Mental shift

Manage your mind and you can manage your life

Vatican’s New Guidelines for Seminarians a Good Start

Posted by jytmkh on November 1, 2008

Psychological testing has been used as far back as the 1960s in some seminaries. The new guidelines are meant to help church leaders “weed out candidates with psychopathic disturbances,” as well as “confused and not yet well-defined” sexual identities.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Inside Catholic) – Today the Vatican issued new guidelines for the screening of seminarians. They are in response to the call for more strident criteria in the wake of the clergy sexual abuse scandal.

Psychological testing has been used as far back as the 1960s in some seminaries. The new guidelines are meant to help church leaders “weed out candidates with psychopathic disturbances,” as well as “confused and not yet well-defined” sexual identities.

Pre-screening is necessary, but not enough for a healthy priesthood. Parish priesthood is one of the most difficult and lonely lives on the planet — especially in some areas. (Full disclosure: One of my brothers is a parish priest.)

I’d like to see bishops consider restructuring things in their dioceses to foster greater fraternity among priests and lay leaders. Priests need relationships as much as anyone, and they need consistent familial-like community to provide support and feedback, hold them accountable, and call them to holiness.


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Pope Benedict XVI’s writing: Salt of the earth

Posted by jytmkh on November 1, 2008

Life can sometimes make our Christian faith feel like a burden, as Jenny Ang says. But through Pope Benedict’s writings, she has found that it is faith is what makes life filled with joy in the first place.


Dear readers,

We are called by God to lead a life worthy of being a Christian but along the way, we often find ourselves falling again and again.

It is no doubt a deep comfort to feel God’s love and forgiveness when we confess our waywardness and strive to change, but this constant struggle can take its toil. The heart of the matter is: faith can sometimes feel like a burden strapped on our back along this arduous journey of life. How then is one able to find joy in our faith?

On that question, this brings me to a book length interview titled, Salt of the Earth: The Church at the End of the Millennium, given by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) to Peter Seewald, a secular German journalist.  The book was first published in 1996.

The Pope answers that, “I would put it the other way around: faith gives joy. When God is not there, the world becomes desolate, and everything becomes boring, and everything is completely unsatisfactory. It’s easy to see today how a world empty of God is also increasingly consuming itself, how it has become a wholly joyless world.  The great joy comes from the fact that there is this great love, and that is the essential message of faith.”

He goes on to explain, “To that extent it can be said that the basic element of Christianity is joy.  Joy not in the sense of cheap fun, which can conceal desperation in the background…. Rather, it is joy in the proper sense.  A joy that exists together with a difficult life and also makes this life liveable.”

He reminds us that, “The history of Jesus Christ begins, according to the Gospel, with the angel saying to Mary, “Rejoice!” On the night of nativity the angels say again: We proclaim to you a great joy.  And Jesus says, “I proclaim to you the good news.” So the heart of the matter is always expressed in these terms: I proclaim to you a great joy, God is here, you are beloved, and this stands firm forever.”

The Pope’s answer to this question of joy is very moving. It opens up a window for us to look at God with pure joy, instead of seeing him as a heavy yoke.

In the book, the Pope squarely faces a barrage of other incisive questions that took him through his own personal biography, the problems of the Catholic Church and the Church in the new millennium including Christian unity.

He addresses questions on moral controversies such as contraception, abortion and euthanasia unflinchingly in truth.

He also discusses the “canon of criticisms” such as celibacy, women’s ordination and the remarriage of divorced persons and points out that there is a fixation in the Church on these issues.  They are “serious problems” but “there is too little attention to the fact that 80 percent of the people of this world are non-Christians who are waiting for the gospel, or for whom, at any rate, the gospel is also intended, and we shouldn’t be constantly agonizing over our own questions but should be pondering how we as Christians can express today in this world what we believe and thereby say something to these people.”

In addition, to the call from liberals that the Church should change and move with the times on these issues, the Pope recalls the view of another theologian, Johann Baptist Metz, who says that it was a good thing that the experiment was made in Lutheran Christianity for “it shows that being a Christian today does not stand or fall on these questions. That the resolution of these matters doesn’t make the gospel more attractive or being a Christian any easier. It does not even achieve the agreement that will better hold the Church together.”  He believes that “we should finally be clear on this point, that the Church is not suffering on account of these questions.”

