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    • Bil Aulenbach
    • Born at the end of the Great Depression in 1932, Bil Aulenbach was the son of a Philadelphia clergyman. A graduate of Episcopal Academy, Bil went on to serve in the Korean War as a Marine Corps Captain, he next attended seminary in Berkeley, and later earned an MSW from the University of Hawai‘i.

      Bil and his wife, Annie, have three children and live in Southern California. Now retired, they love to travel, having already visited sixty-seven different countries.  They are members of Irvine UCC and are involved in local projects, as well as in Mexico and Ecuador.

      Cramming for the Finals is Bil’s fourth book; he is the author of How to Get to Heaven Without Going to Church and What’s Love Got to Do With It? Visit Bil’s blog, Peace Love Joy Hope.

Renounce Father Serra

I have been a docent at the Mission San Juan Capistrano in California since 1991. I conduct walking tours for fourth graders studying Californian history and adults who want to see this well-preserved historic landmark, which was built in 1776. I also give special tours explaining the mission’s collection of religious art.

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Finally!

I’ve been waiting for over thirty years for this to happen, and I often wondered why it didn’t before now. I’m referring to the death of George Floyd and the resulting demonstrations and riots.

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Which Kind of A-theist Am I?

I call myself an A-theist. The big A means “against”—I am opposed to theism, which is the belief in a personal god UpThere. I also think that the hyphen—which looks like a minus sign—is an appropriate symbol of my negative opinion of theism and that the little t signifies how unimportant theism is in the twenty-first century.

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The Poor Need Money, Not Congratulations

I have never liked Luke 6:20, which says “Congratulations, you poor!” in newer translations. I think that’s demeaning.

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Invented Gods: Mr. Fix-It

I suspect you have heard people say “Turn your troubles over to God,” implying he will fix them.” I’ve also heard “God save the King or Queen” or “God bless America” or “God bless you” or “God loves you.”

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Can I Save Myself?

I believe every adult must be her or his own Messiah or Christ and choose a foundation stone to live her or his life by. One could choose money, power, crime, sex, pornography, drugs, a religion, or a cult—to name a few.

For me, the historical Jesus is the guru who provides my foundation stone, agape.

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What to Call Me?

“Are you a Christian?” is a question I hear often because I label myself as an a-theist. That means I don’t believe in an anthropomorphic god living in a mansion above a flat earth. My answer to whether I’m a Christian is more complex than a simple yes or no.

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Church Ladies

I still have this burning question: Why do women go to churches that don’t allow women clergy? Ladies, don’t support churches that make you second-class citizens!

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Adultery and Jesus

This past winter, I designed a new course entitled Learning the Art of Midrash (biblical interpretation) Using the Gospel of John. I’m a recent convert to the power of that Gospel (previously it never made much sense to me), and I wanted to use the many stories in John (none of which are literally true) to teach people how to use midrash to dig into a story and find the underlying truth often hidden in the details.

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Resurrection: Fact or Fantasy?

Did Jesus really rise from the dead? Or is this a fairy tale?

This issue, along with who God is, could keep the twenty-first-century reformation from moving forward.

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“It’s Really Hard to Be A Catholic”

“‘It’s Really Hard to Be a Catholic’: The Pain of Reading the Sex Abuse Report” is an eye-catching headline in the August 16, 2018, issue of the New York Times. The world has grappled with the issue of Roman Catholic clergy abusing children for decades. The problem never seems to be resolved, and maybe it even worsens as more skeletons come out of the closet.

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John the Anti-Semite?

For years, I refused to read any of John’s writings. I thought the Gospel of John was a bunch of mumbo jumbo and the Book of Revelation was full of craziness. Thanks to the Reverend Ken Wyant’s Bible study at Irvine United Congregational Church, I changed my opinion about the Gospel of John—but I still want to ban Revelation.

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What is wrong with this picture?

Orange County’s latest project cost $35 million and is located on a ten-acre campus with state-of-the-art housing for up to four hundred homeless occupants. Each separate area is entirely soundproof and temperature-controlled. The five-star facility is two stories and over thirty thousand square feet. It features a large reception area with friendly greeters, large outdoor recreational areas, well-marked drop-off locations, outstanding medical facilities, and classrooms for educational activities.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors is extremely proud of this facility, and one of the county supervisors has publicly stated that this huge expenditure serves a critical need in the county.

