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A former Lutheran pastor sharing thoughts on faith and life. Please join the conversation! I love your comments!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

What Bible Based Really Means


Please, indulge me in a brief rant. 

Many times over the years I have heard comments about a certain church “preaching the word of God”  “is bible based” or “based on the word of God” or the like.  I have been to many different Christian churches in my lifetime: Lutheran, Episcopal, Catholic, Baptist, Evangelical, Charismatic, Methodist, Mennonite, UCC, and probably several I have forgotten.  I don’t think any of them would say they do not base their preaching and their worship on the bible.  They might not use those exact words but scriptures are read and discussed and inform what they do.  So, when someone says their church is “bible based” or “ I preach what the bible actually says” what they are really saying is, “my interpretation of the bible is right and if anyone disagrees with me then they are wrong and not bible based.” 

It could be the bible is not the book they should be reading but rather the dictionary.  Under “H” for humility. 


Thank you for indulging my rant.  Go Royals!  (Thus making this a rant followed by a random non-sequitur.   Didn’t want it to be nothing more than a rant.)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Voice of Progressive Christianity

As a progressive Christian (for lack of a better term) it is difficult to know what to say sometimes.  When those who criticize Christianity address such things as anti-homosexual sentiments, I agree with the criticisms.  Yet I am stymied whether to say anything more or not.  If I speak to say “not all of us believe such things” then I am being defensive.  If I do not speak I am being silent in the face of prejudice within my own religious tradition.  In addition, being silent encourages the impression judgmental voices are by far the most prevalent and progressive voices are nothing more than rare outliers.

I am also concerned many of my neighbors think conservative fundamentalist Christianity (again, for lack of a better term) is the only option in order to be a “real Christian.” 

Therefore, today I share a few examples which illustrate that while the conservative evangelical voice is loud, the progressive voice of Christianity is not as rare as one might think. 

There are many voices within protestant mainline Christianity which speak out strongly for the rights of homosexual people.  One example is the Lutheran group Reconciling Works,(http://www.reconcilingworks.org/).   Their facebook page says,
 “Working at the intersection of oppressions, ReconcilingWorks embodies, inspires, advocates and organizes for the acceptance and full participation of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities within the Lutheran communion and its ecumenical and global partners.”  They list their members as numbering over 550 seminaries, congregations, and other organizations.  This is a small percentage but also represents groups where nearly the entire community agrees about this issue.  This does not include the many others who believe in inclusion but are members of communities which have not reached an agreement on this issue.  

A similar Methodist group has this on their site (http://www.rmnetwork.org/):
“Reconciling Ministries Network is committed to policy change and the creation of long-term solutions and practices that create full inclusion in The United Methodist Church and our broader society. RMN works for full equality in membership, ordination, and marriage for God’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender children.” (632 churches communities and campus ministries)

There are similar groups within the Episcopal, American Baptist, UCC and Mennonite denominations, at least and some of these groups have been around for decades. 

Abortion is another issue about which there is much more diversity of opinion than one would be led to believe when listening to the news.  This website gives what seems to be a good overview of the opinions of several different faith communities. 
Opinions range from abortion being totally wrong in nearly all circumstances to firm commitment to just access to abortion and many positions somewhere in between. 

Not only do progressive Christians exist, they also have a sense of humor. 
Unvirtuous Abbey is a great place to find irreverent holy humor such as, “Lord, you who told Lazarus to “Come out!”, we pray for Christians who say that it’s wrong to do that. Amen.” (and many other much less reverent and hilariously funny quotes and pictures.)  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Unvirtuous-Abbey/

If we all followed conservative Christianity there wouldn’t be such things as Christian Universalists, Unitarians, Process Theologians, and great authors like Bishop John Shelby Spong, Robin Meyers, Brian McClaren, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Edward Hays and countless others. Indeed many of the controversies we hear about within the Christian church could not take place if there were no dissenting voices.  One sided conversations do not make for controversy.  Several denominations have begun to take a new stance on homosexuality, for example.  Why would this happen if all Christians believe homosexuality is a sin? 

