It’s interesting to see what Jesus thought about beliefs. Jesus, in his parable of the Good Samaritan, makes it clear that the righteous one is not the Pharisee or the lawyer, who are learned and who know about the law, correct belief, or so on. The righteous one is the one who cares for his neighbor, who reaches out to the stranger in need.read more
Two perspectives are changing recently among progressive Christians that dilute the concentration on “getting to heaven,” the most common definition of “salvation.” First, fewer people still believe in hell, that is, that an all-loving God would condemn anyone to eternal suffering and separation from God. (It is curious that the belief in heaven persists even among many who don’t really believe in hell.) A more important change in thought is that God’s love as revealed in Jesus Christ is all-inclusive, meant for everyone, whether or not heaven or an afterlife of any sort exists. Diminishing is the view that there will be a sorting-out process depending upon each person’s “right beliefs.”read more
Dogma and doctrine should not get in the way of practicing Love, who is God. Doctrines can be interesting: they help us understand the origins and background of our religion. But repeating creeds is not the price of admission into Christianity. Instead of caring whether the story of Jesus’ resurrection was a fact or a myth, let’s look in the story for inspiration to turn from the way of death to the way of life. Let’s care about our neighbors without jobs or health insurance, face the resentment in our hearts that needs to be released, become activist citizens, and learn to bring our careers in alignment with our highest values. Let’s gather in churches, soup kitchens, work-places, living rooms, and cafés to support each other in doing things that matter, and let go of old doctrines that don’t.read more
I thought I’d pretty well covered the territory in a “musing” I wrote a few years ago called “The Varieties of God”, a listing of the many alternatives along the spectrum between traditional theism and atheism. But Ryan Bell has added a new one: provisional atheism. Godlessness for the time being. He’s gone public with this status, and I intend to follow his “Year Without God” blog to see how it goes for him.read more
The phrase “God-with-us” is normally ascribed to Jesus, but I like the phrase as a description of God’s spirit. In 1600 CE, Socinianism defined the spirit as “energy flowing from God to man.” I agree with that definition; God’s spirit is a power or an influence.read more
The terms faith and beliefs are sometimes used interchangeably, but I think it is useful to make a distinction between them. Beliefs are things you think are true, like “I believe in God.” “I believe that there is life after death.” These are improvable opinions (or they would be accepted by all as “facts”). A list can be made of beliefs.read more
The power of life that raised Jesus is accessible and available to all people, even those who have not heard of Jesus. The risen Christ, the cosmic Christ who is Lord of all can take many forms and answer to many names. Our text says that God shows no partiality, that anyone who fears God, and that does not mean to be afraid of God, but anyone who respects and honors God, and anyone who does what is right, anyone who does what is just and good and compassionate shares in the life of the risen Christ.read more
The sign outside the church said “all are welcome.” Perhaps they meant to say all who look like us are welcome, all who think like us are welcome, all who believe like us are welcome, all who …read more
“Be The Change You Wish To See In The World” — Mahatma Gandhiread more
Last month I wrote at some length about a series of gatherings my husband and I are hosting called Progressive Christianity Forums. We launched the first one on February 18, and our second session was last night, March 18. So far, we are extremely pleased with this experiment.read more
Some of the articles in last month’s exploration of sacred community lamented the difficulty in creating a community where one is supported and valued for who one is, where one can be vulnerable and real. Some had encountered such communities, usually when a group faced real issues together over a period of time. Usually the creation of such a community seemed just to happen. It was not planned. It raises the question of what, if anything, spiritual communities and groups can do to break down barriers between individuals and provide a place where participants can create a closer connection.read more
Welcome! One thing is for certain. We are all welcome. This is the Jesus way. He called people to him; he asked people to come to him; he welcomed them; he got cranky with his disciples when they tried to prevent anyone, anyone at all coming to him. He ate with outcasts, those despised; he befriended tax collectors, those regarded as thieves; he encouraged children, usually ignored in adult community, to sit on his knees; he had meals with the elite and the riffraff; he conversed publicly with women although that was taboo; unlike the religious leaders of his day, he sought the company of all kinds and types of people, to affirm them, to challenge them, to call them to an abundant way of life. So we are all welcome. This is the Jesus way.read more
The traditional Christian church with its traditional message and image is becoming increasingly irrelevant. It happened in Europe a long time ago, and is happening now in the US. More and more people who try to do good identify themselves as secular humanists rather than Christians. More and more Christians identify themselves as progressives for whom the traditional gospel story is meaningless. It really is time to rethink and reform how we understand both church and world.read more
Every living being is driven to be a part of community. Newborns of every species cannot survive without community. Who would feed them? Who would train them in survival tactics? So the issue we humans have to struggle with is, “What kind of human community?”read more
The dry bones raised by Ezekiel are a metaphor for those who died in the service of God’s justice: those who died working to restore God’s distributive justice-compassion to God’s Earth, and who themselves never saw the transformation. The army of dry bones is an army exiled from justice. Fairness demands that if Jesus was resurrected into an Earth transformed into God’s realm of justice-compassion, then all the other martyrs who died too soon should also be raised with him. “But in fact,” Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:20, “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.” It is the Christ – the transformed and transfigured post-Easter Jesus – who has started that general resurrection, which restores justice-compassion to a transformed Earth. The transformation has begun with Jesus, and continues with you and me – IF we sign on to the program.read more
“This collection of essays by Brisbane Anglican scholars, pastors and teachers . . . leads us deeper into both our treasured heritage and the future which God s Word is still creating. We are indebted to them.” —Phillip Aspinall, Archbishop of Brisbane, Anglican Church of Australia
“… a courageous and thoughtful attempt to meet the need for ever-new and ever-fresh encounters with the biblical text.” —Focusread more
The social world order seems to erupt in chaos and violence on a regular basis these days. Regimes hold on to political power at all costs, while those who are more often than not economically oppressed demonstrate and confront government forces with little more than their willingness to stand in opposition.
If this all sounds like pure political commentary, consider this: The socio-political landscape in first century Palestine, CE, wasn’t much different. The practical means by which the imbalance of power was wielded by some over others may have been rather primitive by today’s technological standards; but the end game was the same.
The itinerant Jewish peasant teacher and sage who would long be remembered as uttering such impractical non-sense as “turn the other cheek” and “love your enemy,” was the same historical figure that was executed as an insurrectionist, not a “resurrectionist.” As I’ve put it bluntly elsewhere, Jesus didn’t die for our sins, but because of them.
But the historical Jesus’s message deviated so radically from the “you have heard it said, but I say to you” literary device employed that it constituted a world view that did not simply turn everything upside down; but attempted to right what becomes a distorted “default” assumption of human nature that too easily concedes it is only human instinct to regard ourselves as prejudicial and self-centered creeps.
Jesus’ teachings to “turn the other cheek” and “love one’s enemies” is an invitation to an inward journey of the self; and a call to reclaim our true huma n nature.read more
Let our community not be a circle with people
inside the circle who feel part of the club and
those outside the circle who feel excluded.