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Showing posts from August, 2008

What is Pro-Life?

The selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain's VP has the Conservative Christian (i.e. Pro-Life) base excited. She may not know much else, but she's pro-life and that's good enough. But enough about Sarah Palin. The question I want to raise has to do with the definition of pro-life.

I am a Democrat and supporter of a presidential ticket that is pro-choice, though both are devout and professing Christians. There are those in the Christian community that insist that unless one is anti-abortion one is not only not pro-life but beyond the pale as far as being a Christian. How can I be a pastor and support pro-choice candidates, they ask?

In answer to the question I pose a few of my own.

1. When does life begin?

The easy answer is at conception, and while that may be technically true, is that when human life begins? This is important not only for the debate about abortion but also stem cell research. Beyond this, on what basis is this decision made? Is this based on sc…

The Church and the Politics of Compassion

I'm preaching tomorrow about meeting God again for the first time -- see my sermon blog Words of Welcome. In preparation I've been hanging around in Marcus Borg's book The God We Never Knew (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1997). Near the end of the book he talks about the "Politics of Compassion." He writes:

The church is to be the leaven of compassion in the world. In our time becoming leaven of compassion means consciousness-raising in local congregations about the social vision of the great voices of the biblical tradition, about the way social structures impact peoples lives, and about the contrast between compassion as a social vision and today's dominant political ethos.(p. 152).

Whether one is Republican, Democrat, Independent, Third Party, whatever, as Christians compassion should be the foundation of our political ethic. If we're to ask: What Would Jesus Do? I think Jesus would answer -- be compassionate, care for the poor and the oppressed…

Sarah Palin -- What does a VP do?

Thanks to Brad Hart

Who is Sarah Palin?

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I must say that while I'd heard of Sarah Palin and knew that she was governor of Alaska, about all I knew about her before yesterday is that she was on some people's short list and that she'd had a baby recently. Like all of you, I'm still getting a sense of who she is. Indeed, John McCain probably knows about as much as we do!

That said, what is interesting is her ideological pedigree. Yes, she has a brief record as a sort of crusading reformer, standing up to oil interests and her own party. Indeed, it appears that Democrats in Alaska have a better opinion of her than the leaders of her own party. That being said, it should be telling that the group that has greeted this news with the greatest enthusiasm are leaders of the Religious Right. They see in Palin a standard bearer for the Conservative Christian agenda. Before yesterday the Right has been tepid in its support of McCain, who seems to have wanted Joe Lieberman on his ticket. When the powers that be in …

The Post-American World -- Review

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THE POST AMERICAN WORLD. By Fareed Zakaria. New York: W.W. Norton, 2008. 292 pp.

America is the lone superpower in the world, its influence touching just about every corner of the world and beyond. America alone has been to the moon, after all. A book with the title The Post-American World seems strangely out of place. Surely this is premature? Yes, America is bogged down in a costly and unpopular war in Iraq and its stature around the world is diminished, but still there’s no nation that can measure up with this one.

Appearances can be deceiving, or at least that’s the message of Fareed Zakaria’s insightful book – a book that Barack Obama has been pictured holding as he boarded a plane. Zakaria is editor of Newsweek International and has a CNN show of his own. There are similarities in style and perspective here to the New York Times’ Tom Friedman, but there are also differences as well – just in case you’re not a Friedman fan. Zakaria comes at his subject with his own …

Questionable Judgment

They say that the choice of a vice president candidate reveals a lot about a presidential nominee. Barack Obama chose Joe Biden, an experienced hand, ready to step in should need arise. Yes, Biden fills in some of Obama's gaps in experience, but most importantly he's tested.

John McCain has made much of Obama's resume, suggesting that Obama isn't ready to be president. So, what does he do? He selects as his running mate a first term governor who has been in office for only 2 years, and before that was mayor of a town of less than 10,000 people. I'm sure she's a great governor for Alaska, but isn't this a rather big jump?

As my wife and I heard her speak -- I was waiting to hear her -- I must say both of us were underwhelmed. Now, that might be expected of me, but Cheryl's not the die-hard partisan like me, but she was not impressed.

So, why did he choose a governor with such little experience -- virtually no foreign policy experience? Well, I th…

Eight is Enough!