Did I mention that this facility, built on former a Marine Corps air station, is a shelter for dogs, cats, and other animals?

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Jesus and Fig Trees

Did you ever read something in the Bible and wonder what you just read? So, you read it again. It still makes no sense. You try again. Nothing.

Here’s an example from Matthew 21:18–19. Jesus arrived in Jerusalem and was hungry. He saw a fig tree, but he went to it, he found no fruit, only leaves. Jesus said to the tree, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the tree “withered at once.” Huh?

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The Changing Face of Death

The other day, I officiated at a funeral, though we don’t use that word much anymore. Calling such events celebrations of a life is much more popular. The word funeral reeks of morbidity.

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King David the Louse

King David has long been one of my Biblical heroes—or so I thought. The story of David versus Goliath is a powerful metaphor for facing life’s challenges. The little guy takes on the big and the powerful—and wins.

I always envisioned the great King David as the prototype for who and what the Messiah should be: a powerful leader, admired by all, who would lead the chosen people to achieve the highest standards.

Then I bought the Great Courses DVDs on the Old Testament, which consist of twenty-four thirty-minute lectures by Dr. Amy-Jill Levine, a Biblical scholar from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

In lecture sixteen, Dr. Levine talked about who King David really was. That lecture was an eye opener—and not a nice one!

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Jesus the Tough Guy

http://peacelovejoyhope.com/jesus-tough-guy/

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Bound Consciences

While visiting Jerusalem in November 2017, I attended an interfaith book launch for a book written by a Palestinian Arab Christian. At the reception, I spoke with an Evangelical Lutheran pastor about her church in Jerusalem and asked how Jews, Christians and Muslims treated the LGBTQUI community in the Holy Lands. She told me that many of the people in her congregation had “bound consciences.” She then explained that those two words meant the church members were working out how to accept the gay community in both their personal and their church lives. Huh?

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The Earth is Flat

My main point in this blog post is to talk about how some folks continue to believe what they believe, despite all the facts and evidence in front of them. Let me use as an example the great majority of all Christians who, day in, day out, week in, week out, continue to address their prayers, their sermons, their creeds, and their slogans to a god (whom I call NoOneUpThere) who lives in a house (mansion?) above a three-tiered flat world. They continually address their deity with a lot of beseeching, pleading, and, usually, a laundry list of what NoOneUpThere is to do during the coming week. Does this sort of theology come anywhere close to how the real world works? To me, it resembles flat-Earth thinking.

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The Jesus Family Rift

As I suggested in last week’s blog, when Jesus went to preach in his hometown of Nazareth, he said or did something that made his fellow townies “filled with rage” (Luke 4:28). Whatever it was, they wanted to kill him. That’s when Jesus said that no prophet is welcomed on his home turf. Nothing more is said in Matthew, Mark, or Luke (called the Synoptic or similar Gospels) about Jesus’s family until many chapters later, when all three writers tell an almost identical story.

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Mother Teresa and Doubting Thomas

The story of Doubting Thomas (John 20:24-29) takes place at the end of the Gospel of John. Like the rest of the Gospel, the Doubting Thomas tale is not a true story but rather what we call religious history. The truth is inside the story. The surface story says that Thomas the Twin (rumored to be the twin brother of Jesus, but that idea has never been substantiated) was not in the room for Jesus’s first appearance to the disciples after his crucifixion. But Thomas was there for the second appearance a week later. Jesus insisted that Thomas touch his wounds, after which Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Thomas the Twin then became Doubting Thomas. His role in the history of the Jesus movement is to tell us that doubting is a no-no, and believers must have total faith in Jesus as God.

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The Immaculate Conception Equals the Immaculate Deception

I read a fun story in the newspaper last week about a congressman who received a lecture from a radio commentator because he confused the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception with the doctrine of the Incarnation—an easy thing to do, since both are total foolishness.

One might call the Immaculate Conception and the Incarnation fake news from long ago, but the church insists on continuing to market this fake news to its own detriment. In the twenty-first century, neither doctrine makes sense to anyone who has taken a biology course. That’s not how babies are made.

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And the Children Shall Lead Us

I have no problem with people owning rifles and pistols, but I have a real hard time when I hear them talk about their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, which could theoretically include tanks, artillery, machine guns, and bazookas.

