"This I Used to Believe" on NPR's This American Life. My wife and I are NPR junkies, and often have "driveway moments" listening to various shows or articles. Last weekend we sat in our garage for at least ten minutes to finish listening to the second segment of this particular episode, which was about how different people changed their minds about what they believe. The segment was about a woman, Trisha, a lapsed Catholic who had lost her best friend to cancer at age 32. She somehow got in touch with a conservative Christian football coach who felt called to talk to her about God. What was fascinating was that they played parts of their actual phone calls together, and we as listeners could eavesdrop on his attempts to witness to her. What was sad and frustrating was that he kept trying to give rational argumentation to prove the existence of God, and and he just wasn't connecting with her. Trisha said later on that she didn't want to be argued at; part of her really wanted to believe again, but she just wasn't there - primarily because of the question of why her friend died of cancer. A good illustration of the limitations of apologetics and the need for listening to people's felt needs for comfort and companionship.
"The Lie We Love" by E. J. Graff, from Foreign Policy - a heartbreaking article about international adoption. Many adopted children are not orphans. Many have been kidnapped, stolen or purchased from their birth families. Some excerpts:
As international adoptions have flourished, so has evidence that babies in many countries are being systematically bought, coerced, and stolen away from their birth families. Nearly half the 40 countries listed by the U.S. State Department as the top sources for international adoption over the past 15 years—places such as Belarus, Brazil, Ethiopia, Honduras, Peru, and Romania—have at least temporarily halted adoptions or been prevented from sending children to the United States because of serious concerns about corruption and kidnapping.
In reality, there are very few young, healthy orphans available for adoption around the world. Orphans are rarely healthy babies; healthy babies are rarely orphaned. “It’s not really true,” says Alexandra Yuster, a senior advisor on child protection with UNICEF, “that there are large numbers of infants with no homes who either will be in institutions or who need intercountry adoption.”
So, where had some of these adopted babies come from? Consider the case of Ana Escobar, a young Guatemalan woman who in March 2007 reported to police that armed men had locked her in a closet in her family’s shoe store and stolen her infant. After a 14-month search, Escobar found her daughter in pre-adoption foster care, just weeks before the girl was to be adopted by a couple from Indiana. DNA testing showed the toddler to be Escobar’s child. In a similar case from 2006, Raquel Par, another Guatemalan woman, reported being drugged while waiting for a bus in Guatemala City, waking to find her year-old baby missing. Three months later, Par learned her daughter had been adopted by an American couple.
One American who adopted a little girl from Cambodia in 2002 wept as she spoke at an adoption ethics conference in October 2007 about such a discovery. “I was told she was an orphan,” she said. “One year after she came home, and she could speak English well enough, she told me about her mommy and daddy and her brothers and her sisters.”
A few quick book plugs: I just read through Andy Marin's Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community. It's a tremendously helpful read. Andy is a straight married white Christian guy who has lived in the midst of a GLBT community for the last decade, and he describes himself as "the gayest straight dude in America." If you have GLBT friends and don't know how to interact with them, read this book. If you are GLBT and fed up with reactionary conservative Christians, read this book. Andy shows how all of us, gay or straight, Christian or not, can move beyond the conversation-stoppers and build real mutual relationships.
And N. T. Wright's new book Justification: God's Plan & Paul's Vision just came in from the printer (just in time for the Wheaton Theology Conference last weekend, where we sold a boatload of them). This book began as a response to John Piper's objections and grew into a full-blown treatment of Wright's take on justification. I'm about a third of the way through it right now, and it's extremely well done. If you've been following recent discussions on this topic, regardless of where you sit, this book is essential reading.
And on the lighter side: The Atlantic ran a piece about world leaders on Facebook (image here). Has items like "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad joined the group People Who Always Have To Spell Their Names For Other People." And here's a Facebook news feed summarizing Jane Austen. Funny stuff, like: Fitzwilliam Darcy is proposing to Elizabeth Bennet. It is not going well. :-/