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Christian Union: The Magazine

Cultural Engagement


October 19, 2021

After Zoom Church: Restoring the Real in Christian Worship

Do Believers Need to Meet in Person?

Though most churches have resumed some form of in-person worship, a year and a half of zoom church forced many churchgoers to ask the question, "If we can do church online, do we need to do church in person?" The question has less to do with what we are capable of in our current technological era and more to do with what we believe about the nature and reality of the church. And for many Christians, they can’t tell you why zoom church isn’t the same as the real thing.

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October 18, 2021

The World as a Formation Machine

Transformation and Cultural Ideology

Every day we are being formed into certain kinds of people. The shows we watch, the music we listen to, the friends we spend time with, and the places we spend our money not only reveal the things we value, but also help us understand the ways we have been formed by our culture and the world around us.

In this episode of Live No Lies, a podcast by John Mark Comer, Pastor Jon Tyson explores how the world has deformed us in ways that do not align with the gospel or life of Christ. He argues that the work of following Jesus is to be reformed and transformed into His image as we cast off the thinking, habits, and beliefs that are not from God.

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October 15, 2021

Cultural Kindness vs. Biblical Kindness

The Difference Is Stark

By Anne Kerhoulas, Staff Writer

Kindness seems to be everywhere these days. It’s posted on yard signs and granola bars, t-shirts, and posters for your home. Though kindness is not new, BE KIND! has become a warm greeting in a culture that prides itself on tolerance, acceptance, and affirmation.

A few months ago, Ellen Degeneres fell from her two-decade-long reign as the queen of kindness for apparently, well, being very unkind. Kindness was her motto, encouraging everyone to “Be kind to one another” as the parting message of every episode. But for someone who has made millions selling the idea of kindness, her brand of kindness has proved to be empty after her show was canceled due to reports of the toxic, racist, and abusive work culture she set. 

Being a volunteer. Nice friendly woman smiling while enjoying her job as a volunteer

When our national face of kindness proves to be deeply unkind, we have to wonder, does the kindness that our culture celebrates have any value? Or is it lacking, pretending to do and be good while unable to produce any good or loving changes in our world? In a culture that is hungry for kindness but often finding cultural kindness to be empty, we must look to scripture and the author of kindness to teach us what kindness truly is. 


True Kindness Is Always Rooted in Love
 

Cultural kindness is more about tolerance, enduring differences without complaining, and being nice than it is about love. It asks us only to be pleasant to those whom we are different from, but it does not call us to love them. When kindness is without love, it can quickly become insincere, something we do because we are supposed to. But kindness without love is not kindness at all, but rather an imitation, a fake that supposes love for another, but is merely an act.  

This is the problem with cultural kindness. I can be nice and tolerate someone while hating them at the same time, and this is what we see in the case of Ellen. Her public persona of kindness turned out to be mere niceness. She played at being kind, but in reality, was unkind, and the fruits of her labor were abuse, division, and hurt. Though cultural kindness puts on the facade of love, at best it a bland tolerance of other people, at worst, it is hatred with a smile. 

In contrast, biblical kindness, real kindness, is always rooted in the steadfast and self-sacrificing love of God. He is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works (Ps 145:17), He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness towards his people (Neh 9:17), with everlasting kindness, I will have compassion to you (Is 54:8).

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word chesed, which means loving-kindness, is used to describe how God relates to his people. It is also this loving-kindness that he desires from his people in response to his own. As he says in Hos 6:6, For I desire steadfast love (kindness), not sacrifices, the knowledge of God and not burnt offerings. God makes it clear that niceness—burnt offerings and sacrifices that go through the motions of devotion without love, do not delight him. Rather, he desires earnest love and knowledge of who He is. 

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Unlike cultural kindness, chesed captures the steadfast and sacrificial love of God who does not abandon a people who are radically different than he is, who anger him, who test and fail him again and again. True kindness, therefore, must be rooted in this kind of covenantal love that endures at all costs. Our kind God does not merely tolerate us. He does not endure us with distaste. He loves us with a fierce kindness that is more committed to our own well-being than we are. 


True Kindness Is Not Always Agreeable  


Godly kindness is rooted in the covenantal love of God, who pursues the flourishing of his creation. But real human flourishing comes when humanity lives in accordance with what we were created for: submission to and obedience of our Creator. Because God’s covenantal love always has the aim of changing a sinful people into a holy nation, godly kindness is not always agreeable. 

To be kind in our culture means that we rarely disagree. It has been argued that our culture is rapidly losing its ability to disagree with others and maintain friendship. We live in a nation in which outrage trumps listening and understanding, and disagreement means dismissal. When the January 6 attack on the capital occurred, my Facebook page was flooded with statements saying something along the lines of, “If you don’t condemn what happened today, we are no longer friends.” While the condemnation of the events was valid and the comments were intended to declare their disapproval, they demonstrated how culture responds to disagreement: we cancel. 

