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
Fred Plumer, President of ProgressiveChristianity.org, talks about the place of prayer within the progressive Christian movement.read more
Fred Plumer, President of ProgressiveChristianity.org, talks about the history and meaning of the term “faith” and how it relates to the progressive Christian movement.read more
Fred Plumer, President of ProgressiveChristianity.org, explains how God, for progressive Christians, is not explained theistically but rather is thought of as an Infinite Mystery.read more
Fred Plumer, President of ProgressiveChristianity.org, talks about the meaning of the life of Jesus and who Jesus is for the progressive Christian movement.read more
Fred Plumer, President of ProgressiveChristianity.org, answers the question “What is progressive Christianity?”read more
“Take sides, because neutrality always serves the oppressor and never the oppressed. Your silence will always be interpreted as consent. There is no honor in remaining neutral in matters of ethical importance. Always taking the middle ground doesn’t make you smart, it doesn’t make you fair, it doesn’t make you balanced, and it certainly doesn’t make you innocent.”read more