White Helmets in Syria

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white-hats-syria-carrying-personGenerosity reaches a whole new level when your life is on the line – and when you’re saving someone else’s life at the literal risk of your own. That’s what the “White Helmets” are doing every day in Syria, as they voluntarily rush in after the bombs have hit. The rescuers don’t care about a person’s religion or politics, just their ability to survive.

So far, 141 White Helmets have died in the process of saving more than 73,530 people by pulling them out of the rubble, even as the bombs were still raining down. More than fifty bombs and mortars land on some neighborhoods each day.

A piece about the White Helmets on a television news show prompted me to find their website at www.whitehelmets.org. There I heard about a new Netflix documentary called “The White Helmets,” which is available for streaming on Netflix. There’s also an opportunity to learn more about the U.N. Security Council resolutions against barrel bombs and chlorine bombs, and a place to petition the U.N. to follow through on those resolutions in some way with the Syrian government.

Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” The White Hats are giving their lives for all who are in harm’s way. This is the basis of generosity: living out God’s compassion.

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

Smartphone Addictions

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Technology has made so many things possible, with literally global access to knowledge and information. I was stunned years ago, when I first had the chance to go on the Internet. At that time I was working on my doctoral thesis – and got into thirteen libraries around the world in a half-hour’s time, all by googling a few key phrases!tech-13

Of course technology has leap frogged many times since those old personal-computer days. Today I’m mulling over the benefits and dangers of technological capabilities, as I anticipate discussing the topic in my upcoming online “Stewardship and Culture” course. It seems technology, in itself, is a neutral tool, depending upon how people use it and for what purposes. Does it tend to isolate us from others, or draw us into wider human networks? Are we in charge of it, or does it draw us in unhelpful directions?

Some developments bring substantial worry – such as one study’s finding that smartphone owners check their phones as many as 150 times a day! 1 At best, such behavior reveals human weakness, and at worst it’s the sign of addiction. Technology watchdog Tristan Harris says software developers are using behavioral science to program apps that are irresistible to users.

What does this mean for a Christian steward’s lifestyle, as we try to communicate with real persons, manage time and relationships, and focus on God’s priorities? How do we keep balance and participate in community, both in-person and virtual? What are the implications for us as our technology keeps bounding forward? How do we apply ethics to this whole technological domain? There is much to ponder, with a lot of repercussions. . . .

Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

1 – “Smartphone Addictions,” Christian Century, Nov. 23, 2016, p. 9, citing an article in the November Atlantic.