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Showing posts from April, 2010

The Dangers of Spiritual Amnesia

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Being a historian, I love to talk about the past.  I'm especially interested in talking about such obscure groups as the Nonjurors.  You  ask: who are the Nonjurors?   Well that is a subject for another day -- but here's a link just in case you're really curious. 
But, more to the point, American Christians have a tendency to relegate history to the back burner of the conversation.  We're all about the present and the future.  We'd just as soon not get stuck in the past, unless of course we're daydreaming about mythical golden ages when everyone was a Christian and the nation was Christian.  There is a tendency, as well to recreate history to suit our own purposes -- as we saw recently with the Texas Textbook Committee.  Or maybe we'll develop the hubris to think that our age is the beginning of the next great age of faith, surpassing all that came before. 
Diana Butler Bass wrote a piece yesterday for her new Huffington Postblog posting entitled "Is W…

Here be Nephites -- Sightings

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I have long had a fascination with the history of the Mormon church.  It, like my own church, has its roots on the American frontier.  In fact, a number of early Mormon leaders, including Sidney Rigdon and Parley P. Pratt, were "Campbellites" prior to joining with Joseph Smith.  So, my ears perk up when I hear something new emerging from the LDS community.  In today's edition of Sightings, Seth Perry and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Chicago, writes about a new theory as to the identity of the Nephites -- suggesting a Heartland Theory that has Nativist tendencies -- a movement within the LDS church that has implications for its future and may even include Glenn Beck among its supporters.  Intriguing essay!
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Sightings 4/29/10



Here be Nephites -- Seth Perry

The Book of Mormon is widely viewed as the quintessentially American scripture of a quintessentially American faith, but in strictly geographical terms this designat…

Genesis for Everyone Parts One and Two -- Review

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GENESIS FOR EVERYONE: Part One, Chapters 1-16. By John Goldingay. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010. 197 pp. GENESIS FOR EVERYONE: Part Two, Chapters 17-50. By John Goldingay. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. 186 pp.

Genesis is the beginning of the story, starting creation and moving toward the creation of a people called Israel. Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Leah and Rachel, and Joseph and brothers, these are the foundational stories, but the distance between that book and our day is quite wide and thus we need good and helpful guides. John Goldingay, David Hubbard Professor of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary, seeks to offer us that guide.
The title of the book defines the audience quite well. This a set of commentaries – two in all – that focus on Genesis, written with a broad set of readers in mind. It doesn’t presuppose any expertise in the Bible, even providing at the end of each volume a glossar…

Being Church in Cyberspace (Kimberly Knight)

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While at the Theology after Google conference in March, I had the opportunity to meet in person Kimberly Knight, someone I had earlier met on Facebook.  In the course of our conversations I discovered that she was ministering in an on-line world called Second Life.  Now, I've never ventured into the Second Life world, but found her descriptions of the potential for being church intriguing.  So, I asked her if she'd like to share with my readers something of what this all entails.  Here is the first offering, which is reposted from the blog Sacred Space in Cyberspace.  I invite you to explore with Kimberly this idea and share your thoughts -- how do you feel about worshiping in cyberspace?
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Just over 3 years ago when I had been in Second Life (SL) for barely a month I began to get an inkling of the powerful potential for ministry - real connections, real community in an online world. I am not entirely sure why it just made sense to me – it…

The Double Vision of our Conquest Narratives

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How do you feel about the book of Joshua?  It's the story of a conquest, the story of a displacement of a people already living in the land, so that another people can have a place to live.  In fact, according to the narrative, God unleashes genocide upon the inhabitants.  Consider the story of Ai in chapter 8, where God commands the slaughter of the entire population, including women and children -- 12,000 in all.
What do we make of these conquest narratives?  The biblical one and our own?   How  exactly was the West won?
Dr. Daniel Hawk, an Old Testament Professor at Ashland Theological Seminary, has a new commentary out on this book and this subject.  It's entitled Joshua in 3-D.  I've not read the commentary -- though if you stop by Allan Bevere's blog you can order it for 40% off (I must do this!).  Dan Hawk is in the midst of a series of guest posts at Allan's blog, the latest being entitled "Double Vision."  As with earlier posts, Dan weaves together…

Good News from Progressive Christianity (Bruce Epperly)

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Bruce Epperly returns with the fourth in his series on the nature of Progressive Christianity.  In today's post, he takes on the question of evangelism, and why Progressives have good news to share.  Bruce's previous post gave a basic definition of a Spirit-centered Progressive Christianity.
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GOOD NEWS FROM PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIANITY Bruce Epperly

Just mention evangelism among a group of progressive Christians and typically you’ll be met with an uneasy silence. Many of us remember the hard-sell “turn or burn” evangelistic techniques of our childhood or recall unpleasant encounters with street corner revivalists. On more than one occasion, most of us progressives have been told that we’re bound for hell because of our theological beliefs, gender identity, or openness to persons of other religions. But, since most of us don’t believe in hell, and, in many cases, do not have strong images of the afterlife, we lack incentive to share the…