To the question whether the approach of society wanting to examine the Church, the history of the Church and the doctrine of the Church in terms of a certain plausibility, the Pope illuminates that it is not wrong when one tries to find a certain reasonability in the faith since it can be understood and could be made evident to people.  However, “if one conceives the term plausibility so narrowly that one accept only those things about Christianity that suit our way of living at a certain time, then, of course, we make Christianity too cheap and at that very moment are no longer worth anything.”

It is also apparent from the book that truth is the central concept of the Pope’s thought and the quest for truth is a constant of his life. He says that “it became clear to me how important it is that we don’t lose the concept of truth, in spite of the menaces and perils it doubtless carries with it.  It has to remain the central category.  As a demand on us that doesn’t give us rights but requires, on the contrary, our humility and our obedience and can lead us to the common path.”

In this sense, we can understand why when the Pope says, “The words of the Bible and of the Church Fathers rang in my ears, those sharp condemnations of shepherds who are like mute dogs; in order to avoid conflicts, they let the poison spread.  Peace is not the first civic duty, and a bishop whose only concern is not to have problems and to gloss over as many conflicts as possible is an image I find repulsive.”

Throughout the book, I find the Pope’s answers to be pastoral, insightful, learned, forthright and above all, coming from a heart of deep faith grounded in truth.  In my view, he sees the crises facing the Church as primarily stemming from a crisis of faith. His clarion call to return to our true faith by living it convincingly and to pass on that faith is particularly poignant.

What ultimately comes through in the book is the Pope’s unwavering conviction that Jesus is Lord and in God’s promise that he will never abandon his Church, come what may.  This is reason enough to rejoice.

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First Hand narration of the Guwahati blast of a blogger at Himalaya beacononline

Posted by jytmkh on October 31, 2008

soulpower Says:
October 30, 2008 at 9:04 pm

BALDERDASH I SAY UTTER BALDERDASH! Mr Roy do u know dat the dead bodies were being carted to the secretariat which ia a short walk away from the blast site in order to work as canon fodder against the government in order to incite the people to the extent of rioting and a curfew to follow.I was there when the blast at Ganeshguri took place.It was my first xperience of a nearby bomb blast. Believe me I was at the Guwahati Tea Auction centre when the blast took place.The doors of the auction hall vibrated and the ground shook.The auction hall is like about 700-800 meteres away.I was quite lucky as I had just dropped into the auction to take the brokers pages for my office and was delayed as the regular guy had already taken the fresh sale pages.So I decided to wait for a while, which was a very fortunate decision because if I had carried on after getting the sale pages, then I would have ended at the same spot where the blast took place at that unfortunate hour. I thank my god and the blessings of my sis on this day that saved me from certain injury or death.I came out and saw thick smoke coming out from under the flyover in ganeshguri.It was a really horrific sight and what followed was even worse. I told my driver to get in and drive back to office.There was no way we could turn back from tha area so I made him drive on the wrong side of the road where theres an island to crossover into the other lane.As i made my way back to office, i saw one or two ambulances go by carrying the innocent victims.Then came a gypsy packed with 4-5 dead bodies and blood dripping down its rear end.That really shook me up and left me wondering what the world is coming to?
We grow up in our own blissful lives when it takes a day like this to shake you up and make you realise that ure living with terror.Godamn those terrorists and godammn our government.Infact goddamn the ugly underbelly of our existence that harvests innocent lives for some hardliners fancy.I hope that none on this blog or anywhere in the world may haveto go through such a day……………God bless u all!

Just look at those cheap and shameless SOBs carting the dead bodies of those poor souls in order to make a “powerful statement” in front of the assembly.These are the same people who go about their lives everday until they get an “oppourtunity “like this.I wonder if they had approved if their dead cadavers were paraded around like this.In fact after after I reached office I was online with my friends and was chatting with them about my experience.One of my good friends whos in the media had the audacity of asking me for photos or videos I might have.He was like “didnt u have a camera, didnt u have anything to capture it?” I just snapped back angrily “I had my morals…….i dont have the stomatch to go and capture peoples agony,plight and horror on my cellphone…u guys have it so all the best…….” Not an anti journalistic statement but just an outlet for emotionaly powered remarks after a day of horrific,gruesome and macabare images flashing before you……

Reading this narration I got a chilled spine. It is horrific. How could human beaing do this? No moral no conscience no love for humanity?

