Why Faith Without Works Is Dead

If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you’ve probably gone through the struggle of whether or not you should commit yourself to a life of ministry. Everyone goes through the question sooner or later. Should you quit your day job and become a pastor? What about a full-time missionary? Perhaps closing yourself in your room to pray from morning to night is the answer.

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Faith, Hope, Compassion – Paul’s Answer to the Global Stress Epidemic

When Paul dictated a paean to love in his message to Corinth, he was not thinking of wedding ceremonies; rather, he was imploring the community to overcome internal conflict.

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At the Feet of the Master

But now that we’re halfway through the season of Lent, I think it’s the right time to talk about what is possibly the most important spiritual practice of all, the practice that makes all the others possible: the spiritual practice of letting something go. All the spiritual teachings in the world are not going to help us–even a personal invitation from the spiritual master himself is not going to help us–if we keep ourselves too busy to show up for him. Thanks for coming over, Martha says to Jesus this morning. But you know, I really don’t have time for this stuff!

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Mel White Quote

If there is any one message the Bible delivers, it is the message that God loves outcasts and that Jesus was born into the world an outcast to rescue and renew outcasts from religion gone bad. He was born poor and died poor, yet the legacy of love he left us, the legacy of inclusion and acceptance and understanding, will endure forever.

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Making The World A Better Place

Restoration of a Vision from the Christian Faith Tradition

What might constitute an adequate improvement to the world order? This commentary constitutes an exploration of this pesky, perennial question about “a better world” from the vantage point of one faith tradition, and in contemporary context. Its intention is not to offer novelty or any new revelatory insight, but rather to remember and restore a perspective that lies at the heart of a biblical gospel tradition; based on the teachings of a pre-Easter human Jesus.

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Podcasts: It’s About Time

From The Parliament of World's Religions

The Parliament of the World’s Religions is proud to distribute It’s About Time, a weekly podcast produced in partnership with our allies at Religica.org and Seattle University.

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Social Justice, the Good Samaritan and Outsourcing Charity

One of the most common arguments I hear against “social justice” is this:

Many Christians believe the Gospel calls us to get personally involved in doing charity. They argue that we shouldn’t work to improve economic and political systems because that would be outsourcing our Christian responsibilities to a third party, such as the government. For example, they would say Jesus calls us to personally feed the hungry (Matthew 25:31-46), not to pay taxes so that the government can do that for us.

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All Christians are Asylum-Seekers

  A Christian IS an asylum-seeker. All of us. Each of us. By definition. As refugees, don’t we need to flee from the sin of this world? Don’t we come to the proverbial Gates of God’s Kingdom …

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The Words of Jesus We Ignore

Imagine a person praying at bedtime. He is confused. Unsure of what to do in life. What are his next steps, he wonders? He prays fervently to God for direction.

Amazingly enough, God answers!

Love God
Love one another

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The End of Capitalism

Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a consensus among the political and media mainstream that “There Is No Alternative” to Capitalism, particularly the form of capitalism one finds in the context of globalization. “The Free Market”, it is said, will solve all our problems, and become the organizing principle the world over. The conflation of Capitalism and freedom itself has muted any debate that would suggest otherwise. At the same time, recent economic crises coupled with a growing clarity that unlimited growth is destroying the biosphere may suggest that the Capitalist era is coming to an end.

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What is wrong with this picture?

Orange County’s latest project cost $35 million and is located on a ten-acre campus with state-of-the-art housing for up to four hundred homeless occupants. Each separate area is entirely soundproof and temperature-controlled. The five-star facility is two stories and over thirty thousand square feet. It features a large reception area with friendly greeters, large outdoor recreational areas, well-marked drop-off locations, outstanding medical facilities, and classrooms for educational activities.

The Orange County Board of Supervisors is extremely proud of this facility, and one of the county supervisors has publicly stated that this huge expenditure serves a critical need in the county.

Did I mention that this facility, built on former a Marine Corps air station, is a shelter for dogs, cats, and other animals?