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Last night, before a crowd of more than 85,000 people, Barack Obama accepted the nomination of the Democratic Party and laid down the gauntlet. He rebutted the criticism and laid down an agenda. He contrasted his temperament and judgment with John McCain's "experience." He said -- Eight is Enough, that is, we've had enough of the Bush-GOP years, and now it's time for change.

Obama spoke eloquently of his roots and grounding, rebutting the idea that he's merely a celebrity filling a suit. He shared his commitment to the welfare of the American people -- without calling into question McCain's character.

McCain has a compelling story, but that story in itself is not proof he should be elected. He has a Maverick reputation, but in recent years he has backed off all of his previous commitments and embraced the Bush agenda (voting 90-95% of the time with Bush). He once called Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson agents of intolerance, and yet this year sought th…

A Historic Moment for America

When this nation was founded much of the African American population of the new country was the property of white owners. These slave owners embraced the principles of freedom enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, but they did not see fit to extend them to persons of color.

It was not until 1864, in the midst of a Civil War, that a proclamation was issued that released slaves in the states of the Confederacy (but not all slaves). Still, Blacks were not truly free and would not be truly free for another century.

Forty-five years ago today, in Washington, DC, as the culminating moment of the March on Washington, Martin Luther King gave his famous "I have a Dream" speech. That speech spoke of a new day when people of every race and creed might sit down together in peace. We are still working on that dream. It was but five years later that a gunman took down that messenger of hope for our nation.

Tonight, at Invesco Field, an African American man,…

No Way, No How, No McCain!

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These are the words that Hillary Clinton uttered last night in a major speech, in which she gave her unwavering support for Barack Obama. Oh, the GOP operatives are parsing her speech, hoping to undermine the level of support. They want you to believe that it's tepid and mechanical, but if so, then she gave her best speech I've ever heard in mechanical fashion.

She made it clear that this is a pivotal election, that John McCain will hold back America, that John McCain will not provide affordable health care to all Americans.

She also told her supporters to remember why they had supported her -- what issues drew them to her candidacy -- and then told them to join together with the Obama supporters to take back the White House and restore America's promise.

So, was it effective?. I do think so. But ultimately I'm not her audience. But, I'm quite pleased!

And as she said:

No Way, No How, No McCain!

Missional and Progressive

I'm reading A Field Guide for the Missional Congregation by Rick Rouse and Craig Van Gelder (Fortress, 2008). In part I'm reading this because I've been looking for a primer on the missional church movement to use with my Elders. I'm just getting started with this brief book, but as I was reading I started thinking -- how might we be missional and progressive? I ask this question because the more I read in missional oriented works I keep getting reminded that by most definitions to be missional is to be evangelical -- even conservative in theology even if not in practice. Yet, I'm drawn to the missional ideal because I believe that if the church is to be renewed it must understand that it's work must be tied up with what God is doing -- in the neighborhood. Thus, we become agents of God's mission. So, taking a break, I looked up the words missional and progressive. Doing so I came upon a piece by my former philosophy professor at Fuller -- Jack Rogers.…

A Democratic Prayer?

The Democratic Party is seen by many, both inside and outside the party, as the more secular political entity of the two major parties. That Barack Obama has spoken more openly about faith and invited the involvement of people of faith into the process has cheered some and frightened others. There are questions about whether liberal Christians (like myself) might too closely identify with the Democratic Party and thus be co-opted (as Conservative Christians have with the GOP). Yesterday, as the DNC Convention opened in Denver there was an interfaith forum and then last night an Evangelical -- Donald Miller -- gave the invocation. I understand it was controversial. I didn't see it or hear it live, but did find the transcript on his website. I post it and invite your thoughts. Note that it touches on issues that are dear to most Progressives but ends with the invocation of Jesus. The question many will have is this: In this forum is the invocation of Jesus appropriate? I welcome you…

The Battle Begins!

Today the Democratic Party Convention opens in Denver and everyone's in a dither about Obama's apparent shrinking lead over John McCain and the supposed defections by Hillary supporters. So, what's going to happen? Is Obama going to lose to John McCain? Of course that's always a possibility. Remember that the US Women's softball team which never loses came in second in the Olympics -- so it's possible. But . . .

