According to Leo Tolstoy, the famous Russian novelist, in his magnum non-fiction opus, The Kingdom of God is Within You, the idea that God or Jesus founded the church is “so utterly untrue and unfounded that one is ashamed to refute them.” Only the modern Christian church would even assert such a notion. Jesus could not have founded the church as we presently understand the word. Nothing like the idea of the church with its sacraments and its claim of infallibility can be found in Jesus’ words or in the ideas of other men of his time.read more
Recently there was a debate at the Creation Museum in Kentucky between its founder, Ken Ham, and Bill Nye, the “Science Guy”. If anything resembling scientific evidence mattered to people watching it, they would have been persuaded easily by the Science Guy’s arguments. But even Nye implicitly understood that, for many in the audience, the debate wasn’t about facts.read more
But what our guide told us next has stayed in my memory for the almost twenty years since my visit. With a shrug of his shoulders he explained, “Well, we need a site. An important event—we need to have a site. Do we know exactly where it happened? No. But we must have a site so that we can remember.”read more
Is the lingering importance of “Good Samaritan Jesus” for the religiously unaffiliated a yearning for a more ethically engaged, prophetic Christianity?read more
Since 9/11 Americans have largely accepted the idea that national security requires a trade-off between government power and freedom. However, recent revelations about the extent of government surveillance have raised serious questions about overreach, abuse of power, and the limits of democracy. How should people of faith respond to these revelations? Amid wide-spread public apathy over drone warfare, surveillance, and open-ended wars on “terror,” how can faith leaders provide stronger moral leadership? Do our faith traditions have anything distinctive to say in relation to alleged government overreach, whether by the NSA or the CIA? And how do we assess the ethics of those who expose secret government operations in the name of preventing abuse?read more
Judas Iscariot, the anti-hero of the story of the crucifixion, has been heaped with scorn and ridicule over the centuries. “Judas” is not used as a child’s name because it became the synonym for betrayal, for being a back-stabber. In Christian art, he is portrayed in dark, sinister tones. Events in western Christian history from the Inquisition in the fourteenth century to the expulsion of the Jews from almost every country of Europe at one time or another, to Martin Luther’s call for the burning of synagogues, to the violence and killing frenzy of the Holocaust in the twentieth century are all rooted substantially in Judas and because he was a Jew, applied to all Jews. Even his name is identical with the name by which the entire Jewish nation was known… Judas is simply a Greek spelling of Judah.read more
Contrary to the custom of the period, Jesus accepted women among his followers. Although none of the women are ever identified as “disciples,” certain gospels passages indicate that some of them may have been equal to the disciples, particularly Mary Magdalene. Mark writes that women followed Jesus in Galilee and ministered to him (Mark 15:40-41). Like Mark, Matthew 17:55 refers to women who “followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him.” Luke 8:1-3 mentions that Jesus and the disciples were accompanied by women and he specifically mentions Mary Magdalene, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others, “who provided for them out of their own resources” (meaning that they must have had considerable wealth). Jesus’ death and the events accompanying it mention the presence of women and some of those women witnessed the crucifixion, Jesus’ burial and the discovery of the empty tomb. Pope Benedict XVI considered it an obvious fact that “many women were also chosen to number among the disciples.”read more
My book, BIRDLIKE AND BARNLESS: Meditations, Prayers, and Songs for Progressive Christians, is a “book of common prayer” for progressive Christians. These “Sundays” are described more fully in it.read more
Most people assume that the Bible is filled with stories of supernatural happenings and miraculous interventions. The accounts of miracles in the Bible are generally limited to three cycles of stories: the Moses-Joshua cycle in the Torah, the Elijah-Elisha stories that are recorded between I Kings 17 and II Kings 13, and the Jesus-Disciples of Jesus stories that are found in the four gospels. There is an occasional supernatural tale in other parts of the Bible, but these are the only areas where they are concentrated. Our concentration is primarily on the miracles that are attributed to Jesus in the gospels.