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Assam Blast: Video from You Tube

Posted by jytmkh on October 31, 2008

Serial blasts in Assam

more than 64 died

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Bottom line: No food security in Kandhamal

Posted by jytmkh on October 31, 2008

Express News

BHUBANESWAR: Torn apart worldwide for the communal frenzy in recent times, Kandhamal has got a new label, and yet another dubious one. It is Orissa’s most insecure district in terms of food security.
  The no-railway, no-industry district is at the bottom of the table on food security index, according to the ‘Food Security Atlas of Rural Orissa,’ prepared by UN World Food Programme (WFP).
  The tribal-dominated district is not the only one at the nadir. For company, it has Gajapati, Rayagada and Nabarangpur which too have been termed extremely insecure.
  However, Kandhamal rules the bottom. In terms of food availability, it has been ranked 30th. Access to food index puts it at the 24th position. Ability to absorb, another parameter, leaves the district at the 30th position.
  The Food Security Index (FSI), as per this report, is a composite of three parameters including availability, access and absorption.
  While food availability uses factors like per capita value of agricultural output, percentage of villages having access to paved roads, proportion of net irrigated area to sown area and forest cover, access takes into account percentage of agricultural labour, SC/ST population, working age population and per capita monthly consumption expenditure. The absorption factor is all about percentage of households having access to safe drinking water and PHC access.
  The Atlas, prepared by WFP and New Delhi-based Institute of Human Development, revealed that going by per capita agricultural output, Kandhamal is ranked lowest (30th) while irrigation coverage puts it at 29th, just ahead of Nabarangpur.
  A district with such low development indices, Kandhamal having high forest cover has low net sown area leading to even lower irrigation and a pathetic per capita agricultural production estimated at Rs 900 per annum.
  The report was released by Abhijit Sen, member, Planning Commission, in the presence of India Country Director, WFP, Mihoko Tamamura. It has showed that rural connectivity to Kandhamal is the poorest, so are indices on access to safe drinking water.
  Interestingly, the report shows that only three districts in the State are secure while another six are moderately secure.
   ‘In the State, there is a contiguous zone of acute food insecurity – all districts of eastern ghats and the adjoining coastal pockets,’ it said. Tamamura said the Atlas marks the start of a comprehensive food security information system and will enable rational allocation of resources to the most vulnerable areas for improving food and nutritional security.

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42000 CONVERTED only 2 followed law

Posted by jytmkh on October 31, 2008

Sources-New Indian Express

KANDHAMAL (Orissa): There has been a 66 percent growth in Christian population in Orissa’s Kandhamal region, which has seen attacks on Christians and churches. Of the 42,353 who adopted Christianity between 1991 and 2001, only two followed law to change religion
According to data available with the district collectorate, the Christian population in Kandhamal was 117,950 in the 2001 census, up from 75,597 a decade earlier.
“The Christian growth rate in the district is 66 percent as against 18.6 percent for the overall population growth in the district,” District Collector Krishan Kumar told IANS.
Kumar said that the Orissa Freedom of Religious Act, which came into action in 1989, allows people to change or adopt any religion but all such individuals need to submit a form to the district magistrate.
“We have received just two applications not just between 1991 and 2001 but between 1989 and 2008. We must understand that every one must follow law,” Kumar explained.
However, he did not specify what action the district administration has taken to punish those who have violated the law.
Asked if he attributes the growth of Christian population to conversions, he said: “It could be because of two reasons – conversion and migration.”
Of the over 650,000 people in the troubled district, at least 53 percent are tribals, less than 20 percent Christians. Of the nearly 118,000 Christians, a majority has converted from Dalit families.
Kumar said that conversion, longstanding caste conflicts between tribals and Dalits, poverty and growing influence of Hindu groups among the tribal population had led to several communal clashes in recent years.
Ever since the killing of Swami Laxmanananda, a Hindu religious leader, and four of his supporters by unidentified gunmen Aug 23, anti-Christian violence has been boiling in Kandhamal.
While Maoists have claimed responsibility for the murders, the Hindu leader’s supporters have insisted that Christians were behind the murder. The Orissa Police are investigating the case.
At least 38 people including a Central Reserve Police Force trooper lost their lives in clashes. While over 3,000 houses, mostly belonging to Christians, were gutted or vandalized in Kandhamal, over 23,000 people fled from their villages fearing death.
“Yes, there is a growth in Christian population but that does not mean fanatics from organisations like Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad can kill people,” Hemant Naik, a rights activists from Udaygiri town, told IANS.
“While talking about conversion, we must also talk about reconversion. While no one has complained about their change in faith to Christianity, 62 people have registered complaints about forced reconversion to Hinduism,” said another activist, Issac Digal.