Here's my thoughts on this:

1. John McCain is a very flawed candidate, whose primary claim is that he's a former POW. That makes him a war hero, but it doesn't qualify him to be President. He claims to be a Maverick -- even suggesting that things are worse off now than 4 years ago, and that he's stood up to the President. Well, the fact is, McCain has embraced almost all of Bush's policies and voted with Bush 95% of the time.

2. There is plenty of time to get things in order. The Warren Forum reports, which seems to have sug…

Who is Jesus?

Having read through Doug Pagitt's interesting book -- A Christianity Worth Believing -- I found intriguing his take on Jesus. He admits that in moving away from what he calls the Greek Jesus -- the one who served as a bridge between an angry and distant God and a sinful humanity -- to one rooted in the Jewish tradition he was forced to ask the question: Who is Jesus for me? In other words, if he's not simply a means to an end (rescue from divine judgment), then what should we make of Jesus?

He writes:

The Christian faith finds its center in the story of Jesus not because this is where the problem of God's anger is solved. Jesus is the core of Christianity because it is through Jesus that we see the fullness of God's hopes for the world. Jesus is the redemption of the creation plan. He shows us what it means to live in partnership with our creator. He leads us into what it means to be integrated with God. (Doug Pagitt, A Christianity Worth Believing, p. 195).
Of co…

A Christianity Worth Believing -- Review

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A CHRISTIANITY WORTH BELIEVING: Hope-Filled, Open-Armed, Alive-and-Well Faith for the Left out, Left Behind, and Let Down in us All. By Doug Pagitt. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008. xiii + 242 pages.

What is Emergent Christianity? That is a question that continues to roll around the Christian neighborhood. It is evangelical – or at least it has clear evangelical roots. Proponents like Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones speak of it as more a conversation among friends than even a movement. Although it is evangelical in many senses, it isn’t your parent’s variety of evangelicalism. It is more open in its theology and broader in its social concerns. At many levels it appears to be a bridge to more liberal main liners. As one who emerged from a similar milieu (I’m a Fuller graduate after all), I continually wonder if I would have become part of this group had I been just a decade younger (I will admit that Brian McLaren is older than me, but . . . ).

In Christianity Worth Believing –…

Retro-Political ads -- from John Adams in 1800?

The blog American Creation posted this you-tube send up of what a John Adams ad might have looked like in 1800. Remember the Adams team was warning that the libertine Jefferson would take America down the road to ruin. Of course, that didn't prove to be correct, but this fictive retelling is quite illuminating and fun!!


Politics, Religion and Modern Life

A commenter to this blog found my political commentary oddly out of place for a blog calling itself "Pondering on a Faith Journey." My quick response was: politics is part of life, so I've chosen to comment on it. Now, I don't believe for one minute that politicians will solve all our problems. On the other hand, I do believe in the importance of good government, government that is compassionate and concerned about the people who make up the "Polis."

The commenter also suggested that Jesus steered clear of politics, but many contemporary biblical scholars, from Walter Wink to Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg to Tom Wright would disagree. There was a reason the man from Galilee went to the cross, and it wasn't simply because the hands of Pilate and Caiaphas were driven by God so that the sins of humanity might be washed away in a sea of divine-human blood. The Kingdom of God is very different from that of Caesar, but it still has political ramification…

It's Obama-Biden

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The news is in -- Barack Obama has chosen Joe Biden to be his running mate. I believe that this is a very good choice. Biden as I said yesterday offers Obama an independent and experienced voice to temper his own change agenda. Biden's experience in foreign affairs and with the judiciary committee's will be especially helpful. Biden has strong blue collar credentials and is a devout (if pro-choice) Catholic.

Yes, Joe tends to talk a lot and he said some things in the heat of campaigning that suggested Obama was a bit wet behind the ears. But hey, that's part of the process. He's said nice things about John McCain, but where's the sin in that. Orrin Hatch and Ted Kennedy are friends as well.

There were other strong possibilities, but the timing wasn't right. This was the match for this time and place, and it's a good one.

So, now we move forward, knowing who will be the Democratic banner carriers.

By the way, thanks to Bruce Tomaso of the Dallas Morning …

The VP Decision

Tomorrow we will know who Barack Obama has chosen for VP. There has been a lot of speculation running out there, and I've had my thoughts on the process. But now that we're down to the wire, speculation suggests Joe Biden.

