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    • John Bennison
    • In the last forty years, John Bennison has been a teacher, preacher, lecturer, trainer, carpenter, coffin builder, counselor, spiritual advisor, ethicist, entertainer, assembly-line union worker, small business entrepreneur, residential real estate specialist, corporate cog and executive director of a faith-based non-profit organization.

      He’s authored eight publications and numerous commentaries on faith and values, and as an ordained minister served as a parish pastor over 25 years. He earned his Doctorate from Claremont School of Theology, as well as his BA degree in philosophy and religion from Lake Forest College.

      John contributes his leadership and experience as Volunteer Director and Lead Teacher with Pathways Faith Community (, as he regularly writes the Words & Ways Commentaries to engage Christian progressives everywhere in meaningful dialogue (

      John also serves as the Director of the Mountain Shadow Film Society, bringing the best in foreign and independent filmmaking to the San Francisco East Bay community of Walnut Creek (

      Meanwhile, John also continues to provide professional client services to buyers and sellers of residential real estate in the Bay Area area market (see

      Having raised two daughters, he resides with his spouse and golden retriever in Walnut Creek, California.

The Foolishness of Jesus

Wisdom & Foolishness in the Perennial Tradition

Wisdom is often mistaken as knowledge, prudence or pragmatism; whereas foolishness is equally regarded sometimes to be the kind of fool-hearted thing Jesus would have characteristically espoused with many of his confounding ideas about God, God’s ways and how we ought to treat one another. Truth be told, there are plenty of people who consider themselves much too smart to take seriously some of the darn fool things Jesus actually said and meant. But Jesus was no ordinary fool. A Words and Ways Commentary by John Bennison.

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The Spirit Within, or Where the Wild Things Are

It is that elusive and intangible spirit that is within us … that constitutes both that tenuous thread and tether of a relationship with whatever we might call the holy divine.

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The Capacity and Compunction for Compassion

Beyond any question of ethical and legal right or wrong, reason or rationale, human goodness or human evil, guilt and judgment, worthiness or worthlessness — when all is said and done — does there remain yet a response that is not only possible, but necessary, to acknowledge the dignity and worth of every human being? Do we have both the capacity and compunction to include in the mix some expression of compassion in such tragic stories of brokenness and estrangement, violence and vengeance.

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Matters of the Heart: Heart of Stone

One could say the whole of the biblical tradition is actually a story about the matters of the heart. And at the heart of the gospel message is a tradition that reminds us time and again — with very human stories — what can turn the heart to stone.

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On Being Spiritual, Not Religious

The Holy Ordinary

The kinds of stories the Galilean spirit/sage spins become sacred stories, but not because they have been canonized by any religious authority. Rather, they are extra-ordinarily spiritual tales because they are stories about the sacredness of the ordinary life as revealed to us by the one who taught with a different kind of inner authority. It’s what makes ordinary life so undeniably, unavoidably, deeply, and essentially spiritual. And It is also why ordinary people are as reluctant to relinquish their claim to be “spiritual,” in the most profound sense of the word; just as adamantly as they disavow being “religious,” in the worst sense of that word.

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The Trouble with Epiphany: Gift Giving as Genuflection, or the “Tebow” Factor

The trouble with an epiphany is that it often leads to enlightenment!  And enlightenment can alter the way one sees the world and one’s relationship to it.  As such, anyone who would bend the knee in praise and adoration might do well to consider it can also be a radically subversive act of obeisance and allegiance. 

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When Gaspar Went Missing – A Commentary for Twelfth Night

It has long been a family tradition to mark the days of Advent and Christmastide seasons with the wood-carved characters appearing in our little crèche one by one, week after week, like unfolding scenes in a two-act drama. But the year one of the three wise men was nowhere to be found when it came for him to enter stage left not only got me wondering about his whereabouts, but what he could have possibly been up to.  Such speculation, I would suggest, may be no less credible than Matthew’s fanciful, retrospective tale.