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Right and Wrong Times and Places

Those who believe there is a right and wrong time and place to protest injustices are those whose privilege keeps them from the injustices. Those who with Rev. Dr. M.L. King, Jr., live by the principle that the right time to do the right thing is now, privileged or not, remind us of the immorality of acquiescence, apathy, indifference, denial, negligence, and procrastination in confronting injustice and evil.

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Celebrate and Defend Real Religious Freedom

Every day at my job, I witness and celebrate America’s religious freedom in action. Through our Office of Religious Life, over 70 religious clubs from all the world’s faiths, including a secular humanist club, practice their traditions in harmony with each other. They compete with each other openly in the “marketplace” of ideas and practices on campus, with respect for each other and gratitude for the liberty they all enjoy. None of them complain to us that they are in any way oppressed or stifled. We’re a private campus, so we could impose all sorts of restrictions on them that would not be possible in the wider public sphere. But they have all the rights they’d have at a publicly-owned university, as well as many extra benefits for all of them – without any one faith tradition getting special privileges. What happens at the University Religious Center at USC is what real religious freedom looks like in America, and it’s a beautiful thing.

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An American Creed

There have been visionary voices in America throughout our history (Jefferson, Paine, Whitman, Emerson, Sojourner Truth, Douglas, Thoreau) who described America in terms of equality, freedom, justice, and civil rights, and even though the vision has never been entirely realized we have made a lot of progress on many fronts, progress that is, very regrettably, presently at grave risk of being lost. Now is no time for progressive thinkers to consider international escape or domestic surrender. Now is a time when people who are spiritually awake must stand and fight (through voting, demonstrations, protests, and possibly . . . revolution) to defend a vision of America about which we can be honestly patriotic.

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Dismayed on the Fourth of July: A Ministerial Journey with Donald Trump

Dismayed on the Fourth of July: A Ministerial Journey with Donald Trump
Growing up in a small town in southern Indiana, the Fourth of July meant friends coming to the house for a cookout, sitting on the front porch, devouring large chunks of sweet and juicy watermelon, and watching an Independence Day parade moving slowly down North Main Street. An American flag gently swayed in the afternoon breeze. The Fourth of July was about celebrating our country. It wasn’t about nationalism. It wasn’t about proclaiming that the United States was better than the rest of the world. Perhaps most notably, it was not a politicized holiday. It was a simple day, naïve to be sure, but a simple day of enjoying one another and remembering the founding of our nation.
I share these memories because I’m painfully aware of how differently the Fourth of July feels to me this year under the presidency of Donald J. Trump. I’m guessing it feels differently for many Americans this year. I’m also thinking about it because a few weeks ago I received an email criticizing me over how I have been mixing religion and politics in my sermons, Facebook posts, and in a few of my Take a Breath blogs. But the one word that caught my attention in his long vituperative email was dismayed. He stated that he was “dismayed” that I would make a negative comment about “our” president, President Trump.
No minister likes to receive this kind of email on a Monday morning, especially after preaching a sermon the day before, followed by the Coffee Fellowship hour (and fielding a variety of complaints about the anthem and altar flowers), and then a few committee meetings held later in the afternoon. Like most clergy, I prefer everyone to think that my sermons are brilliantly written and eloquently delivered. While I know a few clergy who thrive on stirring the pot week after week, I’m not one of them. I love the people in my congregation, and I also like it when they love me in return. (There. I said it.)
Yet my skin has been crawling the past few weeks because of that word “dismayed” and the upcoming holiday of the Fourth of July. The word dismayed literally means the negation of something that is true. Or at least potentially true. Yet it’s more than that. It suggests that I had crossed a social, ecclesiastical or theological line. It’s a word that carries with it overtones of disappointment and shame. He wasn’t merely saying that he disagreed with me; he was saying I should be ashamed of what I was saying regarding faith and the political realities of our world. To be dismayed doesn’t mean a difference of opinion; it suggests anguish, hurt and pain.
I’m too much of a curmudgeon these days for a scathing email to derail me. But it did throw me into a state of self-reflection over what it means to be a minister of the Christian faith during the Trump presidency. It has been a cloud, to be sure, or more like a fog, that touches everything about how I approach my work as a clergyperson.
I don’t want a church where everyone agrees with me. I have repeatedly urged my congregation, First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, to be a “journey” church and not an “answer” church. I love the diversity of thought and feeling in our congregation. As for myself, all I can do on a Sunday morning is preach the best message I know how to preach at any given moment of my life. I’ve changed my mind through the years. I’ve made mistakes through the years. But in the end, when the bells chime at 11:00 AM, it’s my job to say something about God and what is happening in the world. Or as Paul Tillich used to remind his students, my job is to help the gospel make contact with the world.
Knowing he was dismayed caused me to re-check my capacity for empathy. I don’t mean to suggest that I’m right and he’s wrong, or that I feel sorry for him because he hasn’t evolved to my point of view. I honestly want to understand what he thinks and believes. When people say they don’t want “politics in the church,” they may be acknowledging how stressful political discourse has become in our society, and that when they come to a worship service, they want to find something inspiring to help them make it through another week. I understand that. My view of faith is a little broader, because I happen to think Jesus was political. Faith should always be about interacting with our real world. I also think there’s a way to find refreshing spiritual renewal, while at the same time caring passionately about what is happening in our nation.
That said, after receiving his email, a new sense of clarity began taking shape inside my consciousness. I realized that I, too, am “dismayed.” Deeply, passionately, and theologically dismayed. I’m dismayed because of the presidency of Donald J. Trump. I’m anguished over what I see happening to our nation. In fact, I’m dismayed that more church members aren’t dismayed along with me, feeling a sense of outrage over issues of injustice and indignity that happen regularly in the political circus that is the Trump presidency.
I’m only now realizing that my feeling of being dismayed has shaped everything about who I am as a clergyperson for the past two years, including my sermons, posts and blogs. I’ve tried to restrain my feelings. I have had to talk myself off the ledge numerous times after writing vitriolic posts or deleting whole paragraphs, and in some cases, entire sermons on a Saturday night. But at a certain point, even a minister has to be honest about his or her real experience. I believe churches deserve our honesty.
My real experience is that I am dismayed . . .
I am dismayed because, at least according to the Washington Post, this president has lied to the American people over 3000 times, and that it is now to the point that no one knows what is true and what is false, what is spin and what is fact. The White House cannot be trusted. This is a fundamental loss in our country. The idea of not bearing “false witness” is essential to the Jewish and Christian faiths, and in fact, it is an essential dimension of morality found in all the great religions of the world.
I am dismayed that this president has created foreign policy chaos, including breaking alliances with longtime allies and friends and making our world a more dangerous and unpredictable place. As a clergyperson, I believe we live in a global village, and now more than ever the complexity of the world must be approached with wisdom, insight and intellectual rigor. The survival of the planet now depends upon the moral reasoning of our global leaders, and this is a special burden of responsibility that the President of the United States of America must carry. Even his handshake diplomacy with North Korea feels nervously shaky and unclear.
I am dismayed that this president, during a real-time climate disaster, has withdrawn the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, not to mention leading an administration that continues to roll back important regulations and environmental protections. My faith moves me to understand the earth as the body of God, and how we treat the earth is how we are treating the great Spirit of love that is in all things, through all things, and above all things. Furthermore, it has been proven again and again that those who suffer most from a collapsing environment are the poorest of the world’s poor. This is not a political issue; climate change is a moral issue.