David Brooks says he hopes Biden's the one. I don't always agree with Brooks, often don't (perhaps more often than not), but I think he may be on to something. Whatever Biden's flaws, most of them are right out on the surface -- he talks too much. But, Biden is a fighter and he's experienced. He's blue collar and Catholic. He's old school, but open to the future. He's independent, which is something Obama says he's looking for in a VP.

In recent months I've thought that this or that one might be a good choice, but given everything, choosing Joe Biden is probably the best thing he can do. We'll see, but I think this is a good move (if it happens). Of course, I've always liked him!

Clergy Compensation

As a Protestant pastor I've not taken a vow of poverty. I am a well educated (Ph.D.) pastor of a formerly large congregation that has diminished in size. I make a decent salary and can live comfortably. I have health insurance (but not dental), a solid pension, continuing education moneys, and a nice tax break on my housing expenses.

So, what is average? Apparently the national average is slightly more than $81,000 in total compensation. I make slightly more than that. Presbyterians, as one might expect, make the most. And education makes a significant difference in pay -- as does of course the size of congregation.

So, what is appropriate compensation? And should pastors negotiate for a suitable salary? When I was in seminary a pastor speaking to a class shared that we get paid not for doing ministry but rather so that we might not have to work at another job -- freeing us up to do this specialized ministry. I think there is some truth to that. There is also the issue …

Tax Game

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John McCain says that Barack Obama will raise middle class tax rates -- well here's what the two tax plans will likely do. From the LA Times -- What do you think?

Ode to Marty's MEMO

I've been a long time Christian Century reader, and through these many years I have often turned first to Martin Marty's inside-the-back-cover column. Of course, he started writing this column long before I became a subscriber -- indeed, Marty has been with the Century longer than I've been alive. So, it's with great sadness to read that with this most recent issue -- the one that arrived in my mail box yesterday (and not the one that is currently linked on the website) -- the column comes to an end. I know that they will bring together valuable and important columns to "replace" it, but it won't have the same wit and energy that MEMO has had. Now, Marty will still be writing for the Century, just not in the same place or likely as often. Times are a changin' as I tell my congregation, and this is as true with a journal as it is with the rest of life. So, thank you Martin Marty for being such a blessing to so many!

Faith and Politics -- the Warren Dilemma

I don't know what the ratings for Saturday evening's forum were -- after all, it took place right in the middle of the Olympics. The punditry seems to have come down all over the place. It's obvious that McCain knew the crowd (though Rick Warren claimed on Larry King last night that the two campaigns had equal numbers of tickets -- but, if that's true it sure didn't seem that way from my brief observation of the proceedings). So, who won? Who knows.

I find it interesting that Welton Gaddy (Interfaith Alliance) in his blog response (Progressive Revival) found Warren's demeanor and much of the questioning to be both civil and helpful. But, the focus on faith professions (what does Christ mean to you?) and even the location of the forum in a church to be problematic.

In response to Pastor Warren's questions on religion, both John McCain and Barack Obama seemed compelled to offer confessions of faith as a credential for their attractiveness as a candidate fo…

Obama and Families

We hear a lot about family values. What exactly does that mean? For some it means being anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, and pro-tax cuts (for the rich?). But might not family values mean something much broader? Might it have to do with education, health care, jobs, housing?

From the response given to John McCain Saturday evening at the Rick Warren event, you may be led to believe that evangelicals are strongly in his camp. Yes, they cheered his answers, which to me seemed almost pandering.

But not all Christians nor all evangelicals stand in McCain's camp, nor do all evangelicals define family values in quite the same way.

There is an ad for Obama (which some people have seen as being anti-McCain) that reminds us that families are very important to him. Among the people appearing in this ad are Brian McLaren and George Bush's pastor, Kirby John Caldwell.

Take a look and a listen -- it's from the Matthew 25 group and is not sponsored by Obama's campaign.


All the People are Welcome

My congregation isn't part of the United Church of Christ -- though we're partners (Disciples of Christ) -- but this commercial is excellent and represents the vision I have for our congregation.


