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Tit for Tat

Even though 87 percent of Americans consider themselves Christians, few dogmas are as pervasive or have as much influence in our culture as the aphorism, “If you do this, you’ll get that,” where that may either be a reward or a punishment—a carrot or a stick. Popularized by psychologist B. F. Skinner, behavior modification can be traced back historically to the law of retaliation — “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” — which is a perversion of an ancient Hebrew commandment prohibiting unrestrained vengeance.

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Survey Results: TCPC

In October, the TCPC board asked me to work with it on ways in which to more effectively build awareness and usage of the various TCPC resources — books, discussion guides, annual Forums, newsletter, and the website. The board was also interested in starting a discussion about what additional tools and resources TCPC should consider developing as it moves ahead into this new year.

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What Every Progressive Christian Should Know About the Tobacco Industry

The tobacco industry likes to portray itself as just another American business, but the facts point to precisely the opposite conclusion. Evidence uncovered in the recent tobacco litigation demonstrates that the tobacco companies deliberately deceived the public into believing that their products were safe and non-addictive while conspiring to keep the industry’s knowledge to the contrary secret, manipulated the nicotine delivery of their products to better addict consumers, and targeted children in their advertising campaigns.

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The United Religions Initiative

I was invited to research and write what turned out to be a chapter entitled, “Anglican Attitudes and Behaviors Concerning War,” in an Anglican Ethics text book edited by Paul Elmen, The Anglican Moral Choice. The gist of it is that Anglicans are second to none in being for peace in peacetime, and for war in wartime. This illustrates the unfortunate tendency of religions to sanctify violence.

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Reimagining Ecumenism for the 21st Century

One of the questions we may rightly ask at the beginning of a new century is what is ahead for ecumenism and the ecumenical movement.

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No One is Disposable: The Fight Against Slavery in the New Global Economy

According to the Exodus story, the Egyptians had begun to fear that the Israelite people living in Egypt had grown more numerous and powerful than the Egyptians themselves. To prevent these Israelites from joining Egypt’s enemies, fighting against the Egyptians, and escaping from the land, the Egyptians

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The Future Shape of Black Religion

Speaking to conference participants from the pulpit at Mt. Enon Baptist Church, Dr. Peter Paris explained that the political role of the African American Church was established from the beginning, that the African American Church has been the only institution consistently serving Blacks in this country, and that the African American church has historically laid the foundation of and continues to reflect the changes in social structure in African American communities.

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We Are All to Some Degree Hamlet-Shaped, Whether We Know It or Not

He is “the fullest representation of human possibility. . Whether we are male or female, old or young he “speaks most urgently for us and to us. . . He can be transcendent or ironic. . . When we are wholly human and know ourselves, we be come most like. . .”

Like whom? Jesus? Wrong! Like Hamlet

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Responding to our Critics

People objecting to positions taken by The Center for Progressive Christianity play an important role in helping us to define more clearly who and what we are. One such person and I had an E-mail exchange that began with a message from him that arrived under the subject heading, “Are you Christian?” I have arranged our correspondence in the form of a dialogue:

Objector: Are you Christian?

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The Jubilation of a Living Wage

This year – which has been proclaimed a Jubilee Year by the Roman Catholic, Episcopal and other churches – affords Christians a special opportunity to make a focus on issues of economic justice a part of their spiritual lives and ministry.

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Rage Against the Machine

  When 50,000 teamsters, environmentalists, animal-rights activists, consumer advocates, peaceniks, libertarians, and protectionists marched downtown in Seattle disrupting the secretive World Trade Organization, most Americans were clueless as to what it all meant. On the night after …

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Progressive Faith vs. the Illusion of Control

The truth of the matter is that the Christian movement, or what we now call the church, was always progressive. Jesus and his followers were change agents and that frankly, is what got them all into trouble.

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Why Bother to Go to Church? Part of the “Why Bother…” Brochure Series

So why do people bother to turn up on a Sunday when they could be doing all sorts of other things, like washing the car, digging the garden or going shopping? The only good reason for going to church is because you get something out of it. If you find it dull or pointless, or both, you won’t go again.

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Progress Toward an Open Church

Helping a congregation to identify itself as a Progressive Christian Church can be a challenge. In September of 1999 I was called to minister at the Church of Universal Fellowship in Orono, Maine. This church has identified itself as a Christian Community Church and believes that it is on the cutting edge of ecumenical Christianity by being “post-denominational”.

