Showing posts from April, 2011

Considering Conservative Values

My politics and even my religious perspectives tend to be left of center. By now, if you started reading from the beginning, that confession shouldn’t come as any surprise. In a previous essay I tried to reclaim, even redeem, the “liberal” label. Having made that point, I want to say that I also value the true conservative voice. I use the words “true conservative” because what passes for conservatism today is actually quite activist, which runs against the grain of the conservative ideal.
Now, I welcome the conservative voice as a necessary caution to the liberal’s advocacy of progressive ideas and actions. This is, of course, the American way, for this nation has never been a one party state. Multiple voices can make for disharmony and confusion, but the alternative is quite unappetizing. If only one voice is heard then freedom of expression has been effectively eliminated.
Our government’s system of checks and balances helps prevent one branch of government from dominating the othe…

Red, Blue, Purple: Redeeming the “L Word”

Once upon a time it was a good thing to be liberal, but today it seems that to be a liberal is to be godless and unpatriotic. The word has become so disrespected that many liberals run from the label and call themselves by other names. This is the age of Limbaugh, Hannity, and Coulter.
Not long ago conservative Republicans controlled all three branches of the American government, and conservative church leaders had the President’s ear. The once powerful Mainline Protestant churches sat on the sidelines looking back wistfully at what had once been theirs. While the 2008 elections seemed to portend a turning of the tides, it’s much too early to tell which way the wind is actually blowing (as the 2010 elections reminded us).
The rise of conservatism is explained by an appeal to ideas. It was said that liberals, unlike conservatives, seemed to lack ideas or a willingness to stand up for what they believe. Of course this isn’t really true, but the political and religious right have done a …

I Believe in the Resurrection -- A Lectionary Meditation

Acts 2:14a, 22-32

1 Peter 1:3-9

John 20:19-31

I Believe in the Resurrection

This may simply be the week that follows Easter. We had our great celebration, but now it’s time to get on with business. The liturgical calendar has, of course, other ideas (as does the lectionary). Therefore, let us continue the celebration we began on the Day of Resurrection by singing the songs of resurrection. With contemporary hymn writer Brian Wren we can sing:
Christ is risen! Shout hosanna! Celebrate this day of days. Christ is risen! Hush in wonder; all creation is amazed. In the desert all surrounding, see, a spreading tree has grown. Healing leaves of grace abounding bring a taste of love unknown        (Chalice Hymnal, 222).
And, with St. John of Damascus (8th century), we can sing:
Let the heavens be joyful! Let earth its song begin! The world resound in triumph, and all that is therein; let all things seen and unseen their notes of gladness blend; for Christ the Lord has risen, our joy that has no end.   …

An Age of Selfishness

According to the Gospel of John, as Jesus was in the Garden, just prior to his arrest, he told the disciples who were with him:
This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:12-13; Common English Bible) This statement stands at the heart of the Christian message, a message that is also contained in the commands to love God and love your neighbor.  Jesus divided the sheep and the goats from each other on the basis of how persons loved  him by taking care of the "least of these" (Mt. 25).   The question that Cain raised:  "Am I my brother's keeper" has been answered in the affirmative by Jesus in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).  Following the example of the Samaritan, Jesus said:  Go and do likewise.
American may be a predominantly Christian nation, but recently it seems as if an ideology that is quite foreign to the gospel has taken root.  One of it…

The Jesus Creed for Students -- Review

THE JESUS CREED FOR STUDENTS: Loving God, Loving Others. By Scot McKnight with Chris Folmsbee and Syler Thomas. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2011. 107 pages.

What defines the Christian faith? Historically, councils, denominations, bishops, congregations, and theologians have attempted to answer that question with creeds, systemic theologies, credos, and other statements of faith. Some have been relatively brief and others have been extensive, and what’s essential to one might not be essential to another. History also shows that not everyone follows the dictum of Rupert Meldenius that in “essentials unity, in nonessentials, liberty, and in all things charity.”
An evangelical college professor (North Park University), biblical scholar, author (The Blue Parakeet, among others), and blogger (Jesus Creed), Scot McKnight has proposed an answer to this question, which he calls the Jesus Creed. That creed can be simply stated as “loving God, loving others,” which briefly restates the two grea…

Atlas Shrugged and Its Reviewers -- Sightings

On this Monday after Easter, I was thinking of writing a piece to be entitled "Rand Wins."  I was going to use this essay to reflect on the release of a survey taken in the city of Troy, MI, where I live and pastor.  What this survey demonstrated was that the people of Troy have little concern about the welfare of their community -- it's all about me.  That's essentially the philosophy of Ayn Rand -- the virtue of selfishness.  She didn't believe in Caesar, but she also didn't believe in Jesus.  Rand's teachings, interestingly enough, have had a renaissance of late among Tea Partiers, including evangelical Christians.  Well, Martin Marty has beat me to it, and so I'll let him raise the issues of the day for our discussion.  By the way, in answer to Cain's question, "Am I my Brother's Keeper?" I believe that God assumed he was!
Sightings 4/25/2011

Atlas Shrugged and Its Reviewers -- Martin E. Marty

Atlas Shrugg…

A Beautiful Sight! -- An Easter Sermon

Matthew 28:1-10

Over time the cross has evolved from being a means of torture and execution to a fashionable piece of jewelry. Crosses can come in gold or silver, plain or bejewelled, and if you didn’t know better, you’d never believe that this cross that people wear around their necks or on their ears was once one of the most feared and despised forms of execution devised by humanity. Its message was so powerful that the Romans reserved the cross for rebels and troublemakers.
It’s easy for us to forget the meaning of the cross since it no longer functions as a means of tortuous death, which is why it’s important to observe Good Friday before we celebrate Easter. Before we can appreciate the beauty of Easter, we must take in the ugliness of the cross upon which Jesus died. The cross upon which Jesus hung, reminds us of the ugliness is present in our world – war, segregation, prejudice, self-centeredness, anger, and hatred, to name but a few. As we contemplate the cross, we recognize th…

Love Wins (Rob Bell) -- A Review

LOVE WINS: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. San Francisco: Harper One, 2011. Xi +201 pages.
The trailer for Rob Bell’s Love Winsset Twitter afire even before the book was released, but why all the furor? The answer can be found in the responses offered by the defenders of evangelical orthodoxy. Because Bell raised questions as to whether the Hindu Gandhi might not be in hell that was sufficient proof that the young evangelical mega-church pastor had gone off the deep end and embraced the universalism of liberal Christianity. Further proof of the author’s unorthodox ