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A word about this blog

Daily News and Prayer is inspired by The Christian Science Monitor, one of the most important (and most underappreciated) newspapers in the world. Posts are usually (but not always) responses to articles in the Monitor (and occasionally other news outlets) about events and trends that call for prayer.

The blog's aim is to help strengthen humanity's collective confidence that we can triumph over even the most deeply entrenched evils, in ourselves and in the world.

Notifications: If you would like to be notified about new postings, please send an email to kscollins@gmail.com, with "Blog mailing list" in the subject line. I'll be sure to let you know each time a new item is posted.

Note on submissions: If you would like to contribute to this blog, I would be happy to consider your submission. It should be 500 words or less, very well written and fit the topic. Read several postings to get an idea of the subject matter and tone. It should also fit the audience, which is general, international and non-denominational.

Please email your submission to me at kscollins@gmail.com. I will get back to you as soon as I can. Please be aware that, while I appreciate the interest and efforts of anyone who wishes to write for the blog, publication is not guaranteed. If I feel your piece is promising but needs revision, I will let you know. Nothing will be published without your seeing the final copy.

Daily News and Prayer

"Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

Christ Jesus

 

“We must not expect the world to improve much faster than ourselves.”

Will Durant

 

Sunday
Nov082015

Getting beyond the fear narrative

This is just a quick post to alert readers to a TEDx talk given by Stephanie Hanes a few months ago, titled “A call for a new journalistic narrative.” This journalist, who writes for The Christian Science Monitor and other publications, cites Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy’s words, published in 1883, as descriptive of one of the big problems for journalism today. Eddy said, “Looking over the newspapers of the day, one naturally reflects that it is dangerous to live so loaded with disease seems the very air.”

Hanes believes this “fear narrative” (her words) is still rampant in the news media, but she believes that this can change, that journalism can not only shape the reality we see but has a responsibility to do so in positive ways.

Watch her talk. It’s insightful.

Note to readers: I have not posted much lately, as I have been engaged in some long-term writing projects. My apologies, if apologies are needed. I will get back to this at some point . . . Meanwhile, my thanks to everyone who is keeping alert to ways that prayer can help shape the news and change the fear narrative!

Wednesday
Sep302015

Watchful thinking

My daughter learned a lesson this week about controlling her thinking. She was angry at me for something (I didn’t give her money for a toy she wanted to buy) and let it simmer until it burst out in an angry comment about something else. She lost a privilege as a result, which sobered her up. I hope that doesn’t sound mean. Just trying to do my job as a father!

There seems to be a similar attitude toward politics today in some quarters, where anger is seen as a legitimate emotion that needs to be cherished and nurtured and allowed to burst out whenever the occasion seems right. It’s supposedly a sign that you’re paying attention. In my view this is as immature as a nine-year-old’s temper tantrum. 

We all face things every day that we don’t approve of, but if we take that next step and let anger govern our response, we do a number of things: We hurt other people, we hurt ourselves, we inhibit the natural course of events that often corrects things, we may deprive ourselves of a deeper lesson. Simmering anger can steer whole governments and millions of people in counterproductive and tragic directions.

Anger can be mitigated very effectively through prayer without losing the power to remedy unjust situations. Prayer can lift an issue to a point where we can see it in the light of God’s ever-present government of wisdom and mercy and thus be less alarmed by it. Prayer can even turn us into messengers of peace in the world. If we all work at controlling our thinking at the most basic level – in our homes, our workplaces, our political musings – broader human action will be less likely to explode in unnecessary and destructive violence of word or deed.

Friday
Sep252015

The Pope and the poor

One of my favorite columnists is Fareed Zakaria, who writes for The Washington Post and The Atlantic and hosts a show on CNN. His column today in the Post, “If you have a problem with Pope Francis’s message, you have a problem with Christ” (shortened on the home page to the misleading “A problem with the Pope is a problem with Christ,” as if Zakaria is complaining about the Pope, which he is not), expresses gratitude for the simple message that Christianity ministers to the poor.