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13 Serial blasts rocked Assam, 6 in Guwahati city; 47 dead more than 280 injured

Posted by jytmkh on October 30, 2008



Dead bodies are carried down on a hand puller in the Ganeshguri area in Guwahati on Thursday October 30, 2008 after powerful bombs exploded in four major locations of Guwahati city i.e. Fancy Bazar, Pan Bazar, DC Court and Ganeshguri Chariali. So far 8 people are feared to have died and expected to increase, more details are awaited. Reports last came in bomb have been exploded in Bongaigoan, Barpeta, Kokrajhar districts of Assam.Photo by Nanda Kirati Dewan (UB Photos)

Dead bodies are carried down on a hand puller in the Ganeshguri area in Guwahati on Thursday October 30, 2008 after powerful bombs exploded in four major locations of Guwahati city i.e. Fancy Bazar, Pan Bazar, DC Court and Ganeshguri Chariali. So far 8 people are feared to have died and expected to increase, more details are awaited. Reports last came in bomb have been exploded in Bongaigoan, Barpeta, Kokrajhar districts of Assam.Photo by Nanda Kirati Dewan (UB Photos)


Burning Vehicle are seen in the blast sit of Kachari in Guwahati on Thursday October 30, 2008 after powerful bombs exploded in four major locations of Guwahati city i.e. Fancy Bazar, Pan Bazar, DC Court and Ganeshguri Chariali. So far 8 people are feared to have died and expected to increase, more details are awaited. Reports last came in bomb have been exploded in Bongaigoan, Barpeta, Kokrajhar districts of Assam. Photo by Nanda Kirati Dewan (UB Photos)

Burning Vehicle are seen in the blast sit of Kachari in Guwahati on Thursday October 30, 2008 after powerful bombs exploded in four major locations of Guwahati city i.e. Fancy Bazar, Pan Bazar, DC Court and Ganeshguri Chariali. So far 8 people are feared to have died and expected to increase, more details are awaited. Reports last came in bomb have been exploded in Bongaigoan, Barpeta, Kokrajhar districts of Assam. Photo by Nanda Kirati Dewan (UB Photos)


30 OCTOBER 4:25 PM, GUWAHATI: In between 11.30 to 12 noon powerful than Diwali crakers sound were heard in series that too with lots of smoke and outcry of the masses. It was evident that bomb had blast. Assam was rocked by a series of 13 powerful bomb blasts on Thursday morning, six in Guwahati city, two each in Bongaigain, Barpeta Road and Kokrajhar and one in Barpeta leaving at least 47 people dead and 282 injured at the time of filing this report. Injured have been shifted toGuwahati Medical College Hospital (GMCH)  and Mahendra Mohan Choudhury Hospital (MMCH).

Wel placed sources informed this correspondent that the four blasts in Guwahati city occurred simultaneously at Ganeshguri, Kachari DC Court ,  market hub Fancy Bazaar and educational institution hub Paan Bazaar between 11.30-11.35 am. Of the four bombs, one at the Ganeshguri was planted in a car.Reliable police officials did not rule out the involvement of Bangladesh-based terrorist group Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) in the blasts.

Curfew has been imposed in all the major road of the city. City traffic has sealed all the movements of vehicles other than press persons. Red alert has been declared across the state while the Kamrup district has been put under Section 144. In Guwahati, angry mob set a police van and a fire tender on fire. Mobs has vandalized every thing around them. They were seen attacking press persons as well. Police personnels were forced to open fire to disperse the crowd and the mob.

Panic struck as all phone lines were jammed. The city has a wear and tear look now. Most of the blasts took place in busy marketplaces. Being the festival of Bhai Dooj, the markets were quite crowded which caused more casualties.