The reported supernatural deeds performed by Jesus during his ministry can be categorized into four groups: cures, exorcisms, raising the dead, and nature control. Interestingly, each type of miracle that is attributed to Jesus in the gospels also occurred in the Moses-Joshua and Elijah-Elisha stories.
When it comes to faith sharing there are two poles. At one end of the spectrum is the witness who is absolutely sure of himself. He is anchored in certitudes and has the truth nailed down. You want answers, he has them. He is bold and brass, if not arrogant and obtrusive. Most people who would read this article are embarrassed by this kind of Christian witness.
At the other end is the Christian who is very hesitant to saying anything at all about her faith. “It is the life I live that matters,” she says, which, of course, is true, but shouldn’t disciples of Jesus want to say something about Jesus, in whom and through whom they have found a transformative path?read more
In Matthew’s midrash of Isaiah’s prophecy, Jesus tours all over Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, curing all kinds of diseases, and proclaiming that God’s kingdom has come. The verses in Chapter 4 selected by the creators of the Revised Common Lectionary for the third Sunday after the Epiphany are the preface to Matthew 5:1 through 7:29, the great Sermon on the Mount. Jesus walks by the Sea of Galilee, and invites his disciples to leave their nets and become “fishers for people,” traditionally interpreted to mean saving souls from hell. But John Dominic Crossan, points out that Jesus could have brought his message anywhere in Roman occupied Judea. Why Galilee? Why Capernaum?read more
It’s important to understand that the change I believe must occur is not related to style, but substance. I’m sure most of you remember the abundance of church growth literature accessible at the height of that movement. Almost all of it related to style and methodology, which is not to say that such issues are not important, but my greater concerns relate to substance and message. So, what needs to happen?read more
At times like this, I wish more people who identify themselves as Christians or followers of Jesus knew more about the roots of their own tradition, Judaism. The Mother religion of our tradition has a very different kind of New Year called Rosh Hashanah. Jesus, or Yeshua, was a Galilean Jew. As should be expected, his teachings are heavily influenced by his own tradition and its teachers. For Jews, Rosh Hashanah is preceded with a long period of time for introspection. It’s time for looking back at the mistakes of the past year and thinking about those whom they may have harmed. This intentional self-inspection ends with the holiest of holidays, Yom Kippur, ten days later. The time in between is referred to as the Days of Awe or Days of Repentance.read more
Here’s how many progressive Christians approach, discern, and interpret the Bible…read more
New research from psychologists from the New York University suggests that the desire to feel unique can undermine consensus, cohesion, and mobilization—at least in political contexts. My hunch is that this may extend to religious contexts as well.read more
Through your words and your emotion, I believe I finally felt the love of Christ. And this quest of mine for answers that I have been seeking for so many years finally became more than a curiosity. It became life. It explained love. It all suddenly became real. Love wastefully at last had real meaning. And I cried almost all the way home, never exactly knowing the reason why.read more
Progressive Christianity is for me somewhat like taking that leap of faith to what writer Hal Taussig calls “A new spiritual home” For some of us, at least, it feels like that. It involves jumping a credibility gap that has opened up for the Christian Church; a credibility gap that goes back a long way. It’s there in the Bible readings: the difference between the behaviour of the Israelites in the Promised Land and the behaviour that was required of them according to the teaching of God and the ways in which they had been nurtured and led. It’s also there in the teachings of Jesus.read more
The political, social, spiritual, and economic history of most of the Western world has been defined by the belief articulated in the literal application of John’s gospel to personal and social piety. If Christianity is to survive with any relevance to postmodern, twenty-first century realities, the theology of condemnation and substitutionary atonement associated with the fourth gospel has to be scrapped. Not only is the future of Christianity at stake. This theology threatens the further evolution of human consciousness, and life as humanity has known it thus far on Planet Earth.read more