Down on the Border -- Wrestling with Arizona's Inhumane Anti-Immigrant Law

I was hoping to get Robin Hoover to write something up for the blog about the situation in Arizona.  Robin is a Disciples pastor in Tuscon, AZ and a tireless worker on behalf of migrants who founded a ministry more than a decade ago called Humane Borders.  I said, I hoped to get a piece from him.  But all he had time for was this brief statement sent via his Blackberry:
No time to write. Get goups down here. Protest where you are. Send resources for migrants, dollars for advocacy. Maybe that's all that needs to be said, but of course more needs to be said.
It is interesting that right now, as Arizona seeks to clamp down on migration from the south by requiring the police to stop and question anyone who seems suspicious -- a law that, despite the promises by the governor that such a thing won't happen, is bound to lead to racial profiling and infringement on civil rights, efforts are underway to delay discussion on immigration reform.   It is our unwillingness to deal with immigra…

Israel's Holy War -- Sightings

In recent months we have watched as the government of Israel has consistently rebuffed the requests by the White House to freeze its settlement building activities.  All of this is to no avail -- perhaps in part due to the fact that members of Congress are unwilling to support the President -- as the settlements expand and the situation becomes more dire.   Those of us who want a just peace in that area are continually frustrated by the actions on all sides, but the ideological direction of the Israeli leadership is troubling. 
Martin Marty notes that rarely if ever has his Sightings column ventured into the Israeli situation, but a review of four books on the Israeli military in the New York Review of Books caught his eye.  There is a dangerous trend in Israeli military circles as more extreme religious views take root.  Thus, just war is being replaced with holy war ideas.  That does not bode well for peace.   I invite you to read and respond.
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Following the Good Shepherd -- Sermon

John 10:22-30


I would like to begin this morning by reading the Twenty-third Psalm from the King James Version, because it is the version that we know best.

1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. (Psalm 23, King James Version)It’s a commonly held belief that sheep are dumb animals. This belief has given rise to the phrase "to fleece," which is used in reference to stealing from a person who is unaware of what is taking…

The Stranger in our Midst

The people of God have long been a wandering people.  The Old Testament is filled with directives concerned with the way the alien is to be treated -- because they had been strangers in a strange land.  From the Torah we hear this directive:
33When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. 34The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.  (Leviticus 19:33-34) It is in the light of passages such as this that we must hear and consider the debates in this land concerning immigration.  Immigration reform has been stalled for years, in large part because there simply is not the political will to get done what must be done.  The parties are too polarized and thus we find ourselves stalled and the problem worsens. 
It is in that context that the state of Arizona has taken matters into their own hands and enacted a new law that gives th…

An Alternative to Warren's "Purpose Driven Life"

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Ethics Daily has posted an edited version of Bruce Epperly's post from last week concerning Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life.    Bruce offers a vision of a holy adventure, in which we participate with God in co-creating our future.  It's not quite as cut and dry and maybe not as "safe," but is this not a better way to experience life?
Challenging Rick Warren's "Purpose Driven Life" is like David going up against Goliath, especially if you're the pastor of a small congregation who also teaches at a small seminary.
When the call came, I had to respond. You see, for a few years I had seen signs announcing "Forty Days of Purpose" and had heard from pastors and church growth consultants that "if you really want folks to come to a church program, you should offer the 'Purpose Driven Life.' Nothing succeeds like success, after all." And, folks came to Purpose Driven Life studies, often in record numbers.
But, I heard other me…

Shame, Honor, Homsexuality, and Romans 1

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My recent posting of an interview I did with Steve Kindle a few years back generated quite a few comments.  Indeed, this is a topic that always engenders conversation, which probably stems from the fact that it is one of the political dividing points in modern society.  It divides the body politic and the faith communities.  In most of our conversations, we end up with questions of the Bible and its interpretation and application.  Those taking the conservative position on the issue, will tell you that the Bible is very clear -- Homosexuality is contrary to God's law (usually pointing to Leviticus) and contrary to nature (references to Romans 1).  I'll not take up the issue of law in this post, but the issue of nature is an intriguing one. 
In Romans 1, Paul is setting out his understanding of the human condition, suggesting that God's wrath is revealed against the wicked who suppress the truth.  He is arguing that the Gentile world, though bereft of the revealed truth, ha…

A Little Football for Detroit

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The city of Detroit generally gets little if no respect.  The Red Wings won the Stanley Cup, but most Americans aren't big NHL fans.  The Tigers and the Pistons have had some good teams, even championship ones, but the team that seems to have epitomized Detroit in the eyes of Americans has been their NFL franchise -- the Lions.  They have been for many years, at best, inept.  They were the first NFL team to go 0-16, just 2 years ago.  At the same time, the auto industry was in free fall and Detroit was unsure of its future.
Well, the auto industry has begun to stabilize.  While Toyota has had lots of problems, Ford has taken off, and GM seems to be righting itself.  Even a much smaller Chrysler seems poised to make a rebound.  Detroit, it seems is ready for a new day.  But, of course, there's the Lions. 
Well, last night the Lions poised themselves to rise from the ashes.  With the number 2 pick they chose a young man who hails from my home state of Oregon and who played for Ne…