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In Defense of

In my upbringing, I learned that the first Christian statement of faith was probably “Jesus is Lord.” The context in which St. Paul used the affirmation sounds as if he were quoting something that his readers would immediately recognize: “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (I Corinthians 12:3). To call Jesus “Lord” is to say that I have a relationship with Jesus. I am declaring my loyalty and acknowledging his authority in my life. That is very different from saying that “Jesus is God”, a statement that does not appear in the Bible.

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Risking Art, Risking Faith

Reflections on the TCPC 1999 Forum and the intersection of religion and creativity.

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Many Voices, One God: Remodeling Christianity for a Pluralistic World

In the four years that I have been back in the US and teaching, I find one of the hopeful signs of Christianity is being able to be a relevant and meaningful religion. One of the hopeful signs is TCPC. I am not saying this to say how wonderful you people are. Those of us who are following the development of religious tradition see that the capacity of a religious tradition to reorient itself to the world in which we have come to live is one the important signs of the possibility of survival.

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With God on Our Side Reflections on the Religious Right

As has been mentioned, I have written a book: With God on Our Side, available at a book table near you. This serves as the companion volume to the PBS series of the same name. If they run out here, you can call up http://wmartin.com/withgod on the Internet and you should be able to find all the books you’ll ever want.

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Spirituality and Contemporary Culture II

I’m going to talk this afternoon about the relationship between culture and spirituality. Anybody with a brain in their heads knows that to talk about culture, in this day and age, is one thing, but to talk about spirituality is even worse. To try to do both of them in one standing is not the smartest thing anybody can do. But I’m going to do it anyway, because I remember with Boethius that every age that is dying is simply another age coming to life, and with the Chinese poet, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”

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Spirituality and Contemporary Culture

Transcript of a speech by Dr. Marcus Borg at the National Forum of ProgressiveChristianity.org

My central claim, both today and tomorrow, is that being a Christian is primarily about a relationship with God lived within the Christian tradition as a sacrament – a claim to which I will return at the end of this talk.

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Religion and Politics

Lawrence Falkowski is President of Christianity for the Third Millennium and Rector at the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, West Orange, NJ. The following is a transcript of a presentation made at the 1996 National Forum of The Center for Progressive Christianity.

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Reflections of an Elder

Let me start by talking about the reflections of an elder. In 1994, I went to a program called “New Warrior”. It is one of the men’s programs. It has an absolutely hideous name, but it is one of the best programs I have ever been to. I would consider it the equivalent value of about five years of good AA. If you want to know, “Is New Warrior something like the Promise Keepers?” No! It is not like the Promise Keepers; it is diametrically opposed to anything Promise Keepers is about. The New Warrior is for the older folks, persons fifty years and older. They have a special elders training for men. I went to the elders program about this time last year, so I am now an official “New Warrior Elder”. I am going to say some things about being an elder.

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Re-Visioning Christianity: The Christian Life

My topic, as you know from the program, is, “Re-Visioning the Christian Life”, and my question is, very simply, “Within the re-visioning that I am suggesting, what does the Christian life look like?” For that older conventional way of seeing Christianity that I sketched in my talk yesterday, believing was central to the Christian life. Indeed during the period of modernity, being a Christian meant, to a large extent, believing in Christianity, and Christian faith meant, to a large extent, believing. How does the Christian life look within this framework of seeing Christianity again?

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Prophecy in the Progressive Church

Prophecy in the progressive church does not mean being doctrinaire. It does mean speaking out as a child of God. It probably means that we have just forgotten to ask the questions. The prophets asked the questions. Biblical ones did. And we often forget that asking questions can be the real way to God. Let’s think along that line for awhile.

