Welcome to tomthinking.com Wednesday, December 12 2018 @ 11:16 PM UTC

The Wussification of Christianity

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I’m borrowing the headline for today’s entry from comedian Brad Stine who blames much of American Christianity’s lack of attraction for men on the “Wussification of America.” His Sunday rant on FOX News reminded me of a passage in Romans that my wife and I read in our morning devotions.
In our modern, democratic, “sensitive” age we have crafted a church that for many people emphasizes love, acceptance, grace, mercy, and the more “friendly” aspects of the Bible and Jesus’ character. We talk a great deal about receiving Jesus as our Savior but don’t usually emphasize what he saved us from or another all-important aspect of Christ’s identity.
Sovereignty.
In “modern” Christianity we want to be sensitive to perceptions of those outside the church. We take our cue from the Apostle Paul who instructed us to be “all things” to all men (I Corinthians 9:22) and to maintain a good reputation with those outside the church (I Timothy 3:7), and not to give offense, unnecessarily. Yet there is another side to Christianity that in our day of modern sensibilities we often overlook. It is the side that emphasizes the supremacy of Jesus Christ above all else. It is the side that emphatically and unquestionably stands for truth, righteousness, and authority. It is the side that sometimes in the midst of over-sensibilities must stand up and say without reservation that there is only one God, and one truth, and one authority that is over and above all others.
When beginning his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul began with a greeting that if written today by a missionary or pastor might seem foolish and even dangerous considering whom he was writing too.

Buddhism & Christianity: Fear vs. Passion

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I spoke at a brunch yesterday at Valley View Baptist Church in Snowflake, Arizona, at the morning service at First Southern in St. John’s, and the evening service at First Baptist in Overgaard. In addition to talking about the work of Eagle TV in Mongolia I taught on the subject of how Animism and Buddhism has influenced Mongolian culture, and the incredible openness of most Mongolians to discuss spiritual things. The Americans I speak with are fascinated by discussions about Mongolia and its Buddhist foundations. It comes as a great surprise for many to learn, through practical illustrations, how Animism and Buddhism have crafted the basic value system of Mongolia, which is very different from the value systems that most Americans subscribe too. In all of my talks I draw out the two most important differences between Buddhism, Islam (also in Mongolia), and Christianity—suffering and love.
  • Buddhism fears suffering,
  • Islam causes suffering,
  • Christianity redeems [through] suffering

Christ & Culture or Culture & Christ?

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It was with disappointment that I read this article from Thaindian News: Indianised Version of the Bible Hit Among Christians.
The new Catholic translation of the Bible, which apparently went on sale in India this month, has sold like hotcakes, with 15,000 grabbed up in just 10 days. Those are big numbers.
It’s also a big problem.
Apparently the new translation draws “references to other religions like Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism.” This means that the terms from these religions are used in the Bible’s text to explain Christianity. Actually, this is not an unusual concept. The same is done in Mongolia with one of two Bible translations called, in English, The Blue Bible. While the translation is popular here, for many it is also controversial.
But back to India…
According to one Indian believer, who is apparently a fan of the new translation, the translators “Have also drawn the Indian mythology into it. It’s not only based on [the] Biblelike you know foreign standards” (emphasis mine).

Hindsight & Foresight

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Now that I’m back into full swing in the office I want to provide some perspective about the effects of the Mongolian riots.
During the four day Sate of Emergency I read many comments from Mongolians, and even had a few discussions on the issue: Is Mongolia’s Democracy Dead?
In short, not by a long shot.
You may have read blogs or comments online that the MPRP (that handily won last week’s election) was intending to use the State of Emergency to take control of the country or reduce freedoms, democracy, the press, and so on. One person I talked with asked if this was a prelude to a declaration of martial law.
From where I sit, these kinds of verbal machinations are—and I want to be diplomatic when I say this—a great big fat load of fantasy crap. Mongolia’s democracy is not dead. I don’t see any telltale signs that the MPRP is going to seize power, restrict freedoms, or declare martial law. Nor do I think they want to. Claims such as this are just, just, just…crap. That’s about as diplomatic as I can be.
The MPRP may not be the favorite party of a lot of people, but I don’t think we can look at their activities of the last four years and credibly say they intend to return Mongolia to the days of communism or forced one-party rule. A smattering of my reasoning…

Ground Under the Wheels of Propaganda

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I just completed a four-hour postmortem of the election/riot coverage with our senior staff. We spent a great deal of time going over details of election day coverage, and of course the riots that followed. As with all postmortems after a broadcast, we assessed our strengths and weakness, and how to make improvements. In the past, each time we've covered a major event like this, the nature of how the rest of the media covers them also changes. This is not meant as a boast. It's simply a statement of fact that the rest of the Mongolian media know—from the Gulf War coverage, to live viewer calls, to the presidential election, to the riots, virtually all other media here recognizes the leadership role of Eagle TV when it comes to setting new standards and taking risks.
In fact, this week I will be presenting awards and bonuses to the Eagle TV news and technical staff who, at the risk of their own lives, took extraordinary steps to provide live coverage of the riots.