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Rediscovering a Passionate, Converted Christian Faith

PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIANITY in our time has emerged through two related but distinct processes. One is a process of paring away: Christians, over the last couple of centuries, have realized that many elements of our Western culture are not essential to – or even compatible with – Christian life and belief, and we have sought to shed them. We have looked hard at the false claims of government absolutism, of slavery, of racism, misogyny and homophobia and have rejected them.

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The War on Terrorism

In the grip of the grief, rage, and fear that were evoked by the September 11 attack on the United States, many people turned to God. Churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques were filled with worshipers seeking comfort and meaning in the wake of the tragedy. Seeking God in moments of extreme distress may be a healthy instinct, but such behavior has a dark side.

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An Armchair Guide to Exploring the Interface Between Science and Religion

How should science and theology be related to each other? How does our
scientific knowledge fit or not fit with what we think we know about
God and the sacred? Author Graham Kelder surveys recent publications dealng with science and spirituality.

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The Church of Sweden in a Time of Challenges

The Church of Sweden’s situation in its Western European context could be described by statistics. However, I want to start with my own experience. Deep in my memory, I have an experience of physical and existential pain. It is also a story of challenges and vocation.

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The Story of the Magi: Biblical Origins of Anti-Semitism

When Alexander Pope wrote about the dangers of a little learning, he might not have had the Bible in mind. In the eighteenth century, few people realized or cared that Christians who knew the Bible primarily through what they heard in church were absorbing a prejudice against the Jews. What they learned from the Bible strengthened their spiritual well being by convincing them of their moral superiority to the Jews. Their sense of superiority was all the justification Christians needed for pogroms, expulsions, forced conversions, and violence directed toward Jewish people. The question for progressive Christians today is this: Can we learn from the Bible without perpetuating antisemitism? As an attempt to come to grips with that question, I will focus on one particular story, the account of the wise men following a star to Bethlehem.

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The Virgin Mary is No Wonder Woman

Who was Charles Moulton? His name is not a household word but his creation is. Moulton is the man who in 1941 launched the career of a comic strip character who was know as Wonder Woman. Moulton was a psychologist. He was also the inventor of the lie detector. In an autobiographical note in the Wonder Women Archives Vol. 2, he describes himself as “an early feminist,” who believed that “a woman’s rightful place was as a world leader, not servant or helpmate.”

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By Whose Authority

The Bible–with all its strangeness, weirdness, and contradictions; its
metaphors, ironies and stupidities, its untidiness, its sprawling
nature, its boisterousness–is
well suited to this a more democratic definition of ‘authority.’

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Metaphorically-Challenged

Some people have problems with metaphors. The poet John Brehm had one of these metaphorically challenged people in a freshman class that was studying Matthew Arnold’s classic nineteenth-century poem Dover Beach, which likens the decline of organized religion to the outgoing tide of the “Sea of Faith”. To her complaint that the expression confused her, the teacher gently asked what confused her about it.

“I mean, is it a real sea?” she asked.

“You mean, is it a real body of water that you could point to on a map or visit on vacation?”

“Yes,” she said. “Is it a real sea?”

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The Challenge for Progressive Christians:

Dealing with Conservative Parishioners and Congregations

If I’m myself sceptical about being an energiser, it will be abundantly clear to all of you that I am most certainly not a New Englander. It has been one of the real pluses of my involvement with TCPC over almost ten years now that I have had the opportunity to get to know progressive Christians from many different parts of the US; but in particular people from New England. I am not a total stranger here. But in a sense part of what that has done is to make me very aware of how our territories are each distinct; and of how different church, Christianity, and religion more widely are in North America, when compared with Britain.

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Skeptical Mysticism

You often hear about believers who have a crisis of faith, but what of the skeptics among us who have a crisis of doubt? For years we skeptics have decisively refuted the metaphysical claims of the great religions and scoffed at the pretensions of newfangled spiritual fashions. But then our doubt is suddenly shaken by an unbidden mystical experience. The power of this direct cognition of ultimate reality, beyond word or image, is undeniable. But does it prove the existence of God?

