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The Generous Soul

Why overcoming the Scrooge in all of us begins with gratitude.

One of my not-so-winsome Christmas traditions involves complaining to family members about the relentlessness of The Christmas Carol. Every year it seems there is another spin-off or remake of Charles Dickens’s classic. While I love the story, I am fatigued by the repetition. Ebenezer comes to his senses every December 25 but then reverts to being all Scrooge-like again in time for the next holiday season. Dickens penned this story 174 years ago—maybe it’s time for a new Christmas classic.

Still, even with my grumbling, I keep reading and watching The Christmas Carol or its variants most years. Some inner force draws me there even as my cortex complains.

Maybe one of the reasons that Scrooge has survived so long is that Dickens speaks to some primordial inner conflict that all of us know, and perhaps this inner conflict is even more ubiquitous than the movies and books and plays that I mutter about each Advent. The conflict between miser and benefactor, between thrift and munificence, is so familiar to each of us and powerful enough to keep us watching and reading Dickens year after year.

One part of us, like the miserly Scrooge, wants to live with fists closed, accumulating possessions even if it hurts others, focusing on our own goals and achievements, protecting ourselves by shutting out relational risk and the pain of the world. But another part, a better part, sees more complexity in the world, recognizes blessings, holds palms up to heaven, and gives time, empathy, and money to others as a reflection of gratitude for all the gifts life offers, including the gift of life itself.

If Scrooge persists in order to remind us of this inner tension, then perhaps I should be more patient, and even grateful, that ...

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‘Justice League’ Unites Its Heroes to Save an Erratic, Uneven World

DC’s answer to the MCU wants to show that surrounding darkness can only strengthen heroic light. It only kind of succeeds.

This article contains light spoilers for Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Justice League.

DC’s superhero team-up film Justice League unites Batman, Wonder Woman, and new heroes onscreen. With relative ease, they overcome their different backgrounds and come together to save the world from an evil galactic overlord and his army of flying demons.

And that’s pretty much the story in full.

Justice League’s simple structure and quick pace may please more audiences than the first two installments of this DC film series, the often-maligned Man of Steel (2013) and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). Both films strove to explore several meta-themes on a popular philosophical level; they sought to bring into the story-worlds themselves the very conversations fans share about superheroes, such as the reasons people reject or embrace Superman or compare him with Jesus Christ. But in place of these grander ideas, Justice League instead presents several fun characters with smaller journeys of their own—though its lightness loses some of the earlier films’ dramatic weight.

Officially, Justice League shares those films’ director, Zack Snyder. Few aspects of Snyder’s hallmark style actually feature in the final product, however. In his previous films, Snyder favored a “tear-down-and-rebuild” approach in which minimalist, struggling protagonists bulk up, confront critics, scream loud, and punch hard in the dark to become heroic in a world that doesn’t always respond favorably to them.

Many critics and fans, however, didn’t respond favorably: While some viewers argued that these stories’ darker worlds present greater moral challenges for their heroes ...

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What Is Your Story? (Part 1) [Gospel Life Podcast]

Start each week with this encouragement to show and share the love of Jesus.

What Is Your Story? (Part 1)

Christina Walker, associate director of academic programs for the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, talks about her father-in-law’s passion for planting churches and evangelism. What keeps him excited about it year after year? “Pop” shares that first, we should tell a story. What’s our story? Why does Christ matter to us? Who are we praying for, and what opportunities will we pursue? This strategy may not be revolutionary, but it is effective.

Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College, is executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and publishes church leadership resources through Mission Group.

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It’s Official: Evangelicals Appreciate Chick-fil-A the Most

The popular chain scores big for community impact among Christians, Southerners, and millennials.

You could say Chick-fil-A is one of those fast-food restaurants with a cult following. But in this case, the closed-on-Sunday chicken sandwich chain clearly has a church following.

Evangelicals and fellow Christians have the most positive view of the Chick-fil-A brand, according to Morning Consult’s 2017 Community Impact Ratings.

In breakout poll results provided to CT, 62 percent of evangelicals considered Chick-fil-A to have a positive impact on their community, compared to 48 percent of Americans on average.

Despite the 2012 boycotts spurred by Chick-fil-A COO Dan Cathy’s opposition to same-sex marriage, the Christian-owned company outperformed fellow fast food restaurants in the Morning Consult poll. This was particularly true in the South, home to a majority of its 2,200 locations, as well as among millennials.

More than half of adults ages 18–34 and 35–44 rated Chick-fil-A as having a positive impact, while older age brackets were less enthusiastic.

A researcher at The Hartman Group attributed Chick-fil-A’s continued popularity to beliefs that the chain had “higher-quality food, better customer service and happier employees than similar fast-food restaurants.”

Evangelicals were more likely than the average American to see several top quick-service restaurants as having a positive impact on their communities, including KFC, Starbucks, and McDonald’s.

And despite some evangelicals’ outcry over Target’s transgender-friendly bathroom policy last year, most evangelicals overall see the store as having a positive impact (60%)—almost as many as for Chick-fil-A (62%).

Unlike the other brands ranked, Chick-fil-A explicitly appeals to believers by invoking God in its ...

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