How many gadgets are de rigueur these days? I’m considering upgrading from my “dumb phone” to a smart phone, and I’m tempted to try an e-reader. At the same time, I’m troubled by the unspoken reality: we gadget people are an elite minority, a society of first-world people who have access to a network and its benefits that others don’t have. Or do we really believe that the entire world will soon be “like us,” connected into one happy progressively social network?
I am a historian of the prosperity gospel. My dad is a historian of Christmas. Yes, the apple basically fell straight down beside the tree. About this time every year we have something fun to argue about: has Christmas become just another reflection of the North American cult of consumerism?
I’ve written elsewhere about Springhouse Ministry, a church building shared by three congregations of different denominations in south Minneapolis. Here is a story about three congregations of different faiths that are now sharing space on Long Island.
Though Nelson Mandela reportedly was guarded about his own religious convictions, he maintained close ties to church leaders and was deeply shaped by his Methodist education. When he talked of forgiving his jailers, called for racial enemies to live in peace, and in words and deeds opened up the path to national reconciliation, the echoes of the gospel were unmistakable.
Yet it should also be remembered that Mandela at one time embraced the use of violence as part of the resistance to apartheid.
So it turns out that losing is good for you after all. According to social scientists who study these things, all those participation trophies kids receive for just showing up are not inspiring them to succeed. Instead, the ceaseless praise only protects kids from failure—so that once it inevitably appears, they are so demoralized that the next time it comes close they choose cheating rather than risk failing again.
The gospel has always understood the critical importance of failure in the path to true life.