The Russian Push in Georgia

Even as we remain bogged down in Afghanistan (with a resurgent Taliban) and Iraq (who want us out now), the Russians have gone hunting for lost territory. For a time, the Russians seemed like a downtrodden nation, moving backwards in time. But while things aren't pretty there, the Russians have been flexing their muscles -- becoming in many ways the bullies of the neighborhood. They have been stirring up trouble in neighboring countries (all former Soviet Republics) and with the invasion of Georgia, seem intent on regaining their power in the region. They signed a cease-fire but have shown no signs they plan to honor it. They claim to be protecting pro-Moscow residents in two breakaway republics, but seem intent on regaining dominance in a pro-western nation. Georgia made a terrible mistake in invading South Ossetia, but the days since have shown that the Russians have no fear of the West.

The Bush doctrine on "pre-emptive" war seems to have attracted a following in…

Politics and the Faith Forum

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Last night Barack Obama and John McCain appeared for separate conversations with RickWarren, pastor of the Southern Baptist congregation Saddleback Community Church. Saddleback is a conservative evangelical church sitting in a fairly conservative part of Southern California. Warren has become an important evangelical voice in many ways because he has not engaged in strident political efforts. He's conservative on the conservative issues, but he's broadened the agenda to things like AIDS and poverty.

So, last night the two presidential candidates appeared. I was out of town with my wife for a weekend away so I didn't watch the whole thing -- caught the last half hour of Obama and watched the first 1/2 hour of McCain. Therefore, I can't compare their answers, but here's my observation.

Obama was talking about things like the economy and taxes. He got positive response from the crowd, especially when he said that if we want things like good schools and roads witho…

What does it mean to be 50?

I turned 50 in March. I think that this was a life-changing event for me. In many ways it pushed me to move toward taking a new position. So, when I heard that Madonna turned 50 today, I began to wonder what it means to be 50. From the time that Madonna broke onto the scene she has helped set the cultural bar. So, I'm wondering what she'll do next?

Like a Good Neighbor -- Recognized in Troy

A profile piece went into today's local twice a week paper the Troy Eccentric. It was fun to see this appear on the front page. Take a look and enjoy: "New Pastor Promises to be a Good Neighbor."

Founding Faith -- A Review

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FOUNDING FAITH: Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America. By Steven Waldman. New York: Random House, 2008. xvi + 277 pages.

It is no secret that Americans are a religious people. More than any other developed nation, we not only believe in God, but we regularly go to church, synagogue, mosque, and temple. We do this without any social inducement or government coercion. This is true, because at the core of American life is the belief that we should be free to believe and practice our faith as we choose. That belief has enabled the faithful to remain steadfast in their beliefs and practices, even as much of the rest of the Western world has become increasingly secularized.

The secret to this American success can be traced back to the nation’s founding, to a time when a group of British colonies, most of which had established churches, threw off their rulers, established a new nation, and came to the conclusion that the religious pluralism already prese…

A Changing World

The World is Changing, and with it America's role is changing. Although we still have the most powerful military in the world, our place in the world is different from what it was even a decade ago. Look at the world today. Iran is becoming an important and perhaps dominant regional power -- whether or not it has or gains nuclear weapons. Economically things are changing. Watching the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics offers a view into a nation that is emerging as a major player in the world. This event has shown what China can do -- and that we can do little to intervene in what they do. In many ways the only thing that separates them from superpowerdom is a strong navy and that may come. The conflict that has erupted in Georgia is another sign of the changes in the world. President Bush has spoken to Putin and Mevedev, has issued his complaints, but he's really in no position to object. The Russians can say in return, what's the difference from what we&#…

War in the Caucasus Region

Even as the Olympics are underway, war is afoot in the Caucuses. Russians and Georgians have been at war over the region of South Ossetia, a region that has been part of Georgia, but which is pro-Moscow. I'm not sure who started this, but whatever the cause numerous civilians have died and have been put in harms way. This also shows that the break up of the Soviet Empire has left the region deeply troubled.

At the same time America has little influence, indeed as I listen to Americans chide the Russians for their aggression, our own aggression in Iraq undermines our witness. Did we not do much the same thing as the Russians have done? Again, we have lost our moral foundations, making our efforts to bring peace ring hollow.

The people of this region are in my thoughts and prayers. May they find peace and a solution to their boundary disputes.

Offering a Positive Message

I've been trying to stay away from the political angles lately in part because I'd found myself focusing on them when I got to the blog. But, living here in Michigan I've been bombarded by extremely negative and even nasty John McCain ads. I've yet to see a positive one. And from what I can see the ads will continue to be in that vein.