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Personal Life Inspired by the Spirit: Redefining Virtue

I should say at the beginning that when I was asked to do this, I asked Jim Adams what the subject matter of my remarks should be, given the title of this session, and he couldn’t tell me. We all have our own ideas on this subject he said and he didn’t want to constrain me. So I can only say that these are my own ideas about “rethinking religion and redefining virtue in the modern world.” I don’t claim more for them than that, but I hope they will be stimulating enough to generate some good discussion. My background is I think very different from most people here, although I have run into a number of academics, so I don’t feel totally alone.

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Our Age of Enormity

I wish I had a better word, a better superlative than enormity, but I can’t think of one. What I want to say is, we live in a time of enormity. And the church is operating on a little, pea-shooter basis in contrast to what is going on in our world. What I am going to take a look at is how that unfolds and what might we do so that the church’s vision is as enormous as the times in which we live.

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Many Voices, One God: Unity or Harmony?

The place I want to begin is on an evening in 1993, a November evening in Chicago, where I had been invited to the Muslim Community Center on the 4300 block of North Elston, to meet with local Islamic leaders to talk about the emerging interreligious movement in metropolitan Chicago. This came four months after the 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions, which was held in Chicago for eight days at the Palmer House Hilton. Eight thousand people from around the world, representing one hundred twenty-five different religious traditions, movements, denominations, and sects had gathered there. Growing out of that, the local religious communities of Chicago had said that they needed to continue to talk and work together. I had begun visiting these communities, and I was going to meet for the first time with the local Islamic leadership to talk about their participation.

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Many Voices, One God: The Jewish-Christian Dialogue

I’m going to be talking about three things in my lecture this evening. First, I want to talk about Jewish views of Christianity, historically, but with primary consideration of the modern period. And then second, I want to talk about certain contemporary American Jewish problems – what I see as the problems in the American Jewish community because I want you to know about them. And I want you to help us with them. Then I’ll end with something about the state of Jewish-Christian dialog: how it should develop, what we need from you, and perhaps what we would like to tell you in return.

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Let Me See Again

Jesus cured blindness repeatedly. What happened to Bartimaeus, therefore, is not unique — except perhaps in one detail. I say “perhaps” because I can find no other reference in the Gospels to blind people who, earlier in their lives, had been able to see. One man we know about from John’s record was born blind, but only in the case of Bartimaeus is it explicit that at an earlier time he had been among the “sighted”.”My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him. “Go; your faith has made you well.”

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Jesus Christ Superstar: The Scary Side of Hip Worship

as i approached the doors to the chapel, i saw that the entire congregation had been given palm branches and had been instructed to stand in a large circle, as they sang this song from JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, and wave their branches. the pastor and pianist sang alternating lines of caiaphas the high priest and whatever other various and sundry dramatic roles there are in that scene from the broadway musical. i turned and went immediately into the bathroom in order to avoid walking into the middle of this show tune gone awry. i looked at my face in the mirror and thought, “i’m never coming back here again.” why was i mortified?

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How Precious Life Is, Oh God: A Prayer for 2003

O God
we have taken liberties with many things You have created
the air we breathe is contaminated
the water we drink is polluted
the soil that nurtures us with its products is poisoned
the food we eat is genetically modified
we even try to alter the life you have given us
we forget how precious life is to You.

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How Do You Know What to Believe? The Risks of Perpetuating a Hoax, Online or Off

Interestingly, at least to me, the answers are similar. The perpetuation of an idea, the spreading, the evangelism, is always something that puts us at risk, personally. We live in a tension of wanting to make sure our friends find out something important but not wanting to confuse them in case it is irrelevant to them or misleads them if we are later proven to be wrong. This is related to what I call “the liberal person’s burden,” the burden of never being 100% certain of your own rightness. But to live in community we must share ideas (otherwise why bother to call it a community) so we risk, we reach out, we tell. Sometimes we miss the mark, many times we hit it when we attempt with a certain humility.

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God Wants Us to be Family

We have some very important things in common. We are family, however diverse we may be. We are family. I think that it is a major opportunity for us at least to think about what it means to be family.