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Creation and Evolution: The Growing Identity of TCPC

One important insight made possible by that dual perspective is our ability to see creation as an evolving process rather than an accomplished fact. All the powers of space and time and matter and energy are in continual relationship, shaping physical reality across the myriad eons and light-years, and simultaneously inviting us to ponder the sacred reality we infer to be its source.

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Our Journey to an Identity as a Progressive Christian Church

he First Congregational Church of Berkeley (FCCB) has a tradition of welcoming diverse viewpoints and accepting into our community anyone sincerely seeking spiritual growth through the Christian tradition. Over the years we had developed a way of helping people to understand who we are. A member might describe FCCB by saying: “We don’t require members to be baptized, don’t demand a dogmatic set of beliefs, and don’t treat the bible as a literally historical account of events.” Although we could differentiate ourselves from other churches in this way, our consensus as a congregation had migrated more to what we are not, than to what we are. So, we set out on a journey as a congregation to find our center again.

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Gay Marriage Not Defeated

The “religious right” is not only celebrating the re-election of George W. Bush, they also are ecstatic about the resounding, coast-to-coast victory of states “banning gay marriage”. Out of fear that gay marriage will harm traditional marriage, on November 2 voters in eleven states approved constitutional amendments limiting state marriage licenses to one man and one woman. The amendments won, often by huge margins, in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Ohio, Utah and Oregon. The bans won by a 3-to-1 margin in Kentucky and Georgia, 3-to-2 in Ohio, and 6-to-1 in Mississippi. The religious right feels morality won and evil was defeated.

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The Kingdom of God: A Domination Free Order

In The Gospel According to Mark, the earliest of the four Gospels, the first words Jesus spoke when he began his mission and ministry in Galilee were, “The time has come: the Kingdom of God is upon you; repent and believe the Gospel.” (Mk. 1:14 NEB) The consensus of biblical scholarship is that the Kingdom of God is the central focus of the message and ministry of Jesus.

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Astonishing Assumptions Underlie Belief in Atoning Sacrifice

The author of Tried for Heresy: A 21st Century Journey of Faith, discusses the "small print" underlying the interpretation of Jesus’ death as an atoning sacrifice.

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What is the Core of Progressive Christianity?

On our website we display a star with eight points. Most of us use the eight-pointed star logo, but we have not agreed on what meaning the rays of this star might hold. The eight-point de? nition of progressive Christianity, symbolized by the star, provides starting points for conversation. The eight points do not answer the question of what is essential among all who claim to be progressive Christians.

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Ecumenism: A Personal Interpretation

One may well ask what “ecumenism” means in relation to TCPC? Christians of different denominations are attracted to TCPC — does this make it ecumenical? Should ecumenism make a difference? I submit that the ecumenical vision should be central to progressive Christianity.

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Thanks, Albert Mohler

On behalf of progressive Christians everywhere, I express thanks to Albert Mohler. He has given The Center for Progressive Christianity exposure that we could not have purchased for any amount of money.

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Parasitic Cosmeticians – A reflection on building bridges

“To all conservative Christians, liberals, however well meaning, appear as parasitic cosmeticians; cosmeticians, because they constantly aim to remove from Christianity that which outsiders, like some inside, find intellectually unsightly and unacceptable; parasitic, because they attach themselves to the historic faith and feed off it even as they whittle it down, diminishing, distorting, and displacing major features of it to fit in with what their skeptical conversation partners tout as factual truth.” — from J. I. Packer’s review of The Lion and the Lamb: Evangelicals and Catholics in America by William M. Shea (Christianity Today, March/April 2005)

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Thank God We Have A Godless Constitution

In their book, The Godless Constitution, Isaac Kramnick and R. Laurence Moore, note modern day conservatives are rewriting American history to portray our nation beginning as a Christian nation but through liberal courts and judges our nation has become secularized. Nothing could be farther than the truth.

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Confessions of a Conservative

In our declarations about the Jesus whom we
follow, Progressive Christians should insist that we conserve the best of what we know and
what we have always known: God loves everybody. For Jim Adams, that is a conservative position.

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Christianity in the Chrysalis: An Evolutionary Perspective on Today’s Chaos

Robert Keck discusses deep-value
research, which suggests that, after developing the human ego and mind
for 10,000 years, humanity’s new evolutionary direction is toward spiritual maturity.

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