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    • Community Christian Church, Springfield
    • Dr. Roger Ray holds masters and doctoral degrees in divinity from Vanderbilt University as well as a bachelors in philosophy from Murray State University. He was a 2004 Merriell Fellow at Harvard Divinity School. Dr. Ray is a regular opinion writer for the Springfield News-Leader. He is also the author of “Progressive Faith and Practice” and “Progressive Conversations” (available on Amazon) and various journal and magazine columns. Dr. Rays' sermons have been published in several professional journals and popular collections. He had 28 years of experience in pastoral ministry before becoming the founding pastor of Community Christian Church in August of 2008.

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Just War, War Crimes, War is a Crime, War is a Racquet

Far too often, patriotism is expressed as enthusiasm for wars as if the battlefield was the only way to become a hero or to find virtue when, in almost every case, the opposite is true.

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Progressive Faith and Practice

Covid-19 will also have a casualty count among congregations. Which churches will survive into the 21st century and, frankly, which ones really shouldn’t? If loneliness is the number one form of suffering in the western world, surely the connections made in a faith community should be a major solution to that isolation.

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Every Barking Dog

Many progressive people, maybe even especially progressive clergy, are often so afraid of criticism that they keep their most passionate beliefs to themselves. This is especially true for those of us who live in deeply conservative areas dominated by traditional forms of religion.

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The Ten Commandments of Logic

Logic and faith should be partners! A healthy spirituality does not deny reality but rather interrogates and interprets reality. We are not seeking to escape this world to be transported into an imaginary “other” world but rather to logically, ethically, lovingly transform the only world we know into a better, more compassionate world. For faith communities to be relevant in the emerging world, we must embrace an evidence based approach to our spirituality that is defined by critical thinking and a fearlessly prophetic scrutiny of our own beliefs.

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I Can’t Breathe (Racism in America)

“I can’t breathe.” Eric Garner’s last words were echoed this week by George Floyd as his life slipped away. The challenge for us is not to become inured by repetition. This time there was an arrest but immediately the coroner started the cover up saying that Floyd just happened to die from other causes while Derek Chauvin was kneeling on his neck.

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The Debt We Owe to the Truth

Every lie incurs a debt to the truth that must eventually be paid. This was initially said of Russian lies about the Chernobyl disaster but it certain applies to lies told about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the cover up in Catholic and Protestant churches about pedophilia, Boeing’s cover up of the failures of the 737 Max.

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What Mom Really Wants: Equal Rights

We are taking a wide angle view of what it means to be a woman in the 21st century, from being relegated to carrying water and fire wood in the third world where female genital mutilation and sex trafficking are still common to the USA where, sadly sex trafficking is also common, but there is also religious oppression, a glass ceiling, and a sorely lacking representation in the houses of government.

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A New Economy for a post-Covid world

May 1 is the international workers’ holiday but this year, in light of the pandemic, more consideration needs to be given to the very nature of the economy beyond the traditional rivalry between owners and laborers.

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The Talk Revisited

Prejudice is its own logic, or, at least, it is impervious to logic, evidence, or critical thinking. This week we’ll consider the irrational beliefs behind many of our prejudices.

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The Resurrection of the Earth (Easter Sermon)

The pandemic is almost all that is mentioned in the news and it certainly occupies much of our emotional and mental energy. Sadly, however, the Covid-19 virus might not be the most dangerous thing going on in the world right now.

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Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong

As we try to learn the skills of staying home, maintaining distance, and the disciplines that prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus, that means that some of us are very isolated, living alone with almost no face to face contact with anyone.

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The End of the Status Quo

The world as we have known it no longer exists. This pandemic will end, realistically, however, the virus will remain and will be held at bay, largely by a vaccine that will have to be repeated as the virus evolves every year. Still, when it is safe to go back to church and to restaurants, movies and music venues, not all of them will have survived.

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Keep Calm and Carry On

Let’s take care of one another. Let’s share our resources whether that is money or toilet paper. Let’s inject humor into our conversation and encourage one another. This crisis will be over one day, and when it is, let’s have carried on in a way that we can be proud of.

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Redemptive Suffering

The world will now be faced with a time of moral testing as Covid 19 spreads from pole to pole. The early response of hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer is not an encouraging sign predicting whether our better angels will be revealed or our fearful, selfish demons.

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Is Stupid Worse than Evil?

In the desperate final days of Bonhoeffer’s life, he wrote from prison about the futility of trying to talk to stupid people about facts, as many of his neighbors and fellow church folk simply rolled along with the Nazi movement. M. Scott Peck defined evil as a kind of “militant ignorance,” a refusal to deal with the known facts of reality.

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Video Sermon: Changing the World, Changing Me

Changing the world vs/and changing ourselves. Today we consider the remarkable life of Eleanor Roosevelt who was first lady during the New Deal, WWII, and was our first ambassador to the United Nations.

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Listen to the Poet

As Leonard Bernstein said, art doesn’t stop a war or change historical events, but it can change how we see the world, how we think, and in that way, it changes how we act, how we vote, and how we recreate the world. This talk adds to the advocacy of Leander Keck in advocating that churches employ art, poetry, music, and architecture to “astonish our souls,” to feed our being after the deprivations of a hard and hate filled world.

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Renegotiating Love (evolution and symbiosis)

It seems like falling in love and staying in love should be easy. However, clearly, it is one of the most difficult things that almost everyone wants to do. At least a part of the problem rests with an out of date conception of what marriage must or should be, coupled with fears rooted in our earliest years and our connection to our parents.