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Framing the Issues

In times like these where many of the faith feel that there is a crisis among us, when we feel that there is a transition, we talk about paradigm shifts. Where there is uncertainty, in times like these, I think we find born so often apocryphal narratives. They provide us instruction, insights, and at least intuitive truth. And they are usually based on forms and events of other narratives within the canon of traditions, whatever those traditions may be. As we gather here in the whirlwind of times of transitions and uncertainty, we hoping to come out of it living a vision.

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For God’s Sake: Reasonable Religion

Why we have creeds, doctrine. Do they help or hinder? Are there new ways to express old truths?

In P.D. James’ novel. ‘Death in Holy Orders’ there is a bluff business man, Sir Alred, who unexpectedly asks Inspector Dalgliesh about the Nicene Creed. We know just the sort of Christian Sir Alred is: a few paragraphs earlier he has said that he ‘shows his face in church from time to time’. Dalgliesh, a vicar’s son, searches his memory and tells him the Creed was formulated by the Council of Nicea in 325 AD, and that the Emperor Constantine had called the Council ‘to settle the belief of the Church and to deal with the Arian heresy’.

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Corporate and Community Life: Recruitment and Inclusion

Here in our own gathering, in this place, for the past two days, there is a growing sense of good will. There is a sense of wanting to be here, to remain here, feeling good about being here, at least good enough to not want to get on the next plane flying out in the next five minutes. A sense of participation and, to that extent, a sense of buying into what’s happening, or at least participating in it. On some level there’s a community that’s begun to gather. Here we are beginning a journey together. Whether the journey will continue beyond this point, or end we don’t know, but at least we begin together. It seems to me that underlying all of that is the sense of a desire for connection, connecting, rather than orbiting as little individuals scattered through lots of space.

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Corporate and Community Life

I’m going to tell you a little about myself by way of introduction and how I happened to get into the work that I do – of working primarily with congregations and occasionally with other religious organizations around issues of human differences. For about 15 years, I was the rector of a church in Washington, D.C., an Episcopal church, and that church, when I went there in 1979, was a very – I would call it – monochromatic congregation. It was interesting. Everyone liked to talk about how much we valued our diversity, but there was none to be identified.

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Making Sense

For all of us, I suspect, the world feels a different place this Christmas from the way it did this time last year. The events of September 11th in America – and all that has arisen from …

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You Don’t Need Points: A Fellow from Nazareth

That frolicking dance didn’t last long. That frolicking is no way to win a game or to keep score and we had to get back at it again. So we stopped that dancing and frolicking all together and got busy again.

God kept trying to find us and to slow us down. God kept saying things like “Remember, remember the strangers. Remember the widows and orphans. Remember when you cut your fields to leave some at the edges, to leave some for the sojourner in your land.” That was no way to get ahead.

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Will It Be Different Today? A Sunday Morning Experience

These journal entries were written while Ivor, a priest in the Church of England, was studying as a Merrill Fellow at Harvard Divinity School.

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What About God?

Sometimes I think of God as being like the life energy that is in everything, that joins us all together. God is in everything. God is also in me and in you. I can be in tune with this life energy or out of tune with it. For me as an individual it has a lot to do with being at one with my true self. You know how sometimes you feel at odds with yourself or you know you’re not really being true to yourself? Well, for me, that’s the same as being true to God or it can be. I need to try to live in harmony with God and, if I do, then I’ll live in harmony with my true self and with the world around me.

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Towards Reclaiming the Symbol of the Family of God: Presentation on Identity and Sexuality

When we were given this topic, we were pretty confused as to what to discuss. Identity is part of sexuality and sexuality is part of identity — both are big topics. So Chris and Jim talked and faxed back in forth for a few days to help us focus. Jim told us that this topic was based on the concerns of those who felt that core parts of their identities, especially their gender or sexual orientation, had been devalued, denied or excluded within much of the Christian tradition. So rather than talk about gender roles, gay and lesbian issues, etc., we decided to talk about what we saw as the basic concern in all of this – belonging, i.e., can I belong in a community and have my identity and sexuality supported and upheld? In our brief comments, we hope to give you a few building blocks on which to focus further discussion.

