Monetizing the Earth

The kind of despair that prompted ancient religious communities to write warnings of an Apocalypse that comes from the judgment of God is out of place in our modern era but it doesn’t mean that we cannot face an Apocalypse of our own making – an Apocalypse born of a breakdown of public conscience, a shift from the ethics of democracy to the violent oppression of a financially driven oligarchy that monetizes the earth and devalues human life.

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The Trouble with Kings

President Trump has shocked the world with his announcements of imperial power to pardon himself or to command that the judiciary end investigations or dismiss a special counsel. However, he isn’t the first or the last head of state to lean towards tyranny. Though in times of instability and fear, the majority may long for a strong leader, history has shown us how dangerous it is to give away democracy. As I Samuel stated so well, Kings tend to be self-serving and we will always be sorry if we allow an imperial king to arise out of our apathy or indifference.

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LOVE Has Died. LOVE Is Risen. LOVE Will Come Again, and Again, and Again! – Pluralism Sunday

Pluralism challenges us to move beyond all four of these responses to the other. As Pete puts it, “… in a genuine encounter with the other, at first I see you as weird and monstrous.

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No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Social change comes about when a prophet or a small prophetic community advocates for a change to the status quo. Ethics is never subject to majority vote but is, instead, sponsored by tiny minorities who are willing to speak truth to power. Therefore, progressive churches will never be mega churches and very few large churches will ever offer substantive challenge to popular society. Those who are willing to do the work of a prophet must be willing to pay the price of being ignored, derided, even fought, but if your cause is right, time is on your side.

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How the Christian Left is ‘Reclaiming Jesus’

Last week, a group of Progressive Christian leaders (including “Royal Wedding” homilist, Bishop Michael Curry, and Fr. Richard Rohr) lead a candlelight vigil and protest in front of the White House, expressing their concerns about the moral state of our nation.

Watch as Rev. Salvatore Sapienza, pastor of Douglas Congregational United Church of Christ, talks about how the Christian Left is “Reclaiming Jesus.”

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Robert O’Sullivan homily at Brookings, OR Ecumenical Observance of the 50th Anniversary of the Death of MLK

Robert O’Sullivan homily at Brookings, OR Ecumenical Observance of the 50th Anniversary of the Death of MLK

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When Great Trees Fall

The length of life does not determine its meaning. If there is an afterlife, nothing can be known about it, but the life we know with certainty calls us to live with integrity and nobility. Maya Angelou’s poem, “When Great Trees Fall,” movingly describes how we are affected by the death of those who have inspired us and shaped our lives. Remembering them is, perhaps, their real hope of an afterlife.

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The Last Temptation of Evangelicals

It is true that most people don’t change much but change is possible. Former soldiers in Lebanon’s civil war are now peace advocates in Syria. Former right-wing evangelicals are now reconsidering what it means for them to finally have their “dream president,” and wondering if they should not dream bigger. The legacy of the strangle hold that evangelical Christianity has had on the American government has been painfully revealed in the poorly thought out move of our embassy to Jerusalem, resulting in a protest that left 58 Palestinian protestors dead. It is time for the Christian faith to change, to become more aware of other faiths, other people, and of greater compassion.

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Truth Beyond Courtesy

Though Bill Cosby was convicted on several charges of sexual assault, he did not show remorse or apologize to his victims. Consider in contrast, the heart-felt apology offered by Joy Reid when old homophobic blog posts of hers recently surfaced. She asked a panel of LGBTQ professionals to publicly take her to task on her own show, a painful but honest moment in journalism.

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Beyond Belief

Once a religion is distilled into a creed, a book books of doctrine, or even shared holy writ, it becomes a religion of beliefs rooted in the past. A living faith takes in new information and experience and continues to grow and evolve. Ultimately, we are seeking a faith that moves beyond belief and becomes expressed in meaningful action.

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I’m Not With Stupid Anymore

Fascism, A Warning, Madeline Albright’s new book, asks us to seriously consider how many familiar elements of the growth of fascism in 20th century Europe are now evident in 21st century America. This is a sobering matter that demands that spiritual people to take it seriously. Bonhoeffer wrote in his letters from prison that stupidity made it possible for fascism to rise in Germany but isn’t it really complacency? And though Russia meddle in the American election in 2016, they did not hack our voting machines, they just appealed to our fear and racism and that was enough to alter the course of an election and of history. It is time for us to decide that we are “not with stupid anymore.”

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The Ghost Community (the one everyone talks about, but no one has ever seen)

The author of Acts describes (in the form of early church propaganda) an almost utopian beginning of the church. Of course, Luke was not there, and his musings are more imagination than history, but he gives voice to a vision that many of us have shared: the good community where everyone shares their belongings, and everyone has what they need. Like ghosts, everyone talks about an egalitarian society but few of us have ever seen it work for more than a flash in history. Still, we know that our present economic system is doomed to failure and something much more fair must emerge.

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The Brave New World

When science fiction writers describe the future, they tend to see the world going in one of two directions: one possibility is a life made easier through technology and the other sees a growing gulf between the super-rich and the majority of the world living with poverty, hunger, illness, and ignorance. The truth is that it could go either way, but unbridled capitalism will almost certainly lead to a horrible dystopian future that no sane person would want. To avoid that path, people of conscience must organize, unionize, network and collaborate to shape a moral universe for our coming generations.

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Prophets and Martyrs

This week we mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Last month was the 50th anniversary of the My Lai Massacre and this June we will reach the 50th anniversary of the killing of Robert Kennedy. These events remembered within the martyr account in the gospel’s passion narrative give us reason to look more deeply into the meaning of Easter, beyond a childish hope for eternal life, there is the challenge to be a prophet who refuses to be afraid.

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Religious Myth and Faithful Reality (From Idols to Ideas)

Looked at honestly, the Bible contains a good deal of “fake news,” stories created to justify things that might have embarrassed the priestly editors of the more ancient strata of the scriptures. The progressive church has to lead the way in being honest about scholarship and history.

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A Progressive Christian Look at John 3:

What is it about John 3:16 that has made it the “go to” Bible chapter and verse for Evangelical Christians? Watch as Rev. Salvatore Sapienza, pastor of Douglas Congregational United Church of Christ, gives us a Progressive Christian view of John 3:16.

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Commandments or Helpful Guidelines?

Unlike the generations who came before us, our religion no longer includes either the carrot of heaven or the threat of hell. Now, relieved of divine obligation and fear, we are left to choose to be good people because that is who we have chosen to be, and to sacrifice and work to create a good society because that is preferable to the alternative.

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On Being Woke

Beyond all of the political and policy issues around the Russian hacking of the 2016 election, there remains the embarrassing moral awareness that this was not a hacking of voting machines or the electronics of media agencies. The Russians appealed to the prejudices of voters. They stoked belief in conspiracy theories rooted in hatred of Hillary Clinton. Our vulnerability to being led around by our ignorance and vitriol is a spiritual issue and not a complimentary one. It is time for us to awaken to a deeper connection to the truth.

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