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Beginning Well

Beginnings are a time to shake up your own assumptions, and others, and recommit to living with absolute authenticity. Materialism doesn’t bring as much satisfaction as you hope, familiarity doesn’t bring as much comfort as you expect, and security doesn’t bring as much peace of mind as you imagine. So set out, in tune with higher values like integrity and trust.

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What Questions Might Jesus Ask of Scripture?

Truth exists, but our experience of it is limited and fallible. Christians would do well to humbly acknowledge that our sacred texts are also limited and fallible. Jesus did.

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The Holy Nativity of a Human Jesus

On the First Sunday of the Advent season this year – for those Christian faith communities that observe a liturgical calendar — the traditional four weeks of waiting on the tiptoe of expectation only lasted until 1:37 PM that afternoon for our family; when my own daughter gave birth to her first-born child.

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A Mystical Christmas

Try and imagine you are a four year old child. On Christmas Eve there are still no packages, there is no Christmas tree and there are very few decorations. In those early days shortly after WWII this was not all that unusual. I have no memory of thinking it was strange. Those were tough economic times for just about everyone. We were going to my grandparent’s house to celebrate Christmas with them and I was told that Santa might leave my present there.

But when this four year old woke up, there was a beautiful tree decorated with sparkling white lights, and tinsel, so carefully strung over the branches that they could be removed just as carefully and saved for the next year. The little living room had lights and white cotton decoration that seemed to glisten. Waking up to this beautiful scene was a wonder. It was magical, and I dare say, even mystical.

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Cuddling with Jesus

I do believe mainstream Christians have a problem with intimacy. I once heard seminary professor and author Carter Heyward describe their God as a “Gentleman God,” embarrassed by sexual passion, yet too polite and dispassionate to be rabidly anti-gay. And the changing position of the Beloved Disciple may have to do with a fear of homoerotic implications.

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Kidnapping Jesus

Progressive Christian Reflections

On several occasions I have persuaded George Lynch to tell his story about fellow students at the conservative evangelical Gordon-Conwell Seminary near Boston kidnapping the baby Jesus from the manger of the Christmas crèche, holding him hostage until the food in the dining hall was improved.

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God is not a Guy and Neither am I!

More and more I find myself responding, “I am not a guy,” to waiters in restaurants, to educated people at conferences, and even to people in progressive churches who refer to groups of women and men as “you guys.” Sometimes these are groups of all women, and still they call us “you guys.”

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Why Is Inclusive Language Still Important

“We don’t need to do inclusive language any more,” some of the young women tell Isabel Docampo in her intern classes at Perkins School of Theology. “That was important when you were going through seminary because there were all men. Inclusive language isn’t important anymore because now women can be leaders in church and are in the workplace big time.” Isabel says that when they go out into churches, these students discover that gender discrimination, although often more subtle now than in the past, is still all too prevalent.

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Admissions and Confessions of a Progressive Christian Layman – Jesus’ Followers

The four gospels divide Jesus’ followers into three groups. The Greek word “ochloi” refers to the crowds who gathered when Jesus preached; “Mathetes” refers to the followers who stuck around for more teaching; and “Apostolos” refers to the disciples, those chosen by Jesus as his inner circle.

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Maybe We Shouldn’t Use Xmas But Not For The Reason You Think

Every December, there is much debate over the “War on Christmas.” And while many barbs are passed back and forth over “happy holidays” and “the reason for the season,” one of the more popular notions is that when Xmas is used in place of Christmas, it is an attempt to remove Christ from the holiday.

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Step Away From the Bible!

Although they’d be horrified to hear it, militant atheists and Christian fundamentalists share one thing in common. They both read the Bible badly. Their interpretive reading skills, at least when it comes to scripture, are stuck in what psychologist James Fowler calls the mythic-literal stage, a cognitive level appropriate for youngsters but not for adults.

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Affirmations and Confessions of a Progressive Christian Layman – Mary and Joseph

What does the New Testament tell us about Mary? Mark, the earliest gospel, did not include a birth narrative, so his mentions of Mary are vague and not very flattering. He says Jesus’ family (the family isn’t specified; does he mean Mary and Joseph or Mary and Jesus’ brothers?) attempted to restrain him because people were claiming he was out of his mind (Mark 3:21). If Mary was present, it seems strange that other gospel verses say she was visited by an angel who told her that she would conceive a special child or to whom Luke says shepherds came in wonder to visit her newborn child or to whom Matthew says wise men journeyed to bring gifts to welcome her wondrous child’s birth.