Barack Obama has, of course, offered his responses and called into question McCain's positions, but unlike McCain he's tried to stay away from attacking his character. Yes, the mud slinging has been effective. Yes, McCain has seemingly closed the gap. But turning negative without any positives would in the end seem to be self-defeating.

So, here check out this ad from Obama, which will be going up during the Olympics. Note the contrast between this and what we've been seeing from the McCain camp. When you watch this, ask who you would rather have lead us in the coming years?


Defining Heresy part two

My posing the question about the definition of heresy has created an interesting conversation -- something I of course like to see! Michael raised the question of my equating heresy and heterodoxy. With that in mind, I looked up the terms in the Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology (a largely British work published in 1983). In this dictionary Alan Richardson does short work with the term heterodoxy = "Contrary to the received opinion; unorthodox." Stephen Sykes, however, goes into some detail as to the definition and usage of the term heresy.

He writes:

The traditional meaning of the term was rigorously defined in medieval canon law to signify the sin of a person who, having been baptized and calling him or herself a Christian, denies a defined doctrine of the faith even after having been formally instructed. 'Formal' heresy is such persistent adherence to erroneous teaching; 'material' heresy means adherence to error, without any culpability (…

Defining Heresy

In an earlier posting I asked the question: What is a Christian? That question came up in part because of questions about Barack Obama's faith profession. By some people's measure, he's not one. The question arises then about heresy -- and who is a heretic.

First, regarding Obama, it might be interesting to point out that in the 1800 election the John Adams campaign ran against Thomas Jefferson's apparent lack of religious conviction. Adams, was in the minds of some the Christian candidate -- note however that while Adams was more "religious" than Jefferson and considered himself a Christian, he was also a Unitarian. What is also interesting is that the group that put Jefferson over the top were Baptists!

But back to heresy. The word heresy is a synonym for heterodoxy -- that is, other than orthodox. To a Trinitarian a Unitarian is heterodox, but wouldn't the committed Unitarian see the Trinitarian as heterodox? Indeed, in many ways Christianit…

Confessing a Faith

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I asked the question: What is a Christian? It's a question that has raised questions and has led to some denunciations not just of Barack Obama, but me as a well. As I think about my faith and what that means for me, I should share that I am a pastor of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). We are a non-creedal church, limiting our confession of faith to the simple statement that "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and my Lord and Savior." This simple confession is based on Peter's own confession (Mt. 16). It's simple and a bit open ended -- though it does place some parameters on who we are. Indeed, to be a Christian seems to imply (if nothing else) that Jesus makes a difference in one's life.
We're non-creedal (no official tests of fellowship), but we have created a variety of instruments to help confess faith -- even if no confession can be considered a test of fellowship. Here is the Preamble to the Design -- the official constituti…

Principles for Reading the Bible

The Bible is a Sacred book. In it Christians and Jews find words from God. But finding such a word requires a certain amount of work. The Protestant Principle has declared that Scripture has sufficient clarity that we as human beings can sit down, read it, and understand it. We don't necessarily need inspired interpreters, because it is clear enough. But to say that doesn't mean that it's an easy task. For some Scripture is a "sacred text" that must be approached differently from any other text. But, is that an appropriate principle?

Alexander Campbell, a founder of the movement I'm a member of, wrote nearly more than 150 years ago these words:

God has spoken by men, to men, for men. The language of the Bible is, then human language. It is, therefore, to be examined by the same rules which are applicable to the language of any other book, and to be understood according to the true and proper meaning of the words, in their current acceptation, at the …

Who is a Christian?

A piece written by Chicago Sun-Times writer Carol Falsani explores this question. Entitled "I have faith Obama has faith," it's a response to a piece written by Cal Thomas in response to her own earlier interview with Barack Obama. In that 2004 interview Falsani had talked with Obama about his faith. Thomas says, from reading this, that whatever Obama may claim -- he's not a Christian. Falsani responds that from what Obama is very sincere about his faith, believes that he has a personal relationship with Jesus, but approaches faith humbly, refraining from questioning the faiths of others. Because Thomas -- like many Fundamentalists (and even atheists like Sam Harris) has a narrow view of Christianity that requires an exclusivist perspective then Obama fails to measure up. Of course, if we insist that our interpretation of Christianity is the only proper one then of course we set ourselves up as judges. Now, it is appropriate to raise questions about faith statements a…