In recent presentations at the Calvin College January Series, New York Times op-ed columnist Arthur Brooks spoke of how Americans can stop holding so much contempt for one another, Dr. Cheng-Ho Jimmy Lin presented some good news about fighting cancer, and Kara Powell, executive director of the Fuller Youth Institute, suggested ways in which aging churches can get an infusion of new life.
Arthur C. Brooks
“Truly in America we are experiencing a tricky time of so much bitterness and hatred,” said Brooks, who will soon retire after working for several years as president of the American Heritage Institute, a conservative think tank.
Working for a think tank, he said, you take on problems that seem to have no solution — like the plague of contempt poisoning public life today — and try to think in new ways to find answers.
First, he said, it’s important to realize that anger is not contempt. Anger often arises out of circumstance and will usually run its course. Contempt goes deeper; it is akin to hatred.
In his talk, Brooks didn’t try to explain why so much bitterness is out there. But he did say that it is always harder to hold contempt for someone when you have taken the time to try to understand someone else’s ideas and beliefs.
As he thought of ways to address the nasty culture so prevalent today, especially in politics and the media, he said, he thought of Matthew 5:43-45, in which Jesus says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”
“Jesus tells us we need to love our neighbors as well as our enemies. That is the only thing that can obliterate contempt,” said Brooks, author of 11 books including these best sellers: The Road to Freedom: How to Win the Fight for Free Enterprise and The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier, and More Prosperous America.
“We need to remember that the people who don’t agree with us are not stupid or evil. They just don’t agree with us,” said Brooks.
He suggested that we have, for various reasons, fallen into some bad habits of communication that have led to contempt. Whether politically, personally, in the media, or in our interactions on social media, there is too much noise, with too many voices berating others.
“We can work to break our bad habits,” said Brooks. “Research shows that in three weeks we can reprogram our brains. When you feel an eye roll coming on, when you are feeling contempt, why not try to practice warm-heartedness? That may sound weak, but it is not weak at all. One of the hardest things to do is to answer what we see as contempt with kindness and love.”
Cheng-Ho Jimmy Lin
Dr. Cheng-Ho Jimmy Lin, chief scientific officer of oncology at the drug research company Natera, said he is a scientist who happens to be a Christian.
As such, he praises God in all things and particularly, given his profession, in all of the ways in which science has been able to fight cancer, which is really many diseases characterized by cells that begin growing out of control for many different reasons.
Over the years, doctors have killed cancer with chemotherapy and radiation and have removed it with surgery. More recently, they have developed drugs using gene therapy to target certain cancers and have developed better and better tests to detect cancer early.
And now they are finding ways of using a patient’s own immune system to kill cancer. “Think about this!” said Lin, who formerly led the clinical genomics program at the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health.
“God has already created an immune system, and we are finding ways to use it to keep cancer in check. This will be applicable to treating many types of cancer.”
Lin was part of one of the first clinical genomics labs in academia at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., and led the computational analyses of the first-ever exome sequencing studies in cancer.
When using this new therapy, he said, “we can co-labor with God to leverage the system God has already given us” to help “redeem the world” from this disease. “Truly, we are in the golden age of cancer research.”
In a study of more than 250 churches that are honoring the gifts of young people and finding increasing numbers of young people as members, researchers found a few key characteristics linking the churches, said Kara Powell.
In her talk, titled “Growing Young: Helping Young People Discover and Love the Church,” the associate professor of youth and family ministry at Fuller Theological Seminary and director of the Fuller Youth Institute mentioned discouraging reports about the aging and decline of churches today, but also focused on what works to include young people in the church.
Among these elements, she said, the research found that churches that “ruthlessly” embodied and taught how the message of “the life and death and resurrection of Christ” applies to all of our lives was attractive to young people.
Also, these churches were involved in their neighborhoods, and youth leaders need not be “young and hip” to reach and teach young people.
Leaders must above all care for and show their care for young people. Powell mentioned a 72-year-old man named Bill, whom many young people mentioned when asked who in the church had an influence on their lives.
“Bill showed up and cheered at their basketball games and school plays. He showed them that he cared,” said Powell. Having never had parents who showed him that kind of interest, Bill said that he made the decision “to show young people they were surrounded by warmth and love.”
She also mentioned a youth leader named “Stretch” who told researchers that he traced his commitment to youth ministry to his teen years when he was given the keys to the church so he could do little jobs that grew into bigger tasks over the years.
“We need churches that give the keys of leadership to young people and teach them to be leaders,” said Powell. “Help them feel they are a part of your church.”
Interviews with young people found that they appreciated contemporary styles of worship, but more important was feeling they were part of a large family that worshiped, prayed, and did things together.
“You can’t just take out the organ and attract young people. Being warm is the new ‘cool,’” she said. “Churches need to have worship gatherings be less like theater and more like family rooms.”
The 2019 January Series is a free 15-day lecture series running through Jan. 23 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. (EST) weekdays at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich. For information on speakers and how to tune in, visit calvin.edu/january-series.