When cultural kindness meets disagreement or injustice, it responds with cancellation. Cancel culture is cultural kindness’s attempt at justice. Though there is goodness in the desire to make right what has gone wrong, kindness without love leads to justice without love. We are content to settle for dismissal because our kindness was never more than niceness; it was never motivated by wanting to know another or be known, never fierce enough to engage in hard conversations, to call something wrong or work towards restoring a broken person. 


Not so for the biblical kindness— God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance (Rom 2:4). Godly kindness confronts in love so that we might be conformed into his image. Because he loves us and wants us to flourish, God’s steadfast loving-kindness will challenge us, tell us when we are wrong, and change us. This is why the Psalmist says let a righteous man rebuke me, it is a kindness (Ps 141:5). It is in kindness when he corrects, rebukes, and convicts us because he loves us enough to see that we might become mature and complete, lacking in nothing (Jas 1:4) and receiving the our inheritance as his children. The people of God should never be marked by mere agreeableness, but rather embrace the kindness that is not content to allow us to stay in sin, that permits suffering so that we might depend on him more, and that speaks the truth in love (Eph 4:15).

Moreover, where cultural kindness leads to cancel-culture “justice”, godly kindness that is rooted in love leads us to restorative justice through truth-telling, repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. This is the fruit of the kindness of God and what Paul is getting at when he says, behold, the kindness and severity of God (Rom 11:22). He is not interested in niceness, he is interested in bringing many sons to glory, and in his kindness, he will surely do it. 


God’s Ultimate Kindness in Christ

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life (Tit 3:4-7). 

In his eternal kindness, the Father sent Christ to extend the ultimate kindness: our salvation. But in Christ he also enables us to be transformed into his likeness through the Spirit who produces godly fruit in our lives like kindness (Gal 5:22). This is the calling that is placed on his followers, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, and meekness (Col 3:12). To clothe ourselves in kindness means that we care about knowing another person rather than being superficial. That we care about their well-being, are willing to endure with them when things get tough, to sacrifice for them, and disagree to speak the truth in love for their sake. 

In John 8 a woman is caught in adultery. It was a crime deserving death and he community was ready to stone her. But Jesus showed her kindness. He showed her love and mercy thought they could not have been more different. He didn’t reject or condemn her for her choices or beliefs. He knelt beside her and protected her. He reminded the crowd that they too were sinners. But he also didn’t say that her actions didn’t matter. He called her into repentance and obedience when he said, Go and sin no more (8:11).

May we grow in this kind of godly kindness in a world that desperately needs the kindness of our Savior.

Anne Kerhoulas is staff writer for Christian Union: The Magazine and Communication Associate for Christian Union. This article was reprinted from her blog, Daily Discipleship.

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October 7, 2021

Integrity and the Future of the Church

Russell Moore: Young Adults See the Hypocrisy

We’ve seen the stats: young people are walking away from the church. From the Gen Z “nones” who indicate no religious affiliation to the ex-vangelical movement, the church seems to be hemorrhaging its people at a historically alarming rate.

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September 28, 2021

"If My People" (2 Chron. 7:14) Put Into Action

Repentance Was the Focus for Recent CU Day and Night Fast

By Dr. Chuck Hetzler

In the last two weeks of August, 3,884 believers from across the United States prayed, repented, and cried out to the Lord when they participated in CU Day and Night’s “Return to Me” fast.

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September 14, 2021

Faith, Finance, and a Bright Future

CU Nova Leader Interns with Goldman Sachs

By Anne Kerhoulas, Staff Writer

Goldman Sachs, a premier investment banking, securities, and investment management group, is known for offering a handful of remarkable college-aged students a grueling internship where they often log eighty hours per week. The intensity of these positions is notorious, allowing only a select bunch of top students to say, “I got Goldman” when they come through the recruiting season for finance positions. 

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August 31, 2021

Humbly Serving the Homeless

CU Martus Leader Earns Prestigious Fellowship at Penn

By Tom Campisi and Fuji Kim

Michael Hagan is one of eight undergraduates in the inaugural class of fellows for the University of Pennsylvania’s new Office of Social Equity and Community.

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August 4, 2021

The Life-Changing Power of Fasting

CU Day and Night Hosts Nationwide Event

By Dr. Chuck Hetzler

“I really do not remember how I came to find Christian Union, ‘It just happened.’” 


Even though Kimberly Brown cannot recall how she discovered Christian Union, she is very clear about the life-changing impact CU Day and Night has had on her. 

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August 2, 2021

Answering Gen Z’s Questions About Christianity

Rachel Gilson Talks About Sexuality and Gender Identity

In a culture that continues to become increasingly focused on sexuality and gender identity, Christians of all ages must be willing to engage with our culture in thoughtful, godly, and theologically sound ways.

