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Dr. James Emery White Christian Blog and Commentary

Dr. James Emery White

Dr. James Emery White's weblog

Want conviction? Try the title of this article: “In the time you spend on social media each year you could read 200 books.”

Ouch.

But is it true?

Yes, I believe for most people, it is. Here’s the four step process:

1.      Do not quit before you start.

Many will hear “200 books” and immediately say, “I can’t!” or, “It’s just not possible.” All that does is guarantee that (for you) you won’t and it is.

2.      Do the math.

As author Charles Chu notes, the average American reads 200-400 words per minute. The typical non-fiction book has 50,000 words. 

Here’s the math: 200 books at 50,000 words per book equals 10 million words. Ten million words at 400 words per minute equals 25,000 minutes. 25,000 minutes equals 417 hours.

I know, you’re thinking: “417 hours?! No one has that kind of time.”

Which just means you’re now ready for the third step.

3.      Find the time.

It was the famed business author Jim Collins who first challenged me about finding time for what matters most. He said that most of us don’t need more “to do” lists, but “stop doing” lists. That the war against something like reading isn’t that we don’t have time, but that we are filling our time with things other than reading. 

Now to Chu’s point. The average American spends 609 hours a year on social media and 1,642 hours on TV. Once again, let’s do the math. That’s 2,250 hours a year. If you took all of those hours and spent them reading, you wouldn’t read 200 books a year. You would read more than 1,000 books a year.

So we have the time. Lots of it. In excess.

So why don’t we do it?

We don’t take the fourth step.

4.      Execute.

In my book A Mind for God, I have an entire section on how to read more. It includes practical steps like turning off the TV or shutting down your phone. It involves carrying reading material with you wherever you go so that you can take advantage of empty pockets of time in waiting rooms or lines. It means putting books around your home and office so that they are always there, reminding you and encouraging you to pick up and read.

And perhaps most of all, it means setting aside a time – ideally when you are mentally fresh – to read a certain amount every day. And it matters on so many fronts. As Chu writes, “Books gave me role models and heroes and meaning in a world where I had none.” Or as I wrote in A Mind for God:

From reading alone could I gain a sense of the currents shaping the world; from reading alone could I understand the prevailing worldviews from which Christianity was being assailed; from reading alone could I place myself in the vanguard of taking the Word of God to the word of the world. For it would be reading that would fill my mind with virtually limitless knowledge, instruction, and insight. It would be reading that would exercise my mind and force it to break through barriers of stagnancy. 

Little wonder that a monk in Normandy penned these words in 1170: “A monastery without a library [sine armario] is like a castle without an armory [sine armamentario]. Our library is our armory.” This was certainly the conviction of the apostle Paul who, even from his prison cell in Rome, implored Timothy to be sure to bring him his books (II Timothy 4:13).

So, 200 books a year? You don’t have to give up social media and TV altogether. Just take one hour out of every four you’re spending on them,

… and read.

James Emery White

 

Sources

Charles Chu, “In the Time You Spend on Social Media Each Year, You Could Read 200 Books,” Quartz, January 29, 2017, read online.


About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

Culture Watch

In years past, if you wanted to keep up with culture there would have been a “to read” list. Books and journals, periodicals and perhaps early blogs. That still matters (as a writer, forgive me for that vested interest), but increasingly there needs to be a “to watch” list. The most culturally influencing media is not the written word, but the visual form.

So what to watch?

From time to time, I will give an accumulated list of things that you can watch that are shaping culture in powerful ways.

One caveat: Please don’t bait me into whether we should be watching these things. Many of you can, some of you should not. For more on that, see my opening installment in the series “Is it okay for a Christian to...” where I dive into whether it’s okay to watch something like HBO’s Game of Thrones.

With that aside, here are five things that should be on most people’s “culture watch” list, at least in terms of recent months:

1.      13 Reasons Why (Netflix)

Why: This is the best (and most disturbing) crash course into youth culture available. Suicide, rape, binge drinking, drugs, hooking up, the occult, sexting, homosexuality, bullying… the list goes on and on. The premise is the suicide of a high school girl who records 13 tapes prior to her death, detailing the 13 reasons (specifically, the 13 people) why she killed herself. It is an exceptionally well-made and acted series. And one that can create countless conversations about not only suicide, but also sexual assault and the wide range of teen angst. Make no mistake – it’s a moral mess. But it’s the mess teens are consuming. And living. No wonder it exploded in popularity among the very youth it depicted. In April it became the most tweeted-about show in 2017. It was mentioned more than 11 million times within three weeks of its release. But with the release came great concern about its subject matter, so much so that Netflix put a warning in front of three of the episodes with links to suicide prevention websites and hotlines. The concern was that certain depictions might be seen as “glamorizing” something such as suicide (I don’t believe it did) and lead someone to fixate on doing it for attention (sadly, the more likely scenario). We now know that searches for “suicide” went up after the series’ release (read the Washington Post article HERE). Personally, I can’t imagine any parent of a teen or anyone who works with teens not watching this from start to finish.