Counting the Cost of Journalism

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I’m between flights, sitting in a Mexican cafe in San Francisco with a little extra time to catch up on the aftermath of the riots back home in Mongolia. I long to get back home quickly.
Here's the latest, this time gathered from a variety of sites and minor info funneled back to me from our staff. Parliament is in a closed door session discussing the election and riots. Justice Minister Munhk-Orgil and Foreign Minister Oyun conducted a briefing for Ambassadors and made statements to the media. All is apparently quiet on the day after as tanks and large numbers of police made their rounds through the center portion of the city to guarantee calm. A small group of new protesters did gather downtown, but apparently in regret for what happened during the riots.
The MPRP HQ is all but destroyed. The Culture Palace, home to many Mongolian art treasures, was gutted by fire and many of its works looted. 
5 people are dead. 108 police officers were injured. Nineteen have serious injuries. 221 protesters were injured, with 19 hospitalized. Security around embassies has been beefed up and foreign citizens have been warned to either remain home during the State of Emergency or restrict their movements.
Staff from State TV and Eagle TV were assaulted and injured by the rioters. Equipment was broken or destroyed. And for the purposes of this blog, this is where I want to make a comment.

Mongolia Election Violence

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UPDATE (12:12AM ULAANBAATAR, MONGOLIA): PRESIDENT ENKHBAYAR HAS DECLARED A STATE OF EMERGENCY AND ORDERED THE SHUT DOWN OF ALL MEDIA EXCEPT STATE TV FOR FOUR DAYS.
EARLIER: I haven't gotten much sleep since the station began phoning me reports that protests over Mongolia's election results have turned violent. The MPRP HQ is under attack. Police have fired into the crowd. Protesters have become violent. There is bloodshed. Ambulances are on their way to address the injured. The MPRP building is on fire. Protesters are becoming more violent and blocking the access of emergency vehicles to the building and even pelting the fire engine with rocks. Army troops have been called to the scene. Eagle journalists estimate there could be as many as 20,000 protesters involved. If so, this would be the largest anti-government protest since Mongolia's peaceful democratic revolution.
While watching the events online through Skype, one our employees exclaimed, "I've never seen such a thing in Mongolia before! This is so scary!"
Eagle is broadcasting the events live, but apparently no other stations are reporting the events live. State TV did for a while, but for reasons unknown to me they have ceased. Though we did receive a report that their microwave equipment was damaged in the protest.
We are scrambling extra resources to cover the events. Associated Press is resourcing Eagle TV video for international coverage.
We have received some minor pressure to stop the broadcasts, but are continuing.

When Reality Beats Fiction

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I heard another wonderful story from the Steppe-by-Steppe team last week. While ministering in a Soum center last summer they learned that the person occupying the hotel room next to them was a Tibetan monk who traveled to the Soum three times a year to collect money from the townspeople and perform certain rituals to relieve their sufferings.
People from the Soum had been going to the monk for years with marital issues, financial issues, problems with their animals, crops, spiritual problems—you name it. They went to the monk for answers they thought that only the monk and his Buddhist ministrations could provide. In the testimony of the town's people, they kept going to him because they wanted to change their lives. There was only one problem.
Nobody's life was changing.

Mongolian Integrity

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Part of my grueling schedule of work, school, and Internet repair this week has been leading four days of strategy sessions with key members of our TV staff. We are in the process of evaluating the strengths and weakness of all programs and marketing. Our objective over the next few days is to completely reshape our TV operations in keeping with the higher level of competition in the marketplace.
My role has been training and coaching the team through the process of Mission, Goals, Strategy, and Tactics. I've truly enjoyed this role as I think it allows me to use my strengths with the staff as opposed to a top-down approach of strategy development and management. In fact, the more I've stepped back and listened, the more I've learned, and the more ownership our staff takes in our new direction. I couldn't be happier.
Yesterday as we were closing out our session, an interesting and sometimes heated discussion took place that grabbed my attention like nothing else for the last three days. We were discussing our marketing strategy for domestic news programming and the creation of sponsorable packages to better serve clients. A disagreement ensued between me and...uh...<I>everybody</I>...about a specific form of sponsorship for a certain news segment. I was advocating for a particular tactic, but the look I got from the staff said, "What are you? Nuts?"

Disappointed By My Night With The Queen

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I sat down in my hotel room in Beijing on Friday night to waste away a couple of hours on a movie – One Night with the King. The movie, now on DVD, tells the story of Esther, the biblical figure who saved the Jewish nation from destruction at the hands of Haman. Now, I may be late in seeing this movie compared to most back in the States, but when I did watch it I confess that I was disappointed.
One Night with the King was promoted as one of the best-produced movies based upon the Bible in decades. In many ways that is true. It’s production values, acting, directing, all very good. When I first read about the movie and saw the previews I was hoping it could be another movie for Eagle TV to use to tell the Bible’s story. After all, the official website for the movie asserts boldly: “The True Story of Queen Esther.”
It is not the true story of Queen Esther. It is a mix of biblical elements, speculation, and downright fiction. Only a completely made up story using the same names would be further from the truth.