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Terrorism and the Democratization of War

At the end of the Cold War, the United States, for the first time in history, had the only remaining first-rate military capability left in the world. We had the mightiest Navy ever to roam the seas, a supreme Air Force, the ever-prepared Marines, and the world’s largest and most mobile land army, all of which were equipped with pinpoint missiles and atomic weapons of mass destruction. No nation would dare to challenge such an arsenal. That was the hope and the dream. From our vantage point 10 years later, one can only wonder what happened to that dream. Welcome to the world of terrorism and suicide bombers.

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Telling the Story: A Sermon for Evangelism Sunday

In the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. this Sunday has been designated “Evangelism Sunday,” so I’ll make evangelism the focus of this sermon. In another sermon about evangelism, I noted that that word has become an embarrassment for some Christians, because the public has come to associate evangelism with smooth talking T.V. and radio hucksters who present an intolerant and anti-intellectual version of Christianity. I’ve said before that mainstream Christians need to take back the word, “evangelism,” from fundamentalists who have tarnished it in the public’s eye. But, to take back the word, we must have a viable alternative, and that’s a big order. It’s a big order, because if we hope to succeed in presenting the good news of Jesus to modern people we cannot simply reiterate ancient phrases. Evangelism could be done that way in Christendom, but Christendom is passing away in America, and religious diversity is increasing. We cannot take it for granted anymore that John Doe knows the Bible, so “telling the old, old story about Jesus and his love” requires much more creative communication these days.

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The Road that Leads through the Bible

I am honored to have been asked to lead the Bible study at this gathering, although it is not without some trepidation I accepted. I am well aware there are many here who could do this equally well or better than I. l: also know there are some who would say that asking Romney to lead a Bible study is a bit risky, since he often interprets it to suit himself or will rewrite it if necessary. Actually, I don’t know anyone, fundamentalist or liberal, who doesn’t do that. We all have our own interpretations. We also have our favorite passages, and if we are honest we will admit that even though the Bible is the most important book of our faith, much of it is dull and irrelevant to this century.

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The Resurrection Story

That very same day, the day of the Resurrection, two of his disciples were on their way to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. And they were talking together about all that had happened. As they talked this over, Jesus himself came and walked by their side. But something prevented them from recognizing him.

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The Exodus Story

You’ve called me here. You’ve called me here to tell the story of the journey, what it takes to set out on that road and to travel from slavery to freedom. From entrenchment to enchantment. Now if you are faithful to the road, it will lead you, lead you right up to the brink of the unknown. And each of you must dive into the sea of the unknown, into the waters of chaos and rebirth. And you must be moved by the God of power that surges within you and around you. And you must let yourself be delivered onto dry ground.

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The Eight Points By Which Progressive Christianity Has Been Defined

I am happy and privileged to have been invited by Gordon to respond here to the Eight Points. I want to say thank you, Gordon, for continually taking risks for the sake of the kingdom! I also want to welcome Jim [Adams] to Ireland, and hope it will be the beginning of much fruitful bridge-building.

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The Christian Church: Engaging the Future

I believe the Church stands at a critical time in its life. The world is in the throes of incredible, fundamental changes. Cultural diversity is growing in some places; attempts to maintain ethnic purity lead to battles in others. Economies are more and more interdependent and undergoing massive dislocation. Witness the transitions to market economies in Russia and Eastern Europe, for example, as well as the rapid development of technology in the United States and the enormous impact of corporate downsizing and restructuring. Democratization is spreading around the world. Social changes continue a rapid rate, both at home and abroad. And there is a new emphasis on the discovery of a relevant and sustainable spirituality. How will the church engage this changing world?

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