Interview: Unmarried and Undaunted

How singleness can inspire faithful service and hope for the Resurrection.

Christina Hitchcock always assumed she would get married one day. But as years went by and it didn’t happen, she found herself trying to piece together a vision of life without marriage. Even though she’s now married, Hitchcock, who teaches theology at the University of Sioux Falls in South Dakota, wrote The Significance of Singleness: A Theological Vision for the Future of the Church to show how singleness is a valuable way of life that points us to true fulfillment in Christ. CT features editor Gina Dalfonzo spoke with Hitchcock about cultivating a renewed understanding of singleness for the whole church.

Why is the vision provided by singleness so important for the church?

Paul’s endorsement of singleness in 1 Corinthians 7 isn’t merely about having more missionaries, more martyrs, or more people with more time for the church. Singleness has theological significance because it tells us something important about who God is and what God is doing.

Among the things singleness signifies are the reality of the Resurrection and the priority of the church. Singleness is a sign of God’s future breaking into our present, a future characterized by radical, total dependence on God. Within this reality, we’re not related to anyone or anything in and of themselves, but all our relationships go through Jesus and outward. That is the vision of the future we see in the Resurrection, and I think that’s the reason Jesus promised a future in which people will neither marry nor be given in marriage (Matt. 22:30).

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Interview: Four-Star General: Military More Cautious About Faith

General Roger Brady (USAF, Ret.) thinks soldiers are becoming more religious but the armed forces are more uncertain about religious expression.

The issue of religious tolerance has created challenging times for the United States military. All the service branches are trying to protect the rights of both those with religious beliefs and those with none. The choices made by military leaders exist in a pressure-packed environment framed by their oath of service, the Constitution, military guidelines, public opinion, and their own personal beliefs.

Recently, Brig. Gen. E. John Teichert, commander of Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California, became the focus of a Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) demand for an official investigation into his conduct, specifically a personal website that calls the nation to pray for itself and its future. The MRFF, led by former Air Force captain and activist attorney Michael L. (Mikey) Weinstein, alleges that Teichert is violating the Defense Department policy concerning religious proselytizing.

Retired Four-Star Gen. Roger A. Brady has had discussions with Weinstein regarding these kinds of religious issues and pressures. He was once the personnel director for all Air Force personnel, and he finished his 41 years of duty in 2011 as 33rd commander of all US Air Forces in Europe and led the joint NATO Allied Command from Ramstein, Germany. General Brady is a longtime Christian who now sits on the board of trustees for Mid-Atlantic Christian University and serves as the deacon over adult education at his local congregation of the Church of Christ.

Brady led the 2005 inquiry into whether religious intolerance and discrimination were occurring at the United States Air Force Academy. Brady’s team found no outright or intentional religious discrimination, although it did discover some overzealous evangelism and a lack of …

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Her Prayers Helped Pull Me Out of Occult-Fueled Madness

While I plunged further into darkness, a middle-school classmate kept lifting me up to God.

I started walking in the valley of the shadow of death at a very young age. In first grade, I became aware of something: What you see is not all there is.

The spiritual world was real to me, even as a child, because of my engagement with the occult. What started out as intrigue and entertainment quickly led to a lifestyle of encounter with the stuff of Hollywood lore. I remember watching a chair slide across the floor and a candle floating off the coffee table. I saw things no one should see.

You can’t immerse yourself in the occult for long without going on a journey you cannot reverse on your own. I had night terrors so bad, so horrific, I was tormented for years. In junior high, the anxiety produced ulcers. Specialists couldn’t confirm what was wrong. I felt trapped, breathless, and alone.

My experiences with the supernatural led me on a quest for answers. In many ways, I was a typical boy, the kind who enjoyed basketball, skateboarding, and GI Joe cartoons. But I also studied religion and philosophy. I was gripped by an all-consuming desire to find a language or a belief system to describe my regular interactions with the unseen world.

‘Pray for That Young Man’

Eighth grade was a pivotal year. On the outside, I looked like a quintessential American teenager. Taking a break from the occult, I enjoyed school, engaged in athletics, and certainly didn’t look like someone immersed in darkness.

One day, as I was standing at my school locker, a female classmate sensed in her heart that God was whispering my name. (I wouldn’t learn this, of course, until later.) The whisper said something to the effect of, “Pray for that young man. You are going to marry him one day.” Some of life’s …

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Pepperdine Student, Cal Lutheran Grad Among California Shooting Victims

“Our students are resilient, but the burden is great.”

Two California Christian colleges are mourning losses after a deadly shooting at a country and western dance hall last night.

A Pepperdine University freshman and a recent alumnus of California Lutheran University were among the 11 people killed as a shooter launched smoke bombs and fired bullets across the crowd at an 18-and-up college night at Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California.

