Thursday, December 31, 2015

Study Abroad: London Journal

Last winter around this time I was afforded the incredible opportunity to study abroad in London. It was the best time for me to do it, as I'm often busy in summer and spring break and didn't have the desire to do a full semester. With a couple scholarships and a grant from NKU's College of Business, I had a large majority of my travel study paid for.

I have included a Dropbox link to my entire journal from my time in London, as well as a link to a large album in my Facebook photos. (Pasting everything into this post would have been a long job.) I don't post this to be vain, nor do I expect anyone to read it all. My purpose in posting this is to satisfy any curiosity as to what I was able to do and the things I learned, to tell a first-hand account of living for the first time in another culture, and, most importantly, to serve as a reference to anyone contemplating studying abroad, particularly on the annual London trip.

I highly recommend studying abroad. The wealth of experience and knowledge I've obtained has served me well. There is no cheaper way to visit the city, and no better way than with a group of your peers. I still maintain close friendships with some of the people with whom I traveled. The memories made there are cherished to this day. By all means, check into any opportunity to travel abroad in this manner. I know of no one that regretted the trip. Just be warned: this will create an insatiable desire to travel and learn, and may also create lavish tastes in expensive foods found only at international markets. Feel free to reach out in the comments section with any questions on studying abroad.

Included is a daily log of activities, as well as some other assignments that had to be completed. (Be sure you're aware of due dates.) Omitted is my 21 page SWOT analysis comparison of the American and British economies. Plagiarism is real, folks.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

"Happy Holidays"

Sometimes Christians complain about society and don’t realize their part in making things the way they are. We don’t have the foresight to see the consequence of actions. Yet we complain about those very consequences in the end.

I am one who doesn’t make much of a fuss about the phrase, “happy holidays”. I don’t use it because I celebrate Christmas in December, not any other holidays. But we live in a diverse country. There are people that celebrate Hanukah, Ramadan, or God forbid Kwanzaa. Add in New Year’s (including other nationalities’ New Year’s) and we have a number of holidays being observed. While I don’t support the holidays of other religions, due to the fact that I believe the Bible, I have no problem with a business issuing a general greeting. Some may think me wishy-washy for believing so, but it’s not something to make a big deal about. Perhaps this line is crossed when employees are threatened to stop them from saying “merry Christmas”, but apart from that I don’t take issue.

A number of Christians do, however. This is where I believe we are too late. The use of “happy holidays” by companies may be a sign of moving away from Christianity. That would be nearly unheard of 50 years ago. I can see the correlation between the decline of Christendom in the U.S. and the rise of something like “happy holidays”. But the phrase is an effect, not a cause. Using “happy holidays” is not leading to the decline of Christianity. The decline of Christianity has led to the use of “happy holidays”.

Let me emphasize this. “Happy holidays” is not a threat to Christianity. It is not causing greater problems. We not doing what the Bible commands is.

I see people complaining about the effects of the changes in our society, but not about the causes. What was a ten point gap between the percentage of evangelical Christians and the percentage of unaffiliated people is now less than three. In all, those that even claim Christianity is down 7% while the unaffiliated group is up 6%. This is only since 2007. The Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development and Into Thy Word Ministries have done 15 years of research on the subject. Their findings include the annual closing of 4500 churches, while only 1000 open. Each year, 2.7 million Americans fall out of church attendance, as the percentage of regular church attendees dipped into the teens at the turn of the century. In 1900, there were 27 churches per 10,000 people. In 2000, there were only 11 churches per 10,000 people.

What do these statistics tell us? We’re failing at our mission. We are commissioned to preach the gospel and make disciples in our own cities and nations. The overlooked part of the Great Commission is that it also mentions our backyards, not just “the nations”. Some combination of fear and complacency has stopped Christians from reaching those around them.

The failure of Christians goes well beyond the unremarkable use of "happy holidays". This is the same mistake we saw in the 1960s and 1970s with the counterculture movement. It wasn’t wrong to lash out against those actions; on the contrary, we should call out sin. But too many people missed the point. It wasn’t the counterculture that was hurting Christianity. It was simply a reflection of the problems in the church. I can point out the same with the gay “rights” movement and abortion today. We must speak out against this sin. But it wasn’t the liberal movements that forced these into law. It was the church that allowed them to become law. If they are to be stopped, it is the church that must force them out.

In light of these, the use of “happy holidays” is trivial. Nonetheless, the same principle applies. There are too many Christians whining about the societal developments around us and not enough Christians focusing on doing our part to prevent them.

Instead, we keep putting buckets out on the floor instead of fixing the leak.

Complaining won’t do any good. What will is Christians doing their God-given duty of affecting and infecting our society. Preaching the gospel is a must, but so is holding ourselves to biblical principles and fighting for justice. Don’t just reminisce about a time when God was in the schools and courthouses. Don’t just complain that gay marriage is legal. And don’t get frustrated over the rather trivial matter of using “happy holidays”. Do something about it. Evangelize. Disciple. Get in the fight to protect the values our nation was founded on.

It’s a lot easier to just put the bucket out. But if you want to solve the problem, you’re going to have to climb up on the roof and fix the leak. If you’re not going to be obedient to your calling, don’t complain about the effects of the problems you allowed.