I realize those who speak against Christianity will continue to address conservative Christianity, and rightfully so, as long as it continues to appear as the default religion in America.  As long as folks in this country have a tendency to assume a person’s religion is conservative Christianity until proven otherwise (unless the person is gay, tattooed, of a different skin color, etc.  Sigh.  I know it is horrible,) then it only makes sense for this form of religion to be the primary target of criticism.  I also don’t intend to imply Christianity should pat itself on the back for these members who are working for justice.  Really, this is so sadly close to literally the least we could do.

I only wish to say there are other voices, there are other options, and progressive Christians need to find a way to speak up more clearly.  This won’t be easy.  After all we don’t make nearly as interesting news as someone railing against evolution or foaming at the mouth with hatred.  We need to find ways to speak our love anyway.  

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Religious Equations and the Ooze of Wrongness

The way people talk sometimes it would seem the world must be divided between heartless religious people and immoral atheists.  Religious people are irrational, judgmental fanatics and atheists just don’t care about anything except for preventing people from practicing their religion.  But when I look around me this is not what I see.  I see good people who have been taught, often through family or culture or experience, one of two equations:

Good=Christian  
Christian = anti-gay, anti-abortion, condemning non-Christians
Therefore in order for Me=Good  I must also = Christian
and therefore Me=anti-gay, anti-abortion, condemning of non-Christians, etc.

OR

Christian =anti-gay, anti-abortion, misogynist
Therefore Christian =irrational, bad 
Therefore in order for Me=not irrational and bad
I = anti-religion

Many, many folks are just trying to get by, trying to survive, without time or energy for the privilege of engaging in deep philosophical research.   The effort of daily living is plenty to handle.  So, whichever equation brings order to their world is more out of exhaustion than ignorance or cruelty. 

Yet such equations lead us away from the unity we need.  We need to be uniting against something I am not sure how to name but perhaps could be thought of as “the ooze of wrongness.”  Some might like to call it evil but the word evil can almost seem majestic or to have some kind of backward honor.  The wrongness of which I speak is not a villain we can delight in hating and whose power leaves us awestruck.  Rather it is a slimy wrongness which creeps into our daily lives and festers.  It is something which churns our stomachs yet continuously evades our grasp.   It is wrongness which says if a corporation is to blame for wrongdoing than no one is to blame.  It is the wrongness which claims money as free speech ignoring any voices who would point out if one can purchase a million times more speech than another then there is nothing free about it.  It is the slime which labels greed as good business.  It is also the ooze of arrogance which allows my enlightenment to condemn others. Sometimes this looks like proudly promoting organic, and GMO free one moment and bemoaning food prices and world hunger the next as though food can be produced without a cost, without difficult decisions, without labor.  Just because it sometimes grows on trees doesn’t mean it is free.  On the other hand, it sometimes looks like an arrogance which says “Farmers are feeding the world so you better shut up and like it.”  The ooze of wrongness invades our sophistication allowing us to condemn the ignorance of our neighbors and their superstitions without acknowledging their pain or the wisdom they may have which goes beyond philosophy or religion or education and into the heart of life.  The ooze of wrongness is anything which encourages us to see our fellow life forms as anything other than brothers and sisters.

This ooze of wrongness manifests itself in many forms.  It is also today a delightful combination of arrogance as I choose my pet subjects as illustrations in the above paragraph, embarrassment over the place of privilege which I know informs my words despite my best efforts, and a sense of the impotence and inelegance of my words which tempts me to give up. 

None of us are immune to the ooze of wrongness.  The only defense I know of is continually attempting to love one another and treat one another as we would want to be treated.  This is the power of love which transcends religion, philosophy, nationality or any other category our limited human minds can create.

Let us join together to fight the ooze of wrongness.

It’s not much of a battle cry but hopefully you get what I mean.