A sheriff’s sergeant and the gunman, identified as 29-year-old David Ian Long, also died in the shootout. At least 18 others were injured.

School officials said that 16 Pepperdine students, including from Seaver College and the School of Law, were known to be at Borderline on Wednesday. Among them was 18-year-old Alaina Housley, who didn’t make it out of the bar when her friends escaped through a broken window.

On Thursday morning, her uncle—former Fox News correspondent and Pepperdine alumnus Adam Housley—told news media that her iPhone still showed her location as inside Borderline. By the afternoon, her family’s worst fears were confirmed. At least two other Pepperdine students were injured in the attack; they were released from the hospital today.

Justin Meek, a graduate from nearby Cal Lutheran, was also killed. The school canceled classes Thursday and Friday.

Christians have tweeted their prayers for both campuses and all the victims.

“Many are burdened by a sense of certain loss for many in the Borderline shooting…,” said Pepperdine president Andrew K. Benton. “May God grant comfort to all impacted by this senseless tragedy. Our students are resilient, but the burden is great.”

Benton joined fellow campus leaders expressing grief and anger over the shooting at a prayer …

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The Embodied Church in a Digital Age

Should we cheer or moan when online churches perform virtual baptisms?

Virtual Reality Church’s first baptism took place in a 3D house with an underground pool and a massive billboard overhead proclaiming “A Special Baptism and Communion service.” Alina Delp, 46—portrayed as a purple, robot-like avatar—stood submerged in the water while Pastor D. J. Soto proclaimed her new life in Christ and her sins washed away. When her avatar floated to the surface, dozens of congregants and family members cheered, their avatars sending heart and clap icons floating skyward.

Delp rarely leaves her house due to erythromelalgia, a rare condition that makes it painful to be outside for longer than a few minutes. Baptism would have been difficult for her in the past. With the virtual baptism, her family members from all over the country were able to witness the event in real time.

“When the opportunity came to me, I just had to do it. I was so excited that church was an option for me, that baptism was an option for me,” she said.

She believes it was a real experience, just like getting baptized in water.

“It was powerful. As D. J. was speaking and I was under the water, I could feel this life I lived before being lifted away, and there was this new, amazing future for me,” she said, getting emotional. “I was there. It counts.”

Virtual Reality (VR) Church is just the newest iteration in a series of digital church trends that have picked up steam in the past few decades—from livestreaming entire church services, to virtual campuses that stream a sermon, to fully digital churches and digital missionaries.

Such technology is increasingly used for evangelism and spiritual identity. More than three-quarters of Americans own a smartphone, and nearly …

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The ‘Whole’ in Our Gospel

Has “holistic mission” won the missiological battle? Its champions say so, but their boast might be premature.

In recent years, the ideal of “holistic mission” has dominated thinking about the church’s call to make disciples of all nations. Broadly speaking, a “holistic” approach weaves together two essential threads of mission: sharing the gospel of eternal life through faith in Christ and meeting people’s earthly needs, which often involves challenging political and economic forces that breed injustice and poverty.

Influenced by liberation theology, the work of the Lausanne Movement, and books like Ron Sider’s Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, holistic mission came of age in the 1970s and ’80s through the missional church movement. Today, its animating spirit can be found in institutions like the Christian Community Development Association and the global Micah Network. As Sider likes to say, and as Al Tizon repeats in Whole and Reconciled: Gospel, Church, and Mission in a Fractured World, “We won.”

In the 1980s, holistic-mission advocates used the language of “transformation.” Then, under the influence of Latin American theologians, they pivoted to “integral mission.” Tizon, executive director of Serve Globally (the international-ministries arm of the Evangelical Covenant Church) and a missions professor at North Park Seminary, argues for recasting holistic mission in terms of reconciliation.

As Tizon acknowledges, this proposal is indebted to a host of theologians and missiologists (whom he cites generously). His purpose is more about showing how this newer paradigm meets the needs of the prevailing global situation. He begins the book with a series of chapters on “The Whole World” that address the effects of globalization. Though he …

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Love Your Political Frenemies

Jesus built his church from a group of enemies. Why did I love to sting mine?

On a typical Thanksgiving I would have been in the house with my family, putting the final touches on the meal. We might even have talked about religion and politics as we worked, but not in a bad dinner conversation kind of way. For the better part of a decade, we had all read the same theologians, admired the same pundits, and echoed each other’s opinions on social issues.

On the Thanksgiving two weeks after the 2016 election, however, I stood alone on my deck and wept. Five years earlier, God had begun using a series of major life events to resurrect long-buried aspects of my story. In the process, I had come to see the world very differently than my family did—and come to see certain family members as something like wrong-headed adversaries.

Now, where I saw catastrophe, all they could see was me “overreacting.” I felt alienated and disoriented.

