Hyper Change and Religious Trauma

After retiring as bishop, John Shelby Spong told us Why Christianity Must Change or Die, speaking as someone in exile from a church that was alienated from modern reality. I would like to add “Why is change so difficult?” and answer from the perspective of history in combination with science.

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Mother Teresa and Doubting Thomas

The story of Doubting Thomas (John 20:24-29) takes place at the end of the Gospel of John. Like the rest of the Gospel, the Doubting Thomas tale is not a true story but rather what we call religious history. The truth is inside the story. The surface story says that Thomas the Twin (rumored to be the twin brother of Jesus, but that idea has never been substantiated) was not in the room for Jesus’s first appearance to the disciples after his crucifixion. But Thomas was there for the second appearance a week later. Jesus insisted that Thomas touch his wounds, after which Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Thomas the Twin then became Doubting Thomas. His role in the history of the Jesus movement is to tell us that doubting is a no-no, and believers must have total faith in Jesus as God.

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Apostle to the Apostles: Mary’s Story

So here, let me honour Mary the Apostle to the Apostles with this my imaginary account of Mary’s story. Remember the power of our imaginations to breathe life into what appears to all the world to be dead.

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Musing of a Progressive Christian Layman: Women in Church Leadership

  How can any 21st century woman believe that only men must lead in the home and church and that a woman’s role is to submit to male leadership? How can a woman attend a church that …

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What Jesus Wants

I’ve been rereading Henri Nouwen’s The Way of the Heart: Desert Spirituality and Contemporary Ministry for a contemplative retreat I will be co-leading this spring. It’s amazing how much one can get out of what seems a simple little book each time it is read. This time I realized why Henri became popular among evangelical Christians. He emphasizes a very personal relationship with Jesus, so personal that “Christ…lives in us, that he is our true self.”

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On the Dangers of Not Giving a Fig  

Watching the NBC broadcast of “Jesus Christ Superstar LIVE” on Easter night was jarring. Not because it was bad. The New York Times called it “thoughtful, challenging,” and a “conceptual and artistic triumph.”[i] What was jarring was what I already knew was there: the anti-Semitism inherent in the story. A review by Jeffrey Salkin reflected on the ominous portrayal of priests Caiphas and Annas: “The Jews look like they might have been Darth Vader’s homeys. Pure evil.”[ii]  But who’s to blame for that? Certainly not the producers. And certainly not Webber or Rice. They were just working with the “source material” – and that would be our anti-Semitic gospels.

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Modern Novelists Spread Unorthodox Christian Ideas – Part 7

Thief on the Cross

Lawyer and historian Cameron Thorne found an ancient Templar scroll that referred to Jesus as “The Thief on the Cross.” He and his fiancée, Amanda Spencer, try to uncover several secrets of early Christianity before a splinter group of Mormon zealots finds them and destroys them.

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Preparing to Preach on RESURRECTION: Giving up the notion of a physical resuscitation.

This Sunday worship services will begin with the proclamation that: Christ is Risen! Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia! Let me follow that proclamation up with a good Lutheran question:“What does this mean?” What does it mean that Christ is risen? What does resurrection mean? The truth is that there are about as many different explanations of Christ’s resurrection as there are Christians. And that’s a good thing, because the question of the resurrection is a question that lies at the very heart of Christianity. So, is it any wonder that Christians have been struggling to come to terms with resurrection since the very first rumours that Christ had risen began to circulate. Over the centuries the various responses to the question of resurrection have divided Christians as various camps work out various responses.

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Engaging in Good Friday

Easter week can elicit many questions. Did Jesus physically rise in a miraculous resuscitation on the third day after his death? Was the holy temple curtain torn in two from top to bottom at the moment of his death? (Mt 27:51) After his death, did the bodies of many dead saints rise up from their tombs and flood Jerusalem appearing to many? (Mt 27:52) Let’s face it, progressives often come to very different conclusions on these topics than most conservative evangelical pastors do. But one thing that most tend to agree on is that Jesus was executed on a day that we recognize today as Good Friday.

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Modern Novelists Spread Unorthodox Christian Ideas – Part 6

Cabal of the Westford Knight

In David S. Brody’s novel, Cabal of the Westford Knight (2009), a Canadian Catholic priest explains to lawyer/historian Cameron Thorne and Amanda Spencer, a British researcher, several unorthodox beliefs.

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The Immaculate Conception Equals the Immaculate Deception

I read a fun story in the newspaper last week about a congressman who received a lecture from a radio commentator because he confused the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception with the doctrine of the Incarnation—an easy thing to do, since both are total foolishness.

One might call the Immaculate Conception and the Incarnation fake news from long ago, but the church insists on continuing to market this fake news to its own detriment. In the twenty-first century, neither doctrine makes sense to anyone who has taken a biology course. That’s not how babies are made.

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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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Modern Novelists Spread Unorthodox Christian Ideas – Part 5

The Last Templar

The Last Templar by Raymond Khoury (2005) opens in Acre, Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, in 1291. As the city burns, a Templar knight, Martin of Carmaux, and his mentor, Aimard of Villiers, board a galley with a mysterious Templar chest. The ship vanishes without a trace.

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Help From The Gospel of Thomas

Our Axial Age is in a state of exhaustion. It is approaching its end. It also could be our end. Planet earth is now giving us this warning: It is telling us that if we continue on the present path, like any other organism that alienates itself from the Biosphere, we will be rejected. Can we escape from this conundrum? Can Jesus be of help?

Yes he can, but only if we are willing to change the way we think. It will require us to accept cosmic interiority as expressed in The Gospel of Thomas.

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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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Those Who Are Christ in Our Midst

I understand the very essence of Christ through the suffering of people. For example, twenty years ago this June, the remote east Texas town of Jasper consumed the nation’s attention because of a heinous crime against a forty-nine-year-old vacuum cleaner salesman named James Byrd, Jr. Walking home after a party one night, Byrd was offered a ride by some passersby. Little did he know that he would soon be chained by his ankles to the back of a pick-up truck and dragged to his death – because he was black.

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Choosing a Bible

Many of my peers use the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) because it is the updated version of the classic Revised Standard Version (RSV) upon which many of us grew up. Published in 1989, the editors recognized that much misunderstanding had entered into the interpretation of the text because English is inherently biased toward the masculine. In order to mitigate such abuse of the text, all references to humanity are gender-neutral. So it is really one of the better “inclusive language” texts despite it continuing to provide exclusively male language in references to God. At the very least, I would recommend that you not read anything that hasn’t managed to get to a place of gender neutrality with respect to humanity.

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Finding the Voice of God in the Abortion Debate

Donald Trump won the Presidential election of 2016 because he campaigned as strongly pro-life. Roy Moore, despite allegations of sexual misconduct with teenagers, came close to winning the recent Senate election in Alabama because he was also right on this issue among Evangelical Christians. The sacredness of human life is a fundamental conviction of millions of Christians—Evangelicals, Roman Catholics, and mainline Christians alike. Finding the right answer to the agonizing question of when to allow for a legal abortion has done more to divide Christians than any other political issue.

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