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Why our world needs Incarnational Leadership

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Andrew Sullivan wrote a recent feature article for New York Magazine entitled "I Used to Be a Human Being." Since he was a pioneer of the blogging industry, people quickly clamored to retweet and share his article shortly after it was posted. They were interested to read how one of the progenitors of the industry would describe his struggle with internet overload.

If you aren't familiar with Sullivan, he began as a writer for various magazines and news outlets before moving to the blogosphere. At this point, the blogosphere was still in its nascent stages, and he quickly became one of its most important voices. All you need to know about him can be summed up in New York Times opinion columnist Ross Douthat's estimation that he might be the "most influential political writer of his generation." Douthat wrote a piece about him in 2013 entitled "The Influence of Andrew Sullivan" that helps elucidate his impact on a variety of our society's most prominent issues.

So when Sullivan penned this most recent piece, people were curious to see what he had to say. He retired from blogging just last year, a peculiar and exceptional act in and of itself, and had spent the intervening time unplugged and away from social media, the internet, and technology. His article traces the lines of his struggle in remarkable and candid ways. Here is one selection where he describes the stress he felt in the midst of being a distinguished and sought-after blogger:

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Sistine Chapel frescoes are coming to Dallas

Credit: Uli Deck via API'll never forget the first time I saw Michelangelo's frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. They are more stunning than any movie or photograph can depict. Soon, however, you won't have to go to Rome to view them. You will be able to see them in Dallas instead.

Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition makes its first stop in the US at the State Fair of Texas, which opens in Dallas on September 30. The works will be displayed in their original size, reproduced as thirty-four photographs displayed on sixteen-foot panels.

In a way, it's surprising that Michelangelo's masterpiece will be displayed at this city-sponsored event. The frescoes are overtly religious, depicting God's creation of Adam and Eve as well as a variety of biblical prophets and heroes. Given the rising tide against religious freedom, we can envision a day when such depictions will be allowed only inside church buildings.

Consider the frightening US Commission on Civil Rights report making headlines today. It states clearly that if someone alleges discrimination relative to their sexual orientation or gender identity, their claim takes precedence over religious freedom. The Commission's chairman summarized the report: "The phrases 'religious liberty' and 'religious freedom' will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance" (my emphasis).

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Why the Jolie–Pitt divorce? 3 surprising factors

An earthquake hit Los Angeles yesterday. It came just minutes after news broke that Angelina Jolie was filing for divorce from Brad Pitt. CNN made this tongue-in-cheek announcement: "The two incidents are unrelated." But not for the couple and their children—they will never be the same.

Why is the couple divorcing? Consider three surprising factors.

One: They are famous. Research shows that celebrity marriages are twice as likely to break up as others. The Marriage Foundation studied couples who married between 2000 and 2010 and were divorced by 2014. The results: 50 percent of star couples were divorced, compared to 26 percent of "normal" marriages.

Two: They are wealthy and attractive. According to The Atlantic, men are 50 percent more likely to divorce if their partner's looks are important in their decision to get married. Women are 60 percent more likely to divorce if they care about their partner's wealth. Of course, I don't know if these factors applied specifically to Jolie and Pitt, but it's a safe guess that they were not irrelevant to their relationship.

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Terrorist is 'a guy you would never expect'

Credit: Nicolaus Czarnecki via APAhmad Khan Rahami was arrested yesterday. Wanted in connection with bombings in New York and New Jersey, he has been charged with five counts of attempted murder after a shootout with police.

His family operates First American Fried Chicken in Elizabeth, New Jersey. One of the restaurant's patrons said of Ahmad, "He's a very friendly guy, he gave me free chicken. He was always the most friendly man you ever met." The patron was deeply rattled by news that Rahami has been connected to the bombings. "He's a guy you would never expect," he said. "This is sad, terrifying, scary."

When terrorists strike anywhere, people become alarmed everywhere. For instance, West Point was locked down yesterday after a "concerned citizen" reported seeing a man "who fit the description" of Rahami, according to a spokesman. The man was eventually identified as a West Point resident and the lockdown was lifted.

We can expect more of this. FBI Director James Comey has warned that hundreds of terrorists will fan out to infiltrate western Europe and the US as attacks escalate against the Islamic State's so-called caliphate in Syria. "At some point there's going to be a terrorist diaspora out of Syria like we've never seen before," he warned. Referring to recent attacks in Brussels and Paris, Comey said that future attacks will be "an order of magnitude greater."

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NY bombing: Up to 5 now in custody

Credit: Mel Evans via APABC News is reporting that as many as five people were taken into FBI custody last night in connection with Saturday's bombing in Manhattan. In addition, multiple bombs were discovered overnight at a New Jersey train station. A pipe bomb exploded along a racecourse in New Jersey, though no one was injured. And ISIS has claimed responsibility for a stabbing at a Minnesota mall that injured eight.

Life in the age of terrorism seems more fragile than ever.

Our fears are not necessarily based on facts. According to security experts, ninety-four Americans have been killed by jihadists since 9/11, more than half of them in the Orlando nightclub shooting. An additional forty-eight have been killed by other extremists such as the Charleston church shooter. As tragic as these deaths are, more Americans die in car accidents every two days.

However, the fear of terrorism can be debilitating. Experts say that living with such fear can trigger obsessive thinking and alter our mood, temperament, motivation, and personality.

