Commonplaces: Evelyn Waugh the Young Atheist

Evelyn Waugh, who would become one of the best-known British writers of his age, chronicled the decline and fall of the British aristocracy in works such as Brideshead Revisited (1945). A generation of Americans now fascinated by Downton Abbey is generally unaware that literary figures like Waugh captured the end of the aristocratic age long […]

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True Kinship in God’s Family

True Kinship in God’s Family

Recently, I’ve had the amazing joy of welcoming into the world my newest niece and nephew. It’s a privilege beyond measure to be called an uncle.

However, by all natural accounts, this is an impossible reality because I only have one legal sibling, and she has never had a child. How can this be?

The Hundredfold Family

As a Christian struggling with same-sex attraction, the topic of family has long been a bit of a sore spot for me. Because of my sexual inclinations, the only way to live in accordance with the clear teachings of Scripture is to remain celibate. This means that I may never have a lifelong companion, a child, a grandchild. In short, I may never have a family of my own.

Until a few years ago, this reality had long seemed an almost unbearable load to bear. Then one day, as I was throwing myself a personal pity party, I came across these verses in Mark’s gospel:

Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:29–30)

Voluntary Kin

I realized that the hundredfold-now-in-this-time aspect of this promise had been fulfilled in my life through a phenomenon sociologists are now calling “voluntary kin.” According to a recent New York Times article, voluntary kin are simply people who choose to be related.

Anthropologists have traditionally used the term “fictive kin” to separate such relationships from “true” kinship based on blood or law, but many researchers have recently pushed back against that distinction, arguing that self-constructed families are no less real or meaningful than conventional ones.

My heart rejoices to see such relationships gaining formal recognition because my own experience has affirmed the reality. I have been greatly blessed with voluntary kin that make a life of celibacy easier. They make it easier because these types of relationships enable me as a celibate Christian to give and receive sacrificial love in tangible and intimate ways.

So when I help plan my voluntary sister’s engagement party or hold my nieces and nephews for the first time, I am participating in familial love. When I attend my voluntary little brother’s basketball awards ceremony or go on a camping trip with my second family, I am participating in familial love. And all of a sudden, a life of celibacy is not simply defined by what is lacking, but rather by the opportunity to love and be loved, serve and be served, invest and receive investment, in the God-designed community of the family.

True Kinship in Christ

Voluntary kin is a biblical concept as well. Or better yet, in Christ we might call it “non-fictive kinship.” One of the beautiful things about these types of relationships is that they tangibly reflect the spiritual kinship of all Christians. The bonds that believers share in Christ run deeper than blood.

When Paul calls Timothy his “true child in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2), it isn’t simply a ceremonial label. The title “brothers and sisters in Christ” (Colossians 1:2) is not an abstract comparison to a different concrete reality. The Church of Christ is the family of God (1 John 3:2), and our earthly relationships should reflect this spiritual truth.

Yet sadly, as I look at the church at large from my limited vantage, I find that my experience may be the exception, rather than the norm. What might happen if the family of God as a whole began to dream more aggressively of creative and life-giving ways to live out our spiritual kinship?

For starters, married couples and families might consider investing in a single person or two, inviting them regularly into homes and family life, and blessing them with familial love. And single folks might ponder reaching out to a family or married couple, thinking of ways to build a deep relationship through sacrificial service. In these ways and many more yet unnamed, we reflect our unity as spiritual kin, and glorify the one who binds us together (Ephesians 4:15–16).

We are the church. We are brothers and sisters in Jesus’s blood. We are true family.


More on the church from Desiring God:

from Desiring God Blog

Happy 30th Birthday, Mark Zuckerberg

When you log on to Facebook today, take a quick moment and wish its inventor a happy birthday. Yes, Mark Zuckerberg turns 30 years old today, and let’s assume he’s going to spend his birthday with the closest of his 500 million friends, spending some of his 31 billion dollars (to which he’s probably added a few million since you started reading this sentence). For our part, we’ll celebrate by revisiting Facebook’s genesis, as re-imagined by Aaron Sorkin and and David Fincher in The Social Network

from RELEVANT Magazine

Grow a Disciple-Making Culture in Your Church

Note from the editor: This blog post by Godwin Sathianathan originally appeared here at The Gospel Coalition on February 26, 2013. ************************************************************* I owe a significant debt to four men and three churches who, over the years, became my spiritual fathers and families. These wonderful people walked alongside me through troubling and joyful times. They prayed with me, mentored me, and […]

from multiply

Surprise! Here’s a New Bob Dylan Song: “Full Moon and Empty Arms”

Bob Dylan is still making music, which is pretty wild. What’s even more wild is that, after a string of sort of ho-hum releases, he seems to have found a twenty-first century groove as a wild, apocalyptic preacher man, writing and performing some good, strange, dark songs. 2012’s Tempest was long, rambling and frequently brilliant, and it reminded us that just because Dylan’s old (73 this month) doesn’t mean he’s lost whatever it is that makes him such a hypnotic, important artist. And now, he’s back with “Full Moon and Empty Arms,” a cover of an old Frank Sinatra staple that will evidently be featured on an upcoming release. It’s a surprisingly sweet, romantic little number that may hint at a gentler album than we’ve been getting from Mr. Dylan lately, but we don’t know much. The album doesn’t have an official title, though Rolling Stone speculates that it could be called Shadows In the Night

from RELEVANT Magazine

10 Pieces of Unsolicited Advice, From Me, About Creating a Healthier Workplace

Every Wednesday is List Day, or Quiz Day, or Tip Day. This Wednesday: My 10 pieces of unsolicited advice for how to foster healthier eating habits in the workplace In law school, we took “issue-spotter” exams, which were actually kind of fun (as law-school exams go). An issue-spotter exam presents a long tale of legal woes, and students must spot …

from The Happiness Project

Dropouts and Disciples: How many students are really leaving the church?

Are students leaving the church in droves? What can we do to stop the bleeding?

Dropout is a key word in today’s evangelical churches concerning teenagers and young adults. The quote often sounds like this: “86% of evangelical youth drop out of church after graduation, never to return.” The problem with that statement (and others around that number) is that it’s not true. But that doesn’t mean there is no reason for concern.

LifeWay Research data shows that about 70% of young adults who indicated they attended church regularly for at least one year in high school do, in fact, drop out—but don’t miss the details. Of those who left, almost two-thirds return and currently attend church (in the timeframe of our study). Also, that dropout rate is from all Protestant churches—evangelical and mainline.


Church attendance among teens and young adults follows some important patterns. There are always some coming and some going. Yet something significant happens between the ages of 17 and 19 that accounts for the vast majority of those who leave. At age 17, the twice- monthly attendance of our study sample drops as follows:

  • 16–17, drop 10%
  • 17–18, drop 14%
  • 18–19, drop 13%

Between 17 and 19 is where the drop takes place. Our study was of those who attended regularly for at least a year in high school—so our sample is not representative of all teens and young adults, but clearly something is happening in that age range.

In most cases, our surveys show a lack of intentionality in dropping out. Eighty percent of young people who dropped out of church said they did not plan to do so during high school. It’s not that most rejected the church. Our teenagers aren’t primarily leaving because they have significant disagreements …

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from The Exchange

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