A typical interpretation when reading the Book of Revelation is John’s attempt to answer the interminable question: How exactly will God, once and for all, set things right? When will the “sorrow and weeping be no more,” and the “tear wiped from every eye?” After reinterpreting over and over again the imminent end that has been repeatedly put on indefinite hold, it merely begs the question, why the postponement?
When Revelation is instead understood to be political commentary spun in the form of a fantastic allegorical tale that can be reinterpreted and applied again and again, the question in each succeeding era has more to do with asking the question: Who is the Whore of Babylon, and all she represents? How can we be so easily seduced? And have the words and life of the Galilean sage been lost, even from the time John had his nightmarish vision to our own succumbing today? Read more.read more
- a book of poems by Gretta Vosper As I review my involvement in the progressive Christian movement over the last decade and a half, I face a seeming contradiction. On the one hand, I’m amazed that …read more
A week ago, I attended a conference at Chapman University in Orange, CA, devoted to the topic of free will. The speakers included a physicist, a Sikh spiritual teacher, a rabbi, a Tibetan Buddhist monk, and a …read more
The last book of the Bible, that bizarre and nightmarish Book of Revelation, is often found to be most popular among those religious nut jobs who are constantly interpreting the universal themes found in the battle of good and evil as signs of some certain apocalyptic end time; and differentiating the tribes of those who will be saved from those who will be lost, left behind and damned. However, given the obvious fact such end-time predictions have been re-scheduled over and over again for nearly two thousand years (so far), we might better consider those recurrent, universal themes to be found in this allegorical tale; and look with fresh eyes and see Revelation as more about this world of ours that continues to self-implode upon itself over and over again. How might we be open to being encountered in another, revelatory view of the polis in which we all inextricably dwell? This commentary begins a two-part reflection, based on Elaine Pagel’s newest book, Revelations: Visions, Prophecy & Politics in the Book of Revelation; and in light of the latest terrorist attacks, bombings and global violence among our tribal warring factions. You can find the latest commentary here.read more
Why may the majority of scholars be right, that the Bible is not a reliable book of history, although much of its historical sections are indeed based on actual events and real places in the larger picture?read more
The purpose of this book is to try and present a series of images that will allow us to understand how it is indeed possible for an invisible being, God, to be part of our material reality, …read more
I’m attending a conference at Esalen Institute near Big Sur this week. It’s hosted by Esalen’s Center for Theory and Research. It’s focused on peacemaking among the Abrahamic faiths. After the first day of the meeting, I …read more
If Jesus died for anything, he laid down his life like most social prophets and martyrs as a complete and utter refutation and relinquishment of any vestiges of earthly kingdoms. Whatever the subsequent followers of the donkey king would retrospectively make of him, he was regarded by the powers that be as nothing more than a nuisance. As more than one biblical scholar has pointed out, the real significance of Jesus’ crucifixion lay in the fact that anyone subsequently noticed and cared about the execution of a nobody. Yet it is the way of a nobody — not a somebody — that has so often altered the way of an otherwise weary world.read more
Jesus tells us to not only resist retaliation but to turn the other cheek. While I attempt to humble myself to this calling by listening closer, measuring my words, and remembering that with with God’s help, I am strong enough to let go of my need to be right, I struggling with this concept when it comes to my children.read more
It was never fully hidden but now, for sure, the tendency of religious institutions to quash doubt and keep it under wraps has succumbed to an end-around play. People can connect cross-country and around the world, and do so anonymously if they want! This is a big, big help to many. It is only one expression of a broad and accelerating shift in the way religion and spiritual life are viewed and practiced.read more
The battle for growth is not just conceptual or “spiritual.” It is also practical – monetary, social, interpersonal, etc. “Culture wars” and the growth boundaries they often represent, are not separate from practical issues like making a living and social relationships but are intertwined with them. It is similar with religious and other belief systems.read more
“In this powerful and provocative book, Jim Burklo brings to life the faces of those whom we so easily marginalize, and in the process redefines the spiritual life.” Retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong, author of Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious Worldread more
If the new “Papa Francisco” (has a nice ring, huh?) can inspire us all, Catholic or not, to greater dedication to the Gospel of Jesus he will have bolstered our faith (in God and/or humanity) and created a better world. (In this I think the non-religious can be included as well, if they are willing…. I’m not at all far from them myself.)read more
Paul endorsed the Roman status quo, politically. He made the real issue identification with a descended (divine) savior, spiritually raised and soon to return. The Jerusalem group shared the last point but emphatically not the first two of Jesus’ divinity nor acquiescence to Roman rule. Their expected Messiah (dramatically shifted after his death to a returning one) would establish peace with Jewish centrality and abolish the MILITARY dominance of other kingdoms but not the existence of other nations.read more
Avowed atheist Susan Jacoby recently created a dust up with a recent article in the New York Times Sunday Review entitled, “The Blessings of Atheism.” She wrote in response to all the god-talk that appeared in the immediate aftermath of the Newtown massacre; with all those unanswerable questions or inadequate answers to human suffering and death so often peddled in popular religious belief.
So too, not long ago author and “non-believer,” Christopher Hitchen’s posthumously published his little book Mortality; recounting his rambling thoughts on his own imminent demise; after a terminal diagnosis left him a sufficient number of days to find himself “deported from the country of the well across the stark frontier that marks off the land of malady.”
But what, or where to, after that? What if this really is all there is?
It seems there has always been the human hankering to imagine all kinds of fanciful notions, in our attempts to recapitulate our mortal existence into something more than it is. Many religious traditions, including centuries of “mainline” orthodox Christianity, employ great mythic stories to describe a life subsumed into something greater than we can either know, or grasp, except by “faith.” Heaven knows, some folks try to better themselves, merely in the hope of a remote possibility there something more, after our death, which is a certainty. But in the end, is it all dust and ashes? And is that OK?
This is the liturgical time of year when many in the Christian tradition undergo a seasonal pilgrimage in which the faithful are reminded at the onset we mortals are nothing more than dust. And so we will one day return to that from whence we came. Then the traditional forty days end with the perennial re-enactment of a passion play commemorating the mortal demise of the one whom Christians even these many centuries later would profess to follow.
Many do so in the hope of some kind of immortality for themselves in some indecipherable form or other; attributing to Jesus a “resurrection” that means the same thing to them as god-like immortality; while others of us may find such imaginings to be not only reasonably implausible, but of less importance than what we take to be of greater significance and meaning in this faith tradition.
Otherwise, the vainglorious hope of immortality can become so enshrouded in our mortal fears that we become – like Lazarus in his early grave – so wrapped up in death that we fail to truly acknowledge and appreciate the gift of our mortality for what it is; nothing more, nor less.
With the certain assurance then that we are but dust and ash, we can ask ourselves if the gift of our mortality is not only enough, but more than enough? And if so, as the psalmist says, how then shall we “number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom?” (Psalm 90:12)read more
Understanding factors involved in self-injury among LGBTQ individuals We are looking for LGBTQ individuals between 18 and 25 years of age to participate in a research project looking at self-injury. You do not need to have a …read more
This past week, I’ve engaged in a couple of intense conversations about manhood in America. A lovely, thoughtful young friend of our family, age 25, was lamenting that she could not find men her age who were …read more
(This poem, which I wrote during Lent in 1981, appears in my book, BIRDLIKE AND BARNLESS – it is based on Numbers 21: 4-9, John 3: 13-15) THE GIFT No one’s raised who did not fall No …read more