a whole bunch of verses on vomiting in the Scriptures. In fact, there are 13 separate occasions in which the act, what we call throwing up—getting seriously ill to the stomach, whatever you’re comfortable with, is not only mentioned, but actually references God on more than one occasion. Which leads me to conclude that yes, God gets sick at times.I won’t recount all 13 passages. They are graphic to say the least, particularly the one in Job 20:15 that has Zophar speaking and talking about the treatment of the poor. Ok…never mind, I will share it and it goes like this:

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Violence and the Fall of Man

What has always been striking to me is the fact that the first children (Cain and Abel) mentioned in the Bible resulted in the first recorded murder. Cain kills Abel in cold blood. It's clear, unmistakable, evil, and violent. What is also clear is that in recent decades, we have argued and debated not simply our rights to have firearms, but also the rights to go to war. Violence seems to be something naturally a part of fallen humanity and something that seems to be here to stay.

Despite the increased violence found in public schools, the 'right to bear arms' is defended to an almost fever pitch. And more than this, let's simply reflect a bit behind the headlines. Since September 2001, terrorism has been in the news almost daily, the threat of nuclear war seems to also be creeping back into the mainstream mindset with the recent summit meetings with Russia and sanctions against Iran. And yet, there has been a rise in violent video games and horror films the likes of which we haven't seen in quite some time. Either the world is indeed becoming more violent or violence is simply surfacing as an integral part of what it means to be worldly.

A recent story about violent crime on the streets of Chicago had some amazing and alarming stats. The direct quote is as follows: 

So far this year, 113 people have been killed — matching the death toll of U.S. troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan during the same period.

The Chicago Sun Times - Daley: National Guard only a 'Band-Aid' solution to crime
This article actually challenges me to wonder if pacifism and non-violence really is the Christian or most Biblical way to counter the violence wrought by our own collective hearts. To have more murders in a calendar year than two wars says something striking about our own sense of community. Many of us aren't really living life with a vision of something new or better or different, many of us are simply surviving life, hoping the next paycheck will come in and hoping we'll be alive to spend it on something more than our food, lodging, and transportation. Yet, the conservative crowd is clamoring not for gun control, but for gun rights. This doesn't seem right. Shouldn't we have a deeper, broader, and more comprehensive vision of life? Shouldn't we invite people to a better life and not just a life of survival?
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Is there a Christian Activism?

A few years ago, I was speaking at a college event in New York City and I was introduced as being a 'Christian activist'.

This gave me pause and made me think about a variety of nuances on the topic of activism.

For example, can you be a Christian and not be active? Is there such a thing as a Christian 'non-activist'?

Of course, being introduced as an 'activist' sounded better than being introduced as a non-activist, but what is activism?

So, the -ism for this week is activism and it's in the news in a myriad of ways. In a recent op-ed piece in the New York Times, Bono, co-founder of the advocacy group ONE and (Product)RED, writes these words:
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Through the Prism of ---Isms

Today, marks the first day of an indefinite series on the -isms shaping the week's current events and global discourse. Why do this? Well, two main reasons motivate me to make each Friday post a different -ism......First, I actually heard someone say the other day, 'I am glad communism fell and I love capitalism, but there's so much cynicism and pessimism and not enough optimism, don't you think?' I was exhausted and energized listening to the onslaught of -isms thrown out. Exhausted because I wondered if the speaker truly knew how nuanced some of the words are and energized because I thought to myself, 'hey, I bet there's a lot of -isms, worth talking about.' And so, I am talking about them, but not in a worldview catalog sort of way, but in a week in review manner. The theme of this blog is to ponder ideas that impact us both locally and globally understanding that ideas have consequences, so each Friday, I will focus in on an --ism that has been particularly raised in the global discourse for the week. And since it's been an odd week, my first --ism post will have two words featured, one of them spelled differently than conventional --isms.