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The Lord’s Prayer Is Not the Prayer of the Lord

The title of this blog is confusing at first, so let’s start with the fact that the Lord’s Prayer appears in only two places in the Bible. The first and more familiar version is in Matthew, written between 85 to 95 CE: “Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:9-13, 21st Century King James Version.)

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My Top Ten Tips: “Expert Tips for Resilience”

“Expert Tips for Resilience,”

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A Prayer to NoOneUpThere

I first discovered the Reverend David Keighley and his poem “Leaving Home” years ago in a newsletter published by Bishop John Shelby Spong. I read “Leaving Home” every Friday as part of my early morning quiet time, when I do prayers (Progressive Christian style), relevant readings, and prep for the day. I always look forward to my weekly time reviewing “Leaving Home.” It helps me realize that I am not in this alone as I try to paddle upstream and show people an alternative to the church’s fourth-century approach to living in the twenty-first century.

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I Want to Die

I want to talk about the words I want used when my heart and brain stop working. I want people to say, “Bil died!” Please don’t say, “Bil passed.” I don’t like that word being used to describe what I was born to do—die.

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This Guy Scares Me!

I don’t scare easily and am generally very accepting of people. However, I want to introduce you to someone who scares me and see if he scares you also.

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“Bulk of Christians Seek Salvation”—Not Me!

A friend emailed me this statement from a seminary professor: “The bulk of Christians seek salvation.” My friend likes to bait me, and he did so again. In a return email, I used a form of teaching that Jesus used often called didactics, which means one answers a question by asking a question. My questions to him were “What’s salvation?” and “Who is ‘the bulk’?” The truth is, I have no idea what people mean when they talk about salvation because there are so many concepts. Let’s look at a few:

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Why Guadalupe?

In the lowest middle niche, there is a painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe directly behind a statue of Jesus on a cross.

Every time I see that Lady, I get ticked off! Why? I can never figure out why this fantasy person is so important or why she deserves all this adoration. Let me briefly share her story. Then I’ll tell you why she ticks me off.

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What Stage of Faith Are You In?

On March 9, David Felten, a Methodist pastor with a congregation in Fountain Hills, Arizona, published “How to Repeal and Replace Christianity’s Addiction to ‘Fake News’ and ‘Alternative Facts.’” He lays out the problems and then suggests a solution that quotes from James Fowler’s book, Stages of Faith (Harpercollins, 1981). I find these six stages very interesting because they answer some basic questions for me, such as why so many people, many well educated, seem stuck in fundamentalist thinking about Christianity.

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An A-Theist Goes to Church?

Some folks might find it strange that an A-Theist even bothers to go to church where there is a great deal of talk about an UpThere God who isn’t UpThere—as far as he’s concerned. Wouldn’t it be easier just to stay home and do something more interesting? It seems so hypocritical to waste time hearing about God, Jesus, the Trinity, and all that other dogma and doctrine when you don’t believe any of it.

As many of you know, I call myself an A-Theist, but I still go to church every Sunday. There are myriad reasons why I go, but first let me clarify what I mean by hyphenating this word. In my mind, A-Theist has a very different meaning than the word atheist. I am not against the idea of there being a Higher Power, or as Paul Tillich—one of the great theologians in the twentieth century—defines it, “the ground of all being.”

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“They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our . . .”

The other day a friend sent me a good story that has been around a long time, but it’s still as relevant as it was the first time I heard it.

I have no idea if this really happened, but every time I hear this story, I take a self-inventory. I ask myself: Could anyone tell that I am a faith-based person by my actions? What are my prejudices? Do they control me, or do I control them? Would folks know that I am a faith-based person without me telling them?

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Question: Why Can’t—or Won’t—the Church Change? Answer: THEISM

I don’t think it’s any secret that the institutional church, especially in developed countries, is dying. The worst part: the leaders don’t seem to know how to revitalize it. What are your feelings?

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We Need More Iftars

I can hear many of you asking, “What in the world is an iftar?” This Arabic word means “a meal that breaks the fast” that occurs after sunset each day during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting. Ramadan occurs in the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. Here you can see how Ramadan’s dates move from year to year, since the Muslim calendar is based on the moon and the Western (Julian) calendar is based on the sun.

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Cramming for the Finals: New Ways of Looking at Old Church Ideas

How can a fourth-century theology be relevant today? Is the Bible meant to be taken literally? Can Jesus be stripped of some of his titles? These are just a few of the questions that the author, a Progressive Christian Episcopal clergy person, answers in this provocative book.

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