From: Himalayan Beacononline



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Posted by jytmkh on October 30, 2008

Photo By AFP

Photo By AFP

Photo By Anupam Nath

Photo By Anupam Nath


Times of India

Times of India

From BBC

From BBC

By Nandan Kirat Dewan

By Nandan Kirat Dewan

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Scores Killed in Blasts in Northeast India

Posted by jytmkh on October 30, 2008

 By Rama Lakshmi

Photo by AP

Photo by AP

Washington Post Foreign Service

NEW DELHI, Oct. 30 — Eleven deadly bomb blasts ripped through India’s northeastern state of Assam Thursday, killing about 50 people and leaving more than 300 injured. The serial blasts took place before noon, within a span of 50 minutes.

State officials described the explosions as the worst ever in the violent and troubled history of Assam, where separatist insurgency groups have been active since the early 1980s and recent bomb attacks have been blamed on Islamist militants from neighboring Bangladesh.

The first of the spate of bombs went off in a crowded vegetable and fruit market called Ganeshguri, in Guwahati. The intensity of the blast was so high that it caused a major fire in the area and gave rise to a thick plume of smoke that engulfed the entire market and places nearby.

The second explosion was in the car park of a government office and another at a bazaar near a police station.

No group has claimed responsibility for the blasts, but officials indicated that it could be the handiwork of a local militant group called the United Front of Asom (ULFA) that has been fighting against the Indian state for an independent homeland. But officials also said they could not rule out the involvement of other groups.

“It is very early to make a conclusion, but ULFA has a history of triggering serial blasts,” Assam’s health minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma, told reporters. “Most of the bombs were planted in crowded places like markets and office complexes. So it shows that the perpetrators wanted high casualty.”

Police officials said that the number of the dead may rise. Six of the blasts took place in the state capital, Guwahati.

“We have learned that these are powerful, high-intensity bomb blasts,” said Shakeel Ahmad, India’s junior home minister. “Who is behind this, what caused it, we do not know yet. Our officials have gone to the spots to assess the situation.”

Television images from the market showed mangled heaps of metal and dismembered corpses strewn in the midst of bloodied heaps of potatoes and onions. A perceived delay in the time it took for emergency help to arrive led to public fury and street violence, as angry, slogan-shouting crowds set government vehicles on fire.

An injured eyewitness told an English news channel, Times Now, about the scene.

“I had gone to the market when I heard the blasts. We were shocked. People were running everywhere, vehicles were damaged and on fire,” he said. “The smoke blinded us. The sound of the blast was deafening.”

Top officials of Assam went into a huddle in Guwahati to deal with the emergency, and a central team from New Delhi left for the state by mid-day to assess the situation and aid in the investigation.

Police imposed a curfew after the angry crowds took to the streets.

Since May, several Indian cities have been targeted by bombings in public places, killing more than 160 people. Officials have arrested suspects in some of the blasts from a new group that calls itself the Indian Mujahideen. Last week, some Hindu radicals were also arrested for their alleged involvement in one of the blasts.

Several separatists groups are active in Assam and India’s other northeastern Himalayan states, bordering Bangladesh, China, Myanmar and Bhutan. Dozens of these groups, broadly organized along ethnic lines, have been fighting New Delhi and each other for greater control of the region.

Thursday’s serial bombings were the third bomb blast incident in Assam this year. Powerful explosions in March and June had rocked the state. More than 10,000 people have died in the northeastern region in the past decade.


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Posted by jytmkh on October 29, 2008

Interview by Andy Crouch with James Choung |

James Choung has found a way to tell the old, old story to a new generation.

Can you summarize the “Big Story” that your four-circles diagram is designed to tell?

I call the diagram the Big Story because it sums up the plot points of the larger story in which we live and breathe. The most essential parts are the phrases: designed for good, damaged by evil, restored for better, and sent together to heal. They follow the biblical narrative: creation, fall, redemption, and mission.

As I’m drawing the four circles, I’ll tell a story like this: The world, our relationships, and each of us were designed for good, but all of it was damaged by evil because of our self-centeredness and inclination to seek our own good above others’. But God loved the world too much to leave it that way, so he came as Jesus. He took everything evil with him to death on the cross, and through his resurrection, all of it was restored for better. In the end of time, all will be fully restored, but until then, the followers of Jesus are sent together to heal people, relationships, and the systems of the world.