Capitalism should be mentioned this week not only because of recent discussions surrounding whether or not Capitalism can survive or if faith and capitalism mix (see also a recent Duke University Press release by William Connolly entitled, "Capitalism and Christianity, American Style" ), but because Goldman Sachs was charged with fraud by the SEC and once again we're left wondering who is telling the truth and if capitalism can survive its own success. The markets reacted by going down and the blood pressure of many reacted by going up. Is this relegated to a chosen few or has capitalism run its course? Furthermore, those of us who are convinced of the truth of the Bible need to assess if we fear the decline of capitalism more than God. We should not confuse the current version of capitalism with Scriptural teaching letting the former inform the latter. We always critique capitalism in light of Scripture and if there's a discrepancy, well, then capitalism, not the Bible, must go. There may be challenges ahead, though, as the predominant prosperity gospel takes a beating in the public square.

Cataclysm is the next --ism of the week, although the spelling will challenge the anal retentive among us. As a synonym for disaster, the China earthquake and the Iceland volcano remind us not only of the power of nature and the enormity of creation, but we should also be reminded of the need for humility. When Jesus calmed the winds and the waves, the Gospel writers tell us that the ability to calm the storm frightened the disciples more than the storm itself. Jesus is actually more powerful than volcanoes and earthquakes, but we treat him lightly and take disasters far more seriously. In the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, millions of dollars were raised very quickly, but missionaries continue to struggle to make ends meet. Of course, this is not an either-or discussion, rather cataclysms often reveal other cataclysm. Hurrican Katrina revealed a broken government and a neglected group of people living in poverty. What will the Iceland volcano (already wreaking havoc on the airline industry) and the China earthquake reveal? It's not what goes into a man, but what comes out that makes him unclean. What is coming out of our hearts when we see capitalism run amuck and cataclysms multiply...maybe that's worth paying attention to in our quiet time tomorrow morning.

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The Psalms and Sufi Poets

A while back, I encouraged readers to become more globally minded and one way of doing this is to read international authors. With this in mind, don't forget poets. Martin Luther came to a profound understanding of the gospel through reading not only Romans, but also the Psalms. And this part often gets overlooked. The impact of Romans 1:16-17 has become legendary and indeed, 'the just shall live by faith' is something that shouldn't be glossed over in its consequences. Yet, let's not gloss over the Psalms either.

The Psalms, often noted for their emotional impact, are often neglected in their theological importance. Yet, this is so often the case with poetry in general. Quite often, we reduce poetry to the fluff of greeting cards or relegate it to the darkness of bad days. Poetry is often seen as something for extreme days and more the exception than something that is quite instructive and a valid form of literature for reflection and redemption. Take for example, Psalm 23 and its almost universal appeal. The singular phrase, 'though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,' is perhaps not only a visceral note to us, but also a theologically rich truth that says as much or more than Romans 8:28 does, 'where all things work together for the good of those who love Him'. Now, set these texts side by side and you begin to see and experience what Luther did.

Poetry can be fluff, but it doesn't have to be. And certainly the Psalms are not fluff. In fact, I was reminded about this in a recentImage blog posting on Sufi poets. The article says that Sufi poetry can be both 'welcoming' but also 'mysterious.' In other words, the reader is often drawn in by an inviting image, but then the reader lingers and stays a while because that image or metaphor haunts and helps at the same time (the full link is here) The most famous Sufi poet in the West is simply named Rumi and his work is worth reading through at least once (though you'll get hooked on some of the pieces).

Sufi poetry is often utilized for devotional exercise as well, similar to that of the Psalms. And while the theological focus is distinct and different, reading Sufi poetry brings me back to the Psalms (after all they're both written in roughly the same part of the world) and the Psalms bring back to a God rich in mercy and steadfast in His love. And that God often brings me back to Romans 8 where there is now no condemnation for those in Christ. And that truth often brings me back to my knees, which is so often a good place from which to impact the world.

