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Ben Irwin
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Ben Irwin spent four years writing for the humanitarian nonprofit World Vision. He's the author of a forthcoming children's book with publisher David C Cook, and he blogs regularly at benirwin.wordpress.com.

Follow Ben on Twitter: www.twitter.com/benirwin

Entries by Ben Irwin

Why You Might Have to Choose Between Science and Faith

(107) Comments | Posted February 12, 2014 | 12:17 PM

In the wake of Ham v. Nye, the latest spectacle in the ongoing creation/evolution debate, cooler heads are calling for a rapprochement between science and faith.

Take, for example, Tim Stafford's impassioned plea on behalf of our children to stop treating the two pursuits as mutually exclusive:

Right...

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Creation Debate Recap: Bill Nye Invites Us to Explore the World, Ken Ham Does Not

(143) Comments | Posted February 5, 2014 | 8:51 AM

It's unlikely anybody's mind was changed by the creation debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye.

Ham behaved pretty much as expected, largely skirting the scientific argument and framing the debate as one of competing worldviews. He attacked evolutionary theories from 1836, rather than address current science head on....

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The Most Important Super Bowl Ad You Didn't See

(11) Comments | Posted February 3, 2014 | 10:27 AM

Some issues are complex. Nuanced. Gray.

For me, this one isn't.

This 2-minute ad called "Proud to Be" takes the seemingly complicated issue of Indian sports mascots and distills it with remarkable clarity.

At roughly $4 million per 30-second slot, this ad never had a chance of making the airwaves during Super Bowl XLVIII. But you should watch it anyway.

Created by the National Congress of American Indians, the ad touches on the rich history of Native American communities. It mentions iconic figures like Sitting Bull, Hiawatha, Jim Thorpe, and Will Rogers. It highlights many aspects of Native American identity: Proud. Forgotten. Survivor. Mother. Father. Son. Daughter. Underserved. Struggling. Resilient.

"Native Americans call themselves many things," the narrator concludes. One thing they don't call themselves, however, is Redskin.

Yes, the Washington Redskins' mascot has been around for more than 80 years. Yes, it would be costly to change it. (After all, the NFL is just your everyday 501(c) nonprofit, right?) No, Washington's football team isn't the only one with a controversial Indian mascot that needs changing.

But these are diversions. Excuses.

A friend of mine who shared the video on Facebook asked what I think is the one question that really matters:

Would you feel comfortable calling a Native American this name to their face?

Assuming the answer is no (and it should be), isn't that an implicit acknowledgement that the term "Redskin" is racist?

Then why do almost 80 percent of Americans think the Redskins should keep their team name? Is it because we don't like asking difficult questions? Because we never stop long enough to view the issue from someone else's perspective?

Of course, changing a team mascot won't end the problem of racism. It won't address every grievance that Native Americans have or right every wrong that's been done to them. In reality, a name change seems like a drop in the bucket when it's weighed against our country's history of injustice, discrimination, displacement, and outright slaughter of Native Americans.

As far as changes go, this one is more symbolic than structural. But symbolic change still matters. It can still make a difference. It sends a signal that some things are no longer OK. (Not that they ever were.) It's like a signpost directing us to a different path -- one it's well past time we took.

The only potential downside to changing Indian team names is if someone thinks that doing so will automatically eliminate racism, much like some people thought electing a black president meant we had overcome our troubled history of slavery and segregation. It's only one step in the journey. But it's an important step... and it's time we took it.

Ben Irwin is the author of a forthcoming children's book and blogger at benirwin.wordpress.com, where this post first...

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'Girls Can Be Princesses. Boys Can Be Anything They Want.'

(27) Comments | Posted January 30, 2014 | 11:30 AM

I don't usually find flipping through the Christian book catalog to be an uplifting experience. Take the one that was waiting on my front porch this week...

There's yet another children's book reducing the gospel to a formula. There's one reinforcing the notion of heaven as a disembodied reality "out...

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Should We Even Be Fighting the War on Poverty?

(9) Comments | Posted January 15, 2014 | 2:19 PM

Fifty years ago, Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty. The legacy of this war is hotly contested, and there are at least three competing views.

Some argue the War on Poverty created a culture of dependency, while pouring massive amounts of money down the drain. They point to official...

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20 Things the Poor Really Do Every Day

(306) Comments | Posted January 3, 2014 | 1:43 PM

Dave Ramsey probably wasn't expecting this much pushback when he shared a piece by Tim Corley contrasting the habits of the rich with those of the poor. In her response on CNN, Rachel Held Evans noted that Ramsey and Corley mistake correlation for causality when they suggest...

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