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Personal Faith and Public Policy

Archibald MacLeish wrote, “Religion is at its best when it makes us ask hard questions of ourselves. It is at its worst when it deludes us into thinking we have all the answers for everybody else.” We progressives generally agree with allowing faith to be personal and resist making any one religion’s beliefs a matter of public policy.

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A Preference for Facts

Faith and reason are not mutually exclusive. In fact, faith based on rational evidence has been a part of the study of theology for hundreds of years. This sermon discusses the use of logic in philosophy in the study of probability, and references Bayes’ Theorem, (Thomas Bayes was a Presbyterian minister!) as we apply critical thinking to our religious beliefs.

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The Price of Defending Whiteness

Why is race still a thing in America? 150 years after the end of slavery, 50 years after the integration of public schools, a decade after the election of a black president, why is racism still such a powerful influence in our culture.

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The Macro View of Economics and Time

The current Keynesian economic system is on its last legs. The consolidation of wealth of the industrial revolution brought on the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s New Deal and the resulting war manufacturing of WWII created the middle class.

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The Emerging Church (from the ashes of the old church)

Paraphrasing St. Oscar Romero, “If a church is not publicly opposed to war, to murder, to political assassination, of what use is that church?” While we may hope that churches will avoid wading into partisan politics, we cannot be tricked into believing that ethics is the same thing as politics. As the USA inches closer to war with Iran and ignores even the executive order of Ronald Regan forbidding political assassination, the prophetic church must now do the one thing for which we exist: speak truth to power.

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In This Life

Though most western religious traditions seem to promise some kind of afterlife, what if, as Martin Hägglund articulately argued, our limited mortal life is all there is? Our days, being limited in number, become more valuable, and our work becomes more meaningful. Without eternity, preserving the earth becomes more imperative. Though many spiritual teachers give assurances they cannot support with evidence, this sermon deals with morality in a matter-of-fact manner.

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Christmas Now and Then

If we pay attention, the Christmas story is a mirror held up for us to see that we live in a country where the government locks thousands of migrant children into dog cages, sexually abusing some, torturing others, and allowing many to die while the church is largely compliant and silent. And we seriously wonder if this government might actually win election approval from poor church goers in a few months. Merry Christmas?

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What I Learned From My Critics

Critics are often bullies who offer nothing of substance of themselves in public but they snipe at those who do enter the arena to try to make substance progress. Soren Kierkegaard called it “being stomped to death by geese.

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(Dys)function and Family: Holiday Guilt Trips

Holidays have always been challenging as families from divergent views try to gather around one table and reconnect. Now, in our deeply polarized political environment in which most of us only expose ourselves to media that confirms our biases, even people with DNA and history in common find one another to be so profoundly “other” that they can barely tolerate one another.

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Incrementalism

The weight of the status quo bears down on even the well intended and well informed so that we assume that all change comes by degrees, in small incremental moves. It persuades us to believe that only moderate progressives can ever win election and that most of what progressives want (universal health care, an end to racism, aggressive work to save the planet, a universal basic income, a compassionate immigration policy) is unobtainable.

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Life is a shipwreck, remember to sing in the lifeboats

To say that something “only” has a placebo effect does not have to be seen as a criticism. In fact, the placebo effect is proof that we can heal ourselves. But just as our minds can help us to be healthy, even to control pain, our minds can similarly make us sick, even to hasten our death.

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Healthcare – America Taken Hostage

Access to healthcare is a spiritual issue, deeply rooted in a compassionate world view. Currently, in America, more than 40 million people are uninsured and millions more have insurance with such a high deductible that they cannot afford to use it. It is estimated that 22,000 Americans die prematurely every year because of a lack of access to healthcare.

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Columbus Was A Jerk

America has two original sins. The sin of African slavery is obvious to most of us, but less obvious to Americans who do not live near a reservation was the genocide of Native Americans.

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Drugs, Race, and Prisons

Unfortunately, putting non-violent offenders and drug users in jail has become so profitable that we continue to incarcerate more and more people and we keep them in prison for longer and longer sentences.

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When Our Emotions Become Our Prison

About one in five adults suffer from a diagnosable mental illness but none of us can be held up to the light as an example of mental health. While we all have issues (triggers, quirks, hot buttons, etc.) rather than focusing on psychological problems there is a whole school of study around positive psychology that marries well to a spiritual path in which we hope to grow, become stronger and more insightfully aware of ourselves and others. Our emotions can become a mental prison or, we can take charge of our journey and become increasingly healthy and subsequently, free.

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Do Something!

The majority of Americans are horrified by our government’s inaction on gun control. Most voters, by a large margin, want enhanced background checks, they want to close the gun show loophole, and they want to outlaw military style assault rifles.

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Overwhelmed or Just a Short Attention Span?

Noam Chomsky has warned us that our present moment is threatened by twin challenges that could end human life entirely: global climate collapse and nuclear war. Progressives can add to those nightmare scenarios, concerns about refugees, undocumented children in cages, addiction, gun violence, income disparity, a broken justice system and a corrupt government, etc., etc.

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Jesus Never Laughed and Socrates Never Cried

Ironically, though our present moment in history is in possession of amazing means of communication through the internet, social media, cell phones, and virtually free international calling, we are beset with unprecedented loneliness. Somehow, our emotional health has not kept up with our technological capability!

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