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Finding serenity and wisdom- Part 2

Serenity! Oh, how we pine for serenity! We crave it! We, somehow, allow ourselves the self-delusion that serenity comes – or not – of its own accord, and lucky the person who receives this rare gift. We look at people who have this precious condition as if it was purely the luck of the draw, that the possessing person had virtually nothing to do with it other than simply to receive it, presumably with welcoming open arms. We are so envious of them. “Oh, how lucky they are!” we acclaim. “Oh,” we sigh, “Oh to be in such a situation that such a wonderful condition might come to us!”

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Finding serenity and wisdom- Part 1

Serenity! Oh, how we pine for serenity! We crave it! We, somehow, allow ourselves the self-delusion that serenity comes – or not – of its own accord, and lucky the person who receives this rare gift. We look at people who have this precious condition as if it was purely the luck of the draw, that the possessing person had virtually nothing to do with it other than simply to receive it, presumably with welcoming open arms. We are so envious of them. “Oh, how lucky they are!” we acclaim. “Oh,” we sigh, “Oh to be in such a situation that such a wonderful condition might come to us!”

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America’s Health Care Debate and What it Reveals

The idea that a few of the Congressional majority would actually force America into default and bankruptcy, bringing on, the Europeans feared, a world wide depression in order to stop people from getting health care, left them disillusioned with America’s political leadership.

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A Manifesto! The Time Has Come!

I have made a decision. I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone. I will no longer engage the biblical ignorance that emanates from so many right-wing Christians about how the Bible condemns homosexuality, as if that point of view still has any credibility. I will no longer discuss with them or listen to them tell me how homosexuality is “an abomination to God,” about how homosexuality is a “chosen lifestyle,” or about how through prayer and “spiritual counseling” homosexual persons can be “cured.” Those arguments are no longer worthy of my time or energy. I will no longer dignify by listening to the thoughts of those who advocate “reparative therapy,” as if homosexual persons are somehow broken and need to be repaired. I will no longer talk to those who believe that the unity of the church can or should be achieved by rejecting the presence of, or at least at the expense of, gay and lesbian people. I will no longer take the time to refute the unlearned and undocumentable claims of certain world religious leaders who call homosexuality “deviant.” I will no longer listen to that pious sentimentality that certain Christian leaders continue to employ, which suggests some version of that strange and overtly dishonest phrase that “we love the sinner but hate the sin.” That statement is, I have concluded, nothing more than a self-serving lie designed to cover the fact that these people hate homosexual persons and fear homosexuality itself, but somehow know that hatred is incompatible with the Christ they claim to profess, so they adopt this face-saving and absolutely false statement.

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Thanks for Nothing

A Commentary for Thanksgiving in an Age of Anxiety

American retailers have essentially pre-announced that the annual Thanksgiving observance — when we presumably pause to gratefully remember everything we have — has been cancelled so bargain shoppers can get an even earlier jump-start on their holiday shopping for all the things we don’t have yet.

Meanwhile, halfway around the world a typhoon of record proportion hit landfall only a few weeks ago; nearly wiping an island nation off the face of the earth, and leaving those who survived with virtually nothing. Then last week an unseasonable swarm of twisters flattened whole towns across the Midwest. By comparison, it all makes the plight of those first pilgrims facing the harsh realities of their first Thanksgiving in a brave new world look like a walk in the park.

And, all the while, the airwaves and media have been filled with docu-dramas and documentaries commemorating the half-century mark of those events that shattered an age of relative innocence for those of us old enough to remember it; ushering in an age of extraordinary upheaval and anxiety, starting with what social critics and historians alike attribute to the assassination of JFK. Juxtaposed and taken together, these events represent a seeming un-reality that hasn’t really abated much in the last fifty years. We live in an age of anxiety.

Jesus masterfully taught in the philosophical tradition known as Jewish cynicism, with such parabolic tales and quaint-sounding imagery as the “lilies of the field.” And he did so at a time and age that – while seemingly ancient to our modern way of thinking – may not have been all that different from our own anxious age. Consider then our fretful, misbegotten ways, and the wild lilies of the fields.

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Evolving or Not

A significant number of scholars and commentators are celebrating the dying of what they believe has been and remains a detrimental institution for our society. They often point to the absence of religion in Europe. They note how those countries have aggressively built public institutions for the support of their citizens in need. In some ways, one could argue they have become more Christian in their public actions than the United States.

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