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The couple that watches together stays together

Credit: Charles Sykes via APHave you ever sat on the couch with your significant other after a hard day of work and felt guilty because you were watching TV instead of out eating at some new restaurant, hanging out with friends, or trying something you've never done before? While those are all good things, it turns out they aren't essential to a happy relationship (who knew?).

As Quartz's Cassie Werber describes, researchers at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland found that watching TV series and movies, reading books, or engaging in other forms of seemingly mundane entertainment can have the same impact on the health of a relationship as spending time out with friends or having any number of other shared-world experiences. As the perpetually exhausted parent of a two-and-a-half-year-old with another on the way, I find this to be very good news.

The key, it seems, isn't so much what you're doing but that you're engaging in it with each other. Shared experiences, whatever they may be, help to draw us closer together and create new pathways for our lives to connect. Those connections are a fundamental aspect of a healthy relationship.

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US religion worth $1.2 trillion

via goodfreephotosIt's not often that an academic report changes the conversation about religion in America, but one just did. Georgetown University professors Brian Grim and Melissa Grim of the Newseum Institute have unveiled their groundbreaking study: "The Socio-economic Contributions of Religion to American Society: An Empirical Analysis." Here's the summary:

•    Religion in the US contributes $1.2 trillion each year to our economy and society.
•    Despite declining religious affiliation in the American population, religious organizations have tripled the amount of money spent on social programs in the last fifteen years—to $9 billion.
•    Religion's $1.2 trillion impact is more than the annual revenues of Apple, Amazon, and Google combined.

The study notes that congregations and religiously affiliated charity groups are responsible for:

•    130,000 alcohol and drug abuse recovery programs.
•    94,000 programs to support veterans and their families.
•    26,000 programs to prevent HIV/AIDS and to support those living with the disease.
•    121,000 programs to provide support or skills training for unemployed adults.

While religion contributes $1.2 trillion each year, religious tax-exemptions cost the US $71 billion. In other words, religion contributes seventeen times more to America than it costs.

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Religion Contributes $1.2 Trillion Each Year to US Economy

Credit: Jeff Weese via PexelsJerry Maguire yelled Show me the money. James said Show me your good works. And a new study says How about both? According to the findings from Brian and Melissa Grim, “Religion in the United States today contributes $1.2 trillion each year to our economy and society.” Published in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion, the Grims’ research reveals that the country has never been more dependent on the contributions religious people make to society, specifically from a socio-economic perspective. Religion may be dangerous to some but it is beneficial to all.

To put this figure into perspective, this is more than the annual revenues of the top ten tech organizations combined. This list includes Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Or to put it another way, this is what $1.2 trillion dollars looks like each year according to American spending habits:

Groceries ($478 billion), fast food ($117 billion), illegal drugs ($100 billion), beer ($96 billion), soft drinks ($65 billion), pets ($60 billion), tobacco ($40 billion), child care ($47 billion), gambling ($34.6 billion), dollar store purchases ($30 billion), professional sports ($25.4 billion), credit card late fees ($18 billion), video games ($17 billion), Easter ($16.8 billion), bottled water ($11 billion), engagement and wedding rings ($11 billion), coffee ($11 billion), romance novels ($10 billion), sinus treatments ($5.8 billion), perfume ($4.2 billion) and over-the-counter teeth whiteners ($1.4 billion).

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leadership in the wreckage

Credit: via Rob Cizek

It doesn’t take long in leadership to realize that most of our work takes place in the wreckage of life. We take on new ventures and exciting opportunities only to be confronted immediately with challenges, obstacles, and difficult choices. The sheen wears off quickly as the reality of the task sets in.

Samsung is dealing with the wreckage of a disastrous product flaw in its most advanced smartphone, the Galaxy Note 7. After riding a recent wave of success that saw it gaining traction against Apple’s popular iPhone line, Samsung launched the Note 7, dubbing it the most advanced smartphone on the market. When faulty batteries in the units began to explode while charging, however, all hopes Samsung had for the Note 7 disappeared.

The Wall Street Journal reported on the wreckage of illicit drug use in the American work force. Quest Diagnostics, one of the nation’s largest medical laboratories, released data that show “Detection of illicit drugs—from marijuana to heroin to methamphetamine—increased slightly both for the general workforce and the “safety-sensitive” workforce, which includes millions of truck drivers, pilots, ship captains, subway engineers, and other transportation workers.”

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The godly way to vent

Credit: sorayut via fotaliaHave you ever felt the urge to break something? To just throw things around and smash them into tiny bits? Perhaps you've seen the iconic scene from the movie Office Space where the trio of disgruntled office workers vent years of frustration on a printer and thought to yourself, "My life would be so much better if I could do that just one time." Well, if you live in one of a growing number of cities with stores like The Break Room, Tantrums LLC, and others of their kind, today is your lucky day.

These businesses exist to let you vent your "office rage"—the official term for when the people, circumstances, and responsibilities of work are simply too much to bear—in a secure, controlled environment. As Ed Hunter, founder of The Break Room in Melbourne, Australia, explained, "We're giving people permission to get angry in a safe environment." Considering that "work-related stress costs Australian business AUD$10 billion a year," according to BBC's Alison Birrane, the market clearly exists for this kind of therapy.

Clients typically pay somewhere between $20 and $100 for up to forty-five minutes of wreaking havoc on office supplies, furniture, dishes, and a virtually endless supply of other eminently breakable objects. As one client of The Anger Room in Dallas, Texas, remarked, "If there was an Anger Room on every corner, the world would be a better place."

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