Links to Think

Links to Think: 14.06.02

June 2, 2014


NOT AGAIN: Gluten Sensitivity Is Real – Last week several articles made rounds through the Internet regarding a new study on gluten sensitivity. Many of the headlines and accompanying comments snarkily and harshly declared, “Unless you have Celiac’s, you’re a hypochondriac.” Thankfully a few of my FB friends and connections posted links with more gracious comments, though sadly many others did not.

This article addresses a lot of the common misunderstandings surround the study, but more importantly points out how this type of reaction is a product of our culture (final paragraphs of this excerpt).

“The story of this study should have been one of compassion, of complexity and nuance, about how hard it is to negotiate our own health in this world when we’re receiving so many mixed messages and the health care system is pretty woeful when it comes to anything related to food. It could have been an opportunity for news sources to teach, to reach people and communicate that they might not be taking care of themselves as well as they could.”

“Even Gibson, the co-lead on the study, agrees. “Gibson says that he’s not trying to debunk non-celiac gluten sensitivity. He agrees with Fasano that it’s real, and that gluten may do much of its harm outside the gut. In April, he and his team published another study, with the same group of IBS patients, which found that eating gluten for three days had no effect on intestinal symptoms but did lead to increased symptoms of depression.”

This fascinating, intelligent Scientific American piece, written by someone who had been told to go on a gluten-free diet and improved, for the most part, is titled: “Gluten Sensitivity May be a Misnomer for Distinct Illnesses to Various Wheat Proteins.”

Why were the other articles, from other sources, not written with this much nuance? This isn’t a culture of nuance. This is a culture of 140 characters, quick fights, and making a deadline, fast. This is a culture of snottiness and righteousness. Writing a headline like “Gluten Sensitivity May be a Misnomer for Distinct Illnesses to Various Wheat Proteins” isn’t sexy. Writing “Gluten-Free is Bullshit” is snappy and snarky and gets the attention.

We live in a culture that goes for attention instead of attention to detail every time.”

Animism and the Sinner’s Prayer – This is an older (Internet-age, at least) article, but very much a recurring problem. Both my husband and I have witnessed this theological travesty occur in real-time in various places around the world, and it is a heartbreaking practice once the implications are thought through. Particularly if you are involved in or supporting overseas mission work, this is an important read.

Here we have application made toward specific Thai culture, but it is applicable to many areas. 

“Animism is not a heart religion where it is important that you really believe something from the depth of your being.  Animism is not about devotion or love for a particular deity or spirit.  Animism is not about conforming your life to some external moral standard which has come down from heaven.  Animism does not require you to change your life or to repent of your sins.  All it requires is the performance of some religious rituals in order to cause the spiritual powers that be to bring about the desired blessings in your life.  It is all about external things that you do in order to get what you want.  But the Gospel of Jesus Christ is about a change in allegiance from self to God.  It is a change of priorities from our own priorities to God’s priorities.  It is about God’s plan for what my life should be like, not about using religious ceremonies to manipulate God into helping me accomplish my own ideas of what a happy life should be like.  Animism at its core is pragmatic and utilitarian.  Whatever gets the job done to help me achieve my idea of the good life is what I’ll do.”

When Thai folk Buddhists are invited to say the Sinner’s Prayer
So how would people from a primarily animistic worldview, such as Thai folk Buddhists, understand an invitation to say the sinner’s prayer?  And why does the sinner’s prayer, as commonly practiced, fail to bring about understanding and conversion among Thai Buddhists and other animistic believers?

1) The sinner’s prayer is just another religious ritual that might help you get want you want.   
For Thai people hearing an invitation to say the sinner’s prayer, I think their reasoning often goes something like this: “That trip to the spirit medium didn’t solve my problem, and the astrologer didn’t give much help either.  I tried wearing the sacred relic that my aunt gave to me but haven’t seen anything change.  Getting a tattoo might be expensive.  Perhaps this Christian ceremony will help.  What’s to lose?  Why not say this prayer that the Christian teacher seems so eager to have me pray?  There might be something to this foreign religion after all.   I can try out this foreign Jesus religion for a while and see if it really has the amazing power that the Christians are claiming.  If it works, great.  But, if Jesus doesn’t work, I’ll can just move on and try something else.  Nothing lost, nothing gained.”

2) The sinner’s prayer is viewed as a magical incantation

In animism, it is not important to understand the actual words said in a prayer or spell since the power of the prayer is in the sacredness of the words themselves, not in understanding them.  Chanting at the Buddhist temple is in the ancient language of Pali that the common person does not understand.  However, as long as they hear the monks chanting or say the words themselves, merit is gained.  So, when asked to say the sinner’s prayer, a person will more likely than not think that the words of the sinner’s prayer itself are powerful magical words that will bring about blessings.  What the words mean are largely secondary and inconsequential.  Going through the motions is all that matters.

3) The words in the sinner’s prayer are automatically redefined by the listener to fit with their animistic worldview

Christian evangelists use words like “God” “sin” “heaven” “hell” and “eternal life” with the assumption that their listeners will pour into those words the same meaning that the Christian is pouring into them.  But when the listeners are coming from a radically different worldview and belief system, that is a poor assumption.”

I Shall Not Want 

My friend Kristen recently asked me if I’d listened to anything by Audrey Assad. I hadn’t, but was extremely blessed to stumble upon her song, “I Shall Not Want.” I’ve probably listened to it hundreds of times over the past week. This is my prayer for my life right now.


“We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.” ~Tauscher 

I love this quote, and paired it with a picture of my girls watching a mama duck and her babies explore the Reedy River in downtown Greenville, SC

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  • Catherine @ a spirited mind June 2, 2014 at 10:44 am

    I love that song too. And I forgot that y’all live in Greenville–my parents live near Clemson now, small world!

    • Keren June 4, 2014 at 1:57 pm

      I think I saw at some point that your parents had moved there! I don’t get down that way often, but ironically we went to the SC Botanical Gardens on Monday. 🙂