As I struggled to make sense of my predicament, Jesus’ cryptic warning to his disciples came to mind: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household’ ” (Matt. 10:34–36).

Initially it seems ironic that Jesus, whom we hail as the Prince of Peace, announces that he will disturb the peace. But I’ve learned that what he disturbs is an artificial peace, one achieved through conformity and uniformity—foundational characteristics of the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1–4). Since it depends on establishing and maintaining sameness, this peace can’t offer a violent …

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Finding Light in Darkness: The Myanmar Tragedy

Darkness, in its many intimidating and frightening modes, is not the final word.

As I walked among the glistening gold-plated stupas of the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar (formerly Burma), it was hard to believe that just miles north, a genocide took place masterminded by the country’s military.

The Rohingyas, a people-name once unknown, is now a common point of our conversations. But even as we assume the worldwide accusations are self-evident behind the genocide of these ethnic Muslims in the heart of a Buddhist country, complexity rules—a fact of which the small Christian community there is well aware.

We wonder at the silence of the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. What are the factors in the social architecture of Myanmar that have contributed to this seemingly unforgiveable tragedy?

To begin, Myanmar is a country of 54 million people, divided into eight major ethnic races grouped by region, more so than language or ethnic affiliation. These regions camouflage its actual 135 distinct ethnic groups!

We too quickly assume that globalization is good, unifying people of all kinds of cultural strands. Democracy and human rights we value so highly are not necessarily embraced. Tribalism often rules, and Myanmar is a prime example. Mistreatment of ethnic or religious minorities is nothing new in what was formerly Burma. Internally, there are some 600,000 displaced persons, not counting the tens of thousands still in camps in Thailand and other surrounding countries.

The Military Rules

Although Myanmar is, nominally speaking, a country with a government of an elected parliament, it is still the military who rules. Myanmar held general elections in 2015; however, 25 percent of the seats in parliament are controlled by the military. …

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Rumors of AI Wars: Where Google and the Bible Agree

An understanding of human dignity and responsibility belongs in the development of artificial intelligence for military uses.

Recently, Google hit the pause button on a military artificial intelligence project amidst thorny ethical questions raised by its own employees. Increasingly in new drone and surveillance systems, human knowledge and actions are augmented and soon might be sidelined altogether. Should we shirk our responsibility and pass authority onto these machines? For Christians, the complex conversation about how AI should be developed as weapons centers on a biblical understanding of human dignity and responsibility.

For Google employees, protest began in April 2018 over involvement in a program to continue work on an AI-based image recognition program for the Department of Defense arguing that Google should not be in the business of war since the company’s historic slogan has been “Do no evil.”

The program, simply referred to as “Project Maven,” is designed to be used in identifying enemy targets on the battlefield. The research would improve an AI system, which processes a massive amount of video data captured every day by US military drones and reports back to military and civilian analysts with potential targets for future military engagement. The New York Timesreported that the Pentagon has spent billions of dollars in recent years to develop these systems and often partners with leading technology firms.

Yet, thousands of Google’s employees, including many senior engineers, signed a letter to CEO Sundar Pichai in protest of the firm’s involvement in Project Maven. In June, Google announced that it would not renew the government contract for Project Maven. Employees rejoiced at this decision, but Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos and others have criticized the move arguing that dropping the …

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What to Do About Persecution in China

Our most effective weapon against injustice is carried and concealed in our hearts.

The tanks don’t always stop in China, as they did when the world watched a lone, brave man stand in Tiananmen Square and face down tanks designed to quell opposition to the government.

Few were watching in 2016 when the Reverend Li Jiangong and Ding Cuimei, his wife, stood before a bulldozer ordered by the government to demolish their church.

“Bury them alive for me,” an angry member of the demolition team reportedly said.

The bulldozer did. Li managed to scratch his way out. But his wife didn’t make it.

That turned out to be a step too far even for the Chinese government at the time, which soon hauled the demolition team in for questioning. But the deed was done—and whether politically intentional or not, it is a symbol of a brutal repression of the Chinese church that is only gaining momentum.

Since the Communist takeover, the church has always been subject to repression by authorities. But slowly since 1982, the government had been giving the church space to breathe. As late as the spring of 2011, Chinese officials were saying publicly that “religion is good for development,” according to a 2012 report in Foreign Policy. The government donated land, built churches, and authorized research on positive Christian contributions to society.

Under the current administration of President Xi Jinping, however, the government is tearing down some churches (like the 50,000-member Golden Lampstand Church in Shanxi Province in January) and closing others (most notably, Zion Church, Beijing’s largest house church). The Chinese government is working furiously to recreate the church in its image. Regulations announced last year formalized policy that has, in practice, been in effect for some …

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