The diagrams you use in your book, True Story: A Christianity Worth Believing In, join a long line of evangelistic tools. What motivated you to create a new one?

I used many of those tools when I became serious about my faith in college, and found that I was the only practicing Christian in my fraternity. When someone was either curious or drunk enough, I wanted to have something ready to share. Sometimes the conversation would go nowhere. But other times, one of these diagrams would actually help someone make a decision to follow Jesus for the first time. And we’d both be surprised!

These tools obviously aren’t magic wands that will automatically cause someone to pledge allegiance to Jesus. But they are aids that offer a clear explanation in a memorable format. And when we’re nervous, having something to hold on to will help us be clear in what we present. Even if we don’t use the tools themselves, they give us helpful reminders to know what’s essential in a presentation and what’s not.

I think of them as modern-day iconography. Icons and stained glass windows helped preliterate Christians understand biblical stories and themes. Evangelism diagrams have the same function today: they help us understand the core message of the faith.

Your version, though, has a different emphasis from some previous diagrams.

Well, what was missing from the diagrams I had learned was anything substantial about one of the most important themes in Jesus’ own preaching: the kingdom of God. I was reading a lot about the kingdom of God, in the Bible and in recent scholarship, but when it came to sharing the core message of the faith, I’d always fall back on an evangelistic diagram that didn’t include it. And it dawned on me: Even though there are tons of books out there about the kingdom of God, very few people will be able to share it with their friends unless they are given some tool or aid—some icon—that will help them remember the key points. So even though I’m not a fan of canned presentations, I felt that creating a diagram was essential to help us understand a bigger picture of the gospel that Jesus taught.

Are you also reacting to a change in the religious landscape, especially among college students?

I’ve been in college ministry for 13 years now—16 years if you count my student days. And college students today seem really different from when I was in college.

In the early 1990s, most of us were marked by a high level of distrust. So campus ministry meant building trust. It was not easy. I had to beg people to hang out with me even to start a mentoring relationship. And evangelistic approaches back then focused on authenticity and community. The overriding spiritual question of the day was: What is real?

But the so-called Millennials (Generation Y) on campuses today seem much more trusting. Freshmen come in looking for mentors. And they’re a civic generation. They’re ready to volunteer, because they really think they can change the world. They’re far more optimistic. And our evangelistic approaches that have worked are far more civic as well, such as dealing with the AIDS pandemic or sex trafficking. Our best approaches mix global concerns with spirituality, and many people come out for it.

The overriding spiritual question today is: What is good? What will really help the planet be a better place? And our faith better have an answer for it to be relevant today.

At the same time, the environment on campus can shift quite quickly. Just in the last five years, my sense is that campus culture has turned against Christians. People seem more negative about Christians than at any time I can remember since the scandals of many Christian television personalities in the 1980s. We are perceived by many as intolerant, overpolitical, and homophobic. We have to work hard to overcome that.

Wheaton College evangelism professor Rick Richardson has observed that the best evangelistic strategies challenge contemporary idolatries—for example, Campus Crusade’s Four Spiritual Laws challenged the idol of the autonomous self. What idolatries does the Big Story take aim at most directly?

The heart of the real challenge is in the parallel lines that prevent going straight from Circle 2 (damaged by evil) to Circle 4 (sent together to heal). In our field-tests we found that many people want to jump right to the mission of healing and restoring the world. They say, “We want to be about healing the world, but why does it have to be with Jesus?”

But our diagram says, “No, you can’t do this without Jesus. We need Jesus to help us become the kind of good we want to see in the world. Only he can fully help us put to death our self-centered ways so that we can truly live. So if you really want to be a part of healing the world in a way that lasts, you have to go through Jesus.” You have to go through Circle 3. It’s at this point that we may bring up Christian history that many have forgotten—that Christians have been at the forefront of lasting social change, such as the abolitionist movement and women’s suffrage and the civil rights movement.

But it’s here that people will walk away from us and say, “I like everything you’ve said, but I still don’t see why Jesus needs to be a part of it.” The postmodern idolatry is that all spiritual ways of life lead to the same place. Any local truth is a valid truth. In the postmodern mind, they’re all paths to being good and doing good.