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Occupy Christmas, or, What’s in a Word? – A Christmas Commentary on John’s Prologue

“The divine word and wisdom became human, and made itself at home among us.”  So begins the Prologue to John’s gospel, with a far loftier and esoteric version of Jesus’ nativity than any birth in a barnyard. But more so, John’s introduction to a good news gospel reaches across the ages to not only give new meanings to the words he uses to describe the incarnate word of God; but gives fresh insight into some of our own vernacular, and how we might even redefine Christ’s mass ourselves.

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Good News, Bad News: An Amnesty Gospel for Advent

There’s two sides to every story, and there’s often some good news and bad news. Is the Gospel all good news? That depends. This Advent commentary considers the implications of rethinking and retelling the Christmas story.

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Occupy Thanksgiving

On Adequacy, Abundance and Excess

In the disequilibrium that defines this moment in time, how do we all reconstitute a life-affirming balance between those needs and wants with which we all struggle?

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The Immutability of Change

From: Words and Ways

Wave after wave of natural disasters and eruptions of human conflict set our heads spinning. Despotic regimes are getting overthrown, one right after the other; while the Occupy Movement gains momentum, demanding change of one sort or another. If change is the one constant, why do we resist? If it might reflect the nature of a divine imperative, how might we become agents and co-participants of such change ourselves?

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What Kind of Christian? – Part II

Part II

What is the relationship between the Jesus of history and the title accorded him as the “Christ?”  No matter what kind of Christian you may be, if Jesus is regarded to be fullest manifestation of God in the faith tradition we all call Christianity, just which Jesus are we talking about? And, how might we get from possibly being a disciple of this Jewish rabbi and spirit-sage, to “taking up a cross” of some kind for this “Christ?”  In a word, who’s got which Jesus?  This is Part II of a two-part commentary.

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Moving Heaven and Hell

Regarding Heaven and Hell; Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for? – Robert Browning. An evangelical pastor of a mega-church, Rob Bell, creates a stir when he writes a little book, suggesting when it comes to a place called heaven, there’s room for everyone. What the hell?

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What Kind of Christian? – Part I

Part I

Shortly before his deadly rampage in Norway in July, Anders Behring Breivik posted a rambling Christian jihadist manifesto on his Facebook page.  Within days, a self-professed Christian fundamentalist who blogs online claimed the mass murderer was no Christian because he  “supports Darwinism and human logic, demonstrating a rationalist worldview rather than a Christian one.” Uh-oh. While I would also identify myself as some kind of “Christian,” I couldn’t resemble either of these two characters less. So what kinds of beliefs and behaviors do I accept and refute to describe my own “Christian” identity?  What kind of a “Christian” am I? … 

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Soul Searching, the Rupert Syndrome, and the Snowflake Factor

Soul Searching
In 1907, a physician name Duncan MacDougall from Haverhill, Massachusetts, set out to not only prove the existence of the human soul, but that it had a physical presence and substance, much like the heart and lungs, flesh, bone and blood.  With the use of a large scale he recorded the weight of terminally ill patients at the moment of death, and discerned a drop of ¾ of an ounce.  He deduced the fleeting soul not only existed, but left the body for who knows where, weighing a mere 21 grams.
The human heart has always longed to believe little ‘ol me is made up of something more than the dust of the earth, to which all mortal flesh returns.  It has been part of the stuff of religious thinking since the beginning of human thought.  For all its persuasive power to drive human beings to believe what cannot be known, and behave in the most radically extreme ways sometimes, the promise of an afterlife and immortality often remains void of much critical examination.
This commentary build on the earlier article, “Moving Heaven and Hell,” which can be found in the Center’s Library.

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Thank You, Mr. U: A Thanksgiving Idea

Is it ever too late to say thank you?  Yes, and no.  Here’s an idea for observing the Thanksgiving holiday in a less traditional way this year.

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