2.      Game of Thrones (HBO)

Why: GoT (watcher’s shorthand) is one of – if not the – most popular show on TV. Yes, it has violence and sex. It is, after all, HBO. But it is also a perverse morality tale. An almost anti-Tolkien saga that may be more reflective of a fallen world. In other words, good doesn’t always win. In fact, in GoT, it rarely does. Yet this is the show the world is watching and talking about and taking in, providing many opportunities for moral conversation.

3.      Despacito (YouTube)

Why: In a cultural nanosecond, this single video has become the most-watched video in YouTube history (with more than 3 billion views and counting). Intriguingly, it is not even in English. But it is shaping a wider world. The real headline is found when you read a translation of the lyrics. Watch the video HERE and then get the translation HERE. And while you’re at it, you may as well catch up on the other nine YouTube videos on the top-ten list.

4.      The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)

Why: As the UK’s Telegraph reported (read the article HERE), when we cast our eyes back over 2017, one image will abide: “blinkered white bonnets and rich, red cloaks.” Yes, The Handmaid’s Tale, based on a 1985 novel by Margaret Atwood, was another dip into dystopia. But this is not another Hunger Games. The premise is a world where a shrinking minority of women are able to have children. They are gathered and forced to serve the procreation needs of the elite. In Puritan-ish clothes, forced to take on the male names of their guardians, they are walking wombs. But it has been the perceived political parallels to our modern world that has gripped our attention as much as the tale itself (e.g., women’s rights). Or as the lead actress Elizabeth Moss suggested, it is “bleeding into reality.” Whether you agree with the parallels or not, it is part of the cultural conversation.

5.      In A Heartbeat (YouTube)

Why: This 4-minute animated video is a reflection of how Christians lost the culture war regarding homosexuality and gay marriage. It movingly depicts the “feelings” of one boy for another, Pixar-ing the homosexual attraction in such a creative and compelling way as to make the relationship irrefutable morally. After all, it suggests, it’s a matter of love – a heartbeat – not sexual, or even less, moral. It’s a brilliant piece of work but, sadly, once again puts forward the cultural argument that feelings trump everything – even those things that are transcendent truths and values (for more on this cultural current, see “Slipping Down the Slope”). As of this writing, it’s already approaching 20 million views. Watch the video HERE.

All to say, take a few moments to put down the book and pick up the remote.

James Emery White


About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

The news broke over so many media outlets I couldn’t even keep up. The trending headline? A genetic study had disproved a biblical claim. 

At hand was the destruction of the Canaanites. The Bible records God calling for their destruction. A new genetic study found that they had most certainly not been destroyed as traces of Canaanite ancestry were discovered in modern Lebanese. Translation: the Canaanites went on to become modern-day Lebanese. 

Conclusion? Since, according to the Bible, God had ordered the Israelites to exterminate the Canaanites, the Bible is clearly wrong. As is written in the book of Deuteronomy, “Completely destroy them – the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites – as the Lord your God has commanded you” (Deuteronomy 20:17, NIV). 

They weren’t destroyed, so the Bible is finally caught in a true-blue, card-carrying, inescapable error.

A Pulse headline read, “The Bible got it wrong: Ancient Canaanites survived and their DNA lives in modern-day Lebanese.” The Daily Mail breathlessly announced, “Bronze Age DNA disproves the Bible’s claim that the Canaanites were wiped out.”

There’s just one little problem. 

The Bible never said that the Canaanites were exterminated. Yes, God called for their punishment, but their destruction was never understood to be an annihilation (a careful reading of the biblical text notes that it was just to involve the major city military strongholds, not the outlying areas, which were more civilian in nature). And even that language was commonly used ancient, near-eastern hyperbole. For example, you would commonly read among the cultures of that day how they had destroyed “everyone,” but then following this would read a discussion of what they were going to do with the survivors and prisoners.

(For an exploration of why God would order such a thing – which is an important conversation – I would suggest a series given at Mecklenburg Community Church titled “The Bloody Bible,” which has an entire installment on the Canaanite affair.)

But to the point of the DNA study headlines, the Bible says that even that level of military advance was not fully obeyed by the people of Israel. They were simply driven out of the land. The Bible even notes later in Judges that some “Israelites lived among the Canaanites” (Judges 3:5, NIV).

So was the Bible proven wrong?

Nope.

It was just proven right. 

As one, and only one, mind you, revised article later added, “The Bible claims elsewhere that the purge was not successful, an account backed up now by a scientific study.”

Genetic testing proved exactly what the Bible described.

So instead of “Bible’s Veracity Bolstered by Genetic Study,” we read, “Bible Disproved by Genetic Study.”

And that really was “fake news.”

James Emery White

 

Sources

Chris Graham, “Study Shows Ancient Canaanites Survived Divine Call in Bible for Them to Be Wiped Out,” The Telegraph, July 28, 2017, read online.

Sheryl Lynn, “Media Get It Wrong on Bible Account of Canaanites; Only One Issues Correction,” The Christian Post, August 1, 2017, read online.


About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

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