But we are asking people to “repent”—literally, to “change their mind” or to have a new way of thinking, to see that they need to let their selfish lives die with Jesus—so they can have a new life of loving him and their neighbor. That’s a huge call to faith for this generation.

How does sin—a central part of the biblical vocabulary—enter into your presentation of the gospel in the Big Story?

Evangelicals have traditionally assumed that we have to start every gospel message by helping people see they’re sinners. If we don’t, then we can’t move on to salvation or how Jesus gives them assurance that they will be in heaven when they die.

It’s not that this message isn’t true, but the approach is jarring. We haven’t created any common experience or authority so that our message will have any weight. We just come out and say it’s the truth. And in a postmodern setting, that sounds arrogant. How do we know it’s the truth? Have we ever been to heaven?

So at the beginning of the Big Story, we instead talk about our common perception: the world is not the way it’s supposed to be.

We all agree with that. And we all agree that it makes us sick to our stomachs when we think about it. No one thinks that our world is great as it is. We hunger for a better world. And up to this point, there is no disagreement. We all experience this.

It’s from this point that we can move on and say that our hunger actually must be evidence that a better world did exist, or will some day. Because our hunger points to food, and our thirst points to water—shouldn’t our hunger for a better world point to something? And then we can share that the world was “designed for good.”

But we still come back to the concept of sin in the context of a broken world. Each person contributes to the mess. We all do. And when we present sin in the context of the results we see in the world (instead of, to a postmodern, an arbitrary set of rules that one tribe happens to live by), then our sinfulness is much easier to accept. It’s still sin: our failure to love our neighbors is ultimately our failure to love God. And then sin seems much deeper and more real. And our need for a Savior becomes stronger, not weaker.

Jesus’ invitations into the kingdom seem to be summed up in a couple of words: “Follow me.” Jesus didn’t always require people to see the depths of their sin before they started a journey with him. They just needed to be willing to change.

How do you hope this tool will change the way Christians themselves think of evangelism?

I hope we will move from decision-oriented presentations to ones that have more to say about transformation. As we were developing the Big Story, we wanted a diagram that wouldn’t just be binary—in or out—but would represent the journey that all of us are on.

We also wanted to move from an exclusive focus on the afterlife to the mission-life. Immediately after Jesus’ invitation, “Follow me,” he added, “I will make you fishers of men.” From the outset, he gave his disciples a mission. Without the mission in our gospel presentations, we do people a grave disservice. We imply that they can be Christians without being on a God-given mission to love others in his name. And that’s just not true. In Jesus’ summation, we are all called to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. In Micah’s version, we are called to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. We need to allow the reign of God to continue to grow in us and around us.

That’s not to say that life after death isn’t important. But it’s not the whole story. It’s the final chapter, but there are still many chapters to be lived out.

Tools are pragmatic things, so here is a pragmatic question: Has this tool worked?

We have been field-testing it for several years, and the answer is yes, it has. We have had people come to follow Jesus through this. One of my favorite stories comes from another student, who had met a self-proclaimed atheist. After sharing the diagram, the atheist said, “I knew God would be like that.” And they met together to study the Scriptures after that. A skeptic became a seeker.

In partnership with InterVarsity, World Vision, and La Jolla Presbyterian Church, we were able to put up massive tents on our eight San Diego campuses to raise awareness about the AIDS pandemic and how spirituality fits into the picture. We presented the Big Story at the end. If we had come with a more traditional approach, it would’ve felt like a bait and switch, but instead, the Big Story felt very much in line with the global concerns we were exploring.

Equally important, this tool has a message that Christians are proud to share. We see Christians who don’t fit the stereotype of an evangelist and haven’t really shown any previous interest in sharing this story, share this message immediately with their friends and even strangers after being trained. For them it finally feels like good news, so they share it.

Ultimately, I don’t think I’m saying anything new here. If it were new, I’d be a heretic. This diagram has come out of my love for Scripture and the desire to share the whole story that I’ve found in it. It’s the same old gospel truth, the one we embraced when we first started walking with Jesus. None of us fully grasped the whole truth when we started our spiritual journeys, and if we’re honest, we still don’t. But each day, we see something more fully and more clearly. And we’ll find that it’s the same gospel that’s been in these pages of Scripture for a long, long time. (source:The Christian Vision Project)

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