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The Future of American Development

Last year, Vishal Mangalwadi, an Indian scholar and outstanding speaker and writer, made some compelling remarks regarding the future of America. Here is an excerpt from an interview dated last summer: (the full interview can be found on examiner.com)

 

"How can you be so sure that America will turn into a third world country?"

 

VishalLet me tell you this, how I can be so sure. Right now the FBI is investigating 52,000 wealthy Americans who are hiding 15 billion dollars in secret, safe accounts. America is a very rich country with lots of millionaires, and altogether they have 15 billion dollars in tax-evaded secret, safe accounts.

India is a poor country. How much money do you think Indians have in secret safe accounts? It’s 1500 billion, 1.5 trillion dollars that Indians have in secret accounts. We’re number one. Russia is number two; Russians have 350 billion.

Now, what does that tell you about America? It tells you that Americans pay taxes. Very few people cheat. They hire tax consultants; they save as much tax as they can legally. Very few of them take illegal means to save taxes.

Why do Americans pay taxes? Is there any reason for you to pay your tax if the government is going to take that money and give it to corrupt corporations that have made a mess of your economy by billions of dollars…trillions of dollars? 

While you are making money, they are messing up money. Why should you pay taxes to bail them out? The reason we pay taxes, is because the Bible said that you shouldn’t steal --that you should pay your taxes.  

- Vishal Mangalwadi 
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::informed by the end of the world::

I attended a lecture this week from teacher and author Michael Goheen. He said something striking and it's worth noting. Here's my paraphrase: how you understand the end of the world will inform what you believe your mission to be.

The band, R.E.M., used to close many of their concerts with their song 'it's the end of the world as we know it...and I feel fine.' Interestingly, the song is informative and not far from Goheen's point. To feel fine about your mission, you must come to grips with what you believe about the end of the world. But, for many, the world may never end and for others, this is simply paranoia. But, think about it. Goheen's point is that the end of the story informs what we believe our part to be in the story. In fact, Goheen writes,

 

Michael W Goheen
 Heaven, which has been separated...by sin...now is joined in harmonious unity with earth.
 
 (it's worth reading the entire article here)
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Empathy for the Persecuted Smoker

Up until recently, I have been on the bandwagon to make smokers pay for all of the polluted air, the lighting up of a cigarette in a restaurant or near my children, and the absurdity of driving by a hospital (the refuge of all things healthy) and witness a dozen doctors and nurses standing outside smoking. Smoking will harm you, cut your life short, and slowly destroy various parts of your body. The packs come with giant warning labels and the prices for packs are becoming outrageous (how many smokers need to quit nowadays, simply because they can no longer afford it?).

How many house fires and forest fires have been carelessly started by a smoldering cigarette? How many lives lost or cut short because of the lingering health problems associated with smoking? How many times have you seen an attractive woman (or man) walk down the street and you say to yourself 'wow, she's got it together....' Then she lights up a cigarette and the whole scene turns ugly....I am on the bandwagon that says smoking is bad. Smoking should be banned in hospitals, restaurants, and shops.

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Three Easy Ways to Energize Your Global Inner Child

Living in an interconnected world is here to stay. One cannot claim ignorance any longer on some parts of the world with 24/7 cable networks visually reporting the recent news and images from around the globe. Couple this with Twitter updates, texts messages, and online updates: information is not our problem. Engagement with that information is another story. How does something like news impact us emotionally? Part of our emotional engagement comes when we actually allow ourselves to be immersed or exposed in a fresh way to people and their stories.

So, to become more emotionally connected rather than mere information collection, here are a few suggestions....

1) Read books written by foreign authors.....don't simply read a book by a Western author about a different part of the world, but truly read a book by someone who does not live here and who has written a book for people who don't live here. Spending hours and days, not sound bytes and minutes, will help with emotional engagement.

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About
As a University director of study abroad in Central Texas, ideas and stories matter. These reflections are for pilgrims making progress.


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