The ancient Jews revered wisdom but in our times it often seems religion actually reveres ignorance. This is a crucial aspect of progressive Christianity- we are willing to start a church that rejected all forms of magic or superstition in favor for a fact based spirituality.read more
Our prison in Guantanamo Bay, Gitmo, is an example of power run amok. Like the Biblical narrative about the Tower of Babel, our faith tradition is rich in anti-empire imagery assuring the faith community that God holds the hubris of empire in contempt. Nations are never really that good as estimating their relative importance in the world. Like the Hebrews when our nation began, we had a fresh memory of what it was like to be bullied by an empire. We sought to create a nation whose moral force was much larger than our military force.read more
The media does not question the deaths of the poor when profit is the motive behind their deaths but cannot tell us enough about Mosques in Boston and Islam in Russia. But who owned the plant in West, Texas? Where did the owners go to church? How were they so radicalized in their lust for money that they would place an entire town at risk? And why do we accept the deaths of the poor in indifference and silence?read more
The miracles in the New Testament are called “signs.” They are metaphors for the Kingdom. In John 5, Jesus heals a man who has been looking at his source of healing, a pool that this sermon titles “the hospital” but the rules are such that he cannot get in to be healed. Jesus breaks through that injustice to bring healing to the one who needs it the most, without an insurance card, without proof of employment or citizenship. And that is what the faith community is called to do: to break the rules that bar the sick from health care, that favors banks over homeowners and corporate profits over the interests of those who need air and water that has not been polluted.read more
It is not an easy message for people to take in. Think about who in modern
history has tried to get people to live together in peace, to end violence and
prejudice and discrimination… President Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, Medger Evers,
MalcolmX, Martin Luther King, John Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, Oscar Romero….all
tried to heal the division of the north and the south, Hindus and Muslims,
Blacks and Whites, the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak.
The death by suicide of Pastor Rick Warren’s youngest son is not an indication of any spiritual failure. Cancer, depression, mental illness and natural disasters strike among people of faith at the same rate as everyone else. The mortality rate is 100%. We pray, as Kierkegaard said, not to change the One to whom we pray but to change the one who prays. Our spirituality gives us community, encouragement, strength and hope to face the challenges of living in a capricious universe.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
We wrestle with the stark reality of the culture of gun violence in which we find ourselves, and a gospel message for the progressive Christian that is inherently non-violent. Advocates for one side of a heated debate insist the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun; which is only true if the good guy is faster on the draw and a better aim. To assert the good guy always wins is, of course, a lie. There are plenty of examples of murder and mayhem in that compendium of stories we call the Bible. In some stories the good guy wins. In others, they lose; particularly those who choose the way of non-violent resistance unequivocally taught and demonstrated in the words and deeds of the Galilean sage and healer. It’s not a matter of a showdown to see who wins with a more forceful argument. Far from naïve, impractical and unrealistic, a non-violent response may be the only thing to break the perpetual cycle of violence. But how?read more
Traditionally this is a time to learn from our mistakes and commit ourselves to do differently in the new year. I wonder what resolutions Jesus would have made? For some, it may seem shocking to suggest that …read more
The journey of the magi, and their adoration on bended knee before a newborn peasant who presumably comes to subordinate the Herod’s of this world is a quaint and fanciful tale. But this year, the real exchange of gifts in the City of Angels was a modern day epiphany that suggest we might indeed still find for ourselves new, authentic life in such an otherwise arcane myth. Now the question is whether the meaning and message of Epiphany season will truly shed new light in the bleak midwinter of our discontent.read more
(From a sermon I gave at Mt Hollywood Congregational Church on 12/2, the first Sunday of Advent.) On one seemingly ordinary day over 2000 years ago, a seemingly ordinary girl had an extraordinary rebirth. Mary abruptly experienced …read more
Pamela Eisenbaum, Fellow of the Westar Institute, and a Jewish scholar of early Christianity, answers the question “What is progressive Christianity?”read more
Stephen J. Patterson, Fellow of the Westar Institute, answers the question “What is progressive Christianity?”read more
Robert A. Kraft, former President of the Society of Biblical Literature (2006), answers the question “What is progressive Christianity?”read more
Gregory C. Jenks, Academic Dean of St. Francis Theological College in Brisbane, answers the question “What is progressive Christianity?”read more
Matthew Fox, author of “The 95 Theses or Articles of Faith for a Christianity for a Third Millennium”, answers the question “What is progressive Christianity?”Matthew Fox, author of “The 95 Theses or Articles of Faith for a Christianity for a Third Millennium”, answers the question “What is progressive Christianity?”read more
Fred Plumer, President of ProgressiveChristianity.org, provides a historical context for the formation of the sacred compilation known as the Bible.read more
Fred Plumer, President of ProgressiveChristianity.org, gives his insight into the Emerging/Emergent Church movement from a progressive Christian perspective.read more