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July 20, 2021

A Victory for Religious Freedom at the University of Iowa

Court Rules in Favor of Campus Ministry

When the University of Iowa deregistered a number of campus ministries, citing discrimination for requiring their members to be Christian, the ministries fought back. This past week, a federal appeals court upheld a previous ruling in 2019 stating that the university cannot selectively deregister student organizations. The lawsuit, originally filed by InterVarsity, is an important victory for religious freedom in the university setting.

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July 12, 2021

How COVID-19 Reshaped Campus Ministry

Helping Students Face Anxiety, Depression, and Loneliness

As students prepare for their first fall semester on campus after over a year and a half of virtual learning it almost feels like life is returning to normal. But as dorm rooms, cafeterias, and classrooms fill up again, many students are still feeling empty as they battle the anxiety, depression, and loneliness churned up from the trauma and isolation of the pandemic. 

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July 6, 2021

How Christians Can Gain Trust in a Suspicious Culture 

Learning to Engage for the Sake of Mission   

Christian leaders falling from grace has become a routine headline over the past few years. Our leaders have been caught in abuse, scandals, addiction, or lavish spending of church funds, leaving a trail of wreckage in the congregations they led, but also a bad impression on a watching world. It appears that Christians, who declare love and grace and humility with their lips, are often living a life that is out of sync with their declared good news. The word for this is hypocrisy, and it’s hurting the church more than ever.

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June 29, 2021

Repent America!

Revival, Reformation Are Preceded by a Return to God 

By Chuck Hetzler

“We need to admit that there’s a problem,” said Matt Bennett as he addressed the need for widespread repentance to Christian Union Cornerstone Partners in a Zoom meeting, Monday evening, June 7, 2021.

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June 9, 2021

Organizational Excellence and Transformative Leaders

“Christian Union Has Been Such a Blessing”

By Tom Campisi, Managing Editor

 

When Dr. Ben Pascut prepared to teach a workshop on organizational excellence for CU Lux at Yale University, he did not have to look very far for subject matter—it is one of Christian Union’s core values.

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May 20, 2021

Spiritual Warfare and the Film ‘Chicago: America’s Hidden War’

Christian Union Associate Produces Timely Documentary

By Tom Campisi, Managing Editor

Once a month, Christian Union New York convenes local pastors for an intense, fourteen-hour time of prayer, fasting, Bible reading, and seeking the Lord. Christian Union Founder and CEO Matt Bennett leads the meetings, along with Dimas Salaberrios, a Christian Union ministry associate and a bold Christian leader in New York City.

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May 17, 2021

Astronaut Monastery

Christian Union Alumnus Founds NYC Design Studio

By Anne Kerhoulas, Staff Writer

Strategy is the name of the game for Cody Min, the founder of Astronaut Monastery, a creative studio operating out of New York City. 

With the tagline of “Making work that thinks and thinking that works,” Min, the company’s head of new business and strategy, has created a sleek and successful firm serving clients like Hyundai, the popstar Kesha, Cole Haan, Rowing Blazers, Disney-ABC, Samsung, and Uniqlo. Min’s creative work today is deeply rooted in his faith, which was cultivated through the ministry of CU Martus (formerly called Penn Faith and Action or PennFA).

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May 2, 2021

John Piper’s Son Becomes a Critic of Christianity on TikTok

"Ex-vangelicalism" is Why Christian Union is So Valuable on Influential Campuses

AB PiperAbraham Piper, the son of best-selling author and theologian John Piper, has recently risen to TikTok fame by posting content about walking away from the Christian faith. Piper creates minute-long videos critiquing everything from the idea of a literal hell to why certain Bible stories are ridiculous to why life has no ultimate meaning. Calling himself an ex-vangelical, Piper has found a fast audience of like-minded former believers who have been hurt by the church, cannot agree with conservative theology surrounding sexual ethics, or simply never got on board with their parents’ faith. 

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April 22, 2021

The Gathering Storm

Albert Mohler Discusses Morality and the Implications of a Biblical Worldview

Albert Mohler’s most recent book, The Gathering Storm, delves into the secularization of America over the past century and the implications unfolding for the church today. Though American evangelicalism is used to having a role of cultural influence in our nation, that influence is rapidly declining and being sidelined. Where the church once held the position of establishing morality for our country and much of the world, secularism has slowly antiquated theism as a whole. In order for a new moral system to be put in place, the old system must be dismantled. 

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April 20, 2021

Life Outside the Comfort Zone

Vergerio ’22 Will Serve Internship with Samaritan’s Purse

By Tom Campisi, Managing Editor

In her sophomore year at Brown, Gabrielle Vergerio ’22 stepped out in faith and attended a Christian Union Libertas event, despite not knowing anyone in the ministry.

“On a whim, I decided to venture out to one of the meetings,” she said. “I was immediately met with such warm and sincere welcomes. CU Libertas at Brown was really my first home on campus.”

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April 15, 2021

Why Work is Necessary

HLS Alumnus Discusses the Implications of Genesis 2:5

By Paul Michalski

“When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground. (Genesis 2:5)”

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