I am dismayed that this president regularly diminishes the American justice system, including the work of men and women in the Department of Justice, CIA and FBI, and that he has continued to use the Attorney General as his personal piñata. Many of these people kept our nation safe after 9/11. We are a nation of laws, and these laws have their roots in a democratic vision established in the original founding of our nation. While I believe in the separation of church and state, and I have never publicly endorsed a political candidate, I know enough about American history to note that religious faith fundamentally shaped our democracy that is based upon law and not personality.
I am dismayed that this president continues to undercut the work of the special prosecutor, Robert Mueller, and is now arguing that, as president, he is above the law, immune to indictment and empowered with the authority, not only to pardon his friends, such as Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort, but is able to pardon himself. I am old enough to remember the crisis of Richard Nixon and Watergate. I had come to believe that our nation understood that no one is above the law, including the president. As a clergyperson, I understand that the misuse of power is one of the great moral issues of our time, and that all power, whether political, ecclesiastical or corporate, must be used judiciously and with unblinking self-honesty.
I am dismayed that this president regularly diminishes women, and for that matter, almost anyone different from himself. Evidently he as bought the silence of many women in order to protect his reputation. My faith embraces an egalitarian view of women, believing that they have every right to make contributions to the church and world, and when this president diminishes one woman, he is diminishing all women. Moreover, his vulgarization of women provides a cultural permission slip for other men to do the same, something that is regressive and reprehensible, especially given the realities of the “Me-Too Movement” at the beginning of the 21st century.
I am dismayed that this president has offered no humane, compassionate, constructive solution to the challenge of immigration in our country. Building a wall is not a solution; it is only a clichéd campaign slogan. Again, my faith encourages me to love my neighbor as myself, especially caring for the stranger and those who are most vulnerable in life. Even as I write, parents and children are being separated at the southern border of America, all in the name of American justice. If this is American justice, then it is an America I clearly do not recognize. This strategy betrays everything good and true thing about Jesus, who said centuries ago, “Let the little children come unto me.”
I am dismayed that this president has not exhibited the moral capacity to understand the anguish of African Americans in our country, especially when he argues that there are “good” neo-Nazis and white supremacists, not to mention publicly shaming black athletes protesting police violence by peacefully kneeling during the national anthem. Of course, his personal endorsement of disgraced actress Roseanne Barr, who was recently fired because of abhorrent racist tweets, is deplorable enough. But when given an opportunity to respond to her incendiary remarks, the president turned it into a narcissistic complaint about his own sense of injustice. My faith teaches me that all people are children of God and that every human being deserves respect and dignity.
A few months ago I was watching the television show “Morning Joe,” and they were lamenting the troubles of the day as they do most mornings, but that day the conversation turned to religion. The panel went back and forth until someone asked: “Where are the ministers now? Are any of them speaking up?” These are important questions. Jim Wallis? Of course he’s speaking up. Al Sharpton? Yes, he always speaks up. William Barber? Yes, he’s leading the Poor People’s Campaign. But when you’re in a parish, seeing the same people week after week, it’s not easy to speak up. We love our people and our people love us. People want all kinds of things from their church, including spiritual renewal for their challenging lives. And yes, I’m guessing that a few people in my church voted for Donald Trump.
Yet people also want some truth. From time to time I think people need (and deserve) to know what their minister really thinks and feels. It’s risky, to be sure. And it’s challenging. Maybe it can’t be done every Sunday. I don’t know. The full spectrum of life has to be honored in a parish context. But every now and then I’m convinced it’s good for the church and good for the minister to just say it, to stand up and say what he or she is really thinking and feeling and believing. As for me, on the birthday of our nation, July 4th, 2018, it seems like a good day for me to say what I am feeling – I am dismayed. I am dismayed on the Fourth of July.

R. Scott Colglazier is Senior Minister of First Congregational Church of Los Angeles and the author of the popular online blog – “Take a Breath” (www.rscolglazier.com). His work as a religious leader has been featured in The New York Times, the CBS Morning Show and CNN.
I’m painfully aware of how differently the Fourth of July feels to me this year under the presidency of Donald J. Trump. I’m guessing it feels differently for many Americans this year. I’m also thinking about it because a few weeks ago I received an email criticizing me over how I have been mixing religion and politics in my sermons, Facebook posts, and in a few of my Take a Breath blogs. But the one word that caught my attention in his long vituperative email was dismayed. He stated that he was “dismayed” that I would make a negative comment about “our” president, President Trump.

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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 Other Side of Anger

I am convinced that the majority of us are people of hope. If we didn’t have hope we would find it difficult to get up in the morning or put one foot in front of the other as we struggled to get through ordinary and even difficult days. However, I believe it is important to know there is a place for anger to be embedded in hope and to spur us to release compassionate action.

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How Can We Help the Homeless This Summer?

Living as a homeless person is hard enough as it is. However, when you have to endure harsh weather conditions, like a heatwave, many homeless individuals may find themselves in an even tougher situation. As a result, the underprivileged need our help more than ever during the summer months.

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