Zakaria says he is not a Christian but went to Christian schools in India when he was younger, where he got to know the Bible. But when he came to the US in the 1980s he began to see a different Bible than he knew:

“I remember being surprised to see what ‘Christian values’ had come to mean in American culture and politics — heated debates over abortion, abstinence, contraception and gays. In 13 years of reading, reciting and studying the Bible, I didn’t recall seeing much about these topics.” He quotes writer Garry Wills, who says in his new book, The Future of the Catholic Church with Pope Francis, “Many of the most prominent and contested stands taken by Catholic authorities (most of them dealing with sex) have nothing to do with the Gospel.”

Well, yes and no. There are honorable biblical reasons to oppose abortion and contraception (“Thou shalt not kill”), reject gay marriage (“From the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife”) and support abstinence (“Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart”).

But the larger point is valid: The power and worth of Christianity is not cultural or political. It’s spiritual. It’s about lifting people up. Sure, it has applications in politics and culture and every other aspect of life, but only as a means of infusing life with the beauty of Christliness. Christianity is not an alternative route to temporal power, and it cannot be used as such without losing its spiritual essence.

As Zakaria and the Pope point out, Christianity is about preaching the gospel to the poor. “The poor” aren’t just the poor in financial terms. If that were all we were talking about, turning Christian values into political weapons might make sense, in a crude and cynical way. But Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” To me those last two words capture the crucial issue: Those who know that they need more of God are the core caretakers of Christianity and the ones who understand its message best. Rallying these people involves quite a different approach than just argument or pandering. It involves conferring grace, which is a combination of love, forgiveness and good will. The truly graceful political or religious leader is the one who, in the long run, wields real power.

Wednesday
Sep232015

Three perspectives on humility and leadership

There is an interesting confluence of events on the front pages in the US right now, with the presidential election ramping up fast, and Pope Francis and the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, visiting. Each tells a different story about humility and leadership.

In the case of the US candidates for president, everyone running seems to have enough weaknesses to fill several front pages. (Their opponents make sure we see those weaknesses clearly!) This shouldn’t necessarily worry us – successful presidents grow in office. But to grow – and even to admit that growth is necessary – takes humility. Do we see enough humility in a candidate that he or she can grow and inspire others to grow? If so, they may be worth supporting!

Pope Francis has captured the imagination of millions of people with his compassion and courage, and with his humility. He is clearly a deeply religious man, and his message seems implicitly and explicitly to be that we all, rich and poor, famous and not, are loved by God. You don’t have to be Catholic to see in his words and acts the power of humility to inspire.

President Xi leads the largest nation in the world. It’s an awesome responsibility, but it’s not just on his shoulders or that of his Party. In our prayers for China we can know that God is leading both the people and the leadership, whether they acknowledge it or not. If we help humbly to take leadership responsibility off of the government and put it where it belongs, on God, billions of people will be blessed.

If it’s not to God to whom we are ultimately looking for leadership, we are missing the value and meaning of a lot of the news today and in the days ahead.

Thursday
Sep102015

“None of us is foreign to God”

The title here, a quote from my last post, to me is bedrock truth. It’s a truth, though, that isn’t always evident in the world around us.

My family got some shocking and embarrassing news two nights ago. A family friend named Nicky, a sixteen-year-old girl from the country of Georgia, who is living as an exchange student with an American family in the Midwest this year, wanted to join an exclusive orators club at her school. She was told that no foreigner had ever made it into the club, so she shouldn’t hold out hope.

Let’s assume whoever told her that meant that no foreign student had ever been good enough. Nicki is definitely good enough. She made it.

Then the faculty advisor told her she would probably not do well as a speaker because of her accent in English. What? Nicky responded that she had lived in Ireland for a short time and learned to imitate an Irish accent, so why couldn’t she imitate an American accent if she had to? Good for her. I might have said something a bit more in-your-face.

It’s embarrassing that in this age of unlimited information and awareness of what humanity is doing, Americans should still think in terms of us and them. We’re not the only ones, of course. Witness the violent reactions to some of the refugees in Europe. And yet many in Europe have also been generous in their response to the crisis.

We all can do better. Fear of foreigners has been outdated for a long time. “Ye are no more strangers and foreigners,” the Apostle Paul wrote in the first century, “but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.”

As Europe and other parts of the world face the daunting task of absorbing hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa, and America wrestles with how to resolve its own perpetual hand-wringing over immigrants from Latin America, I believe it’s possible for us to rise above the perception of foreignness altogether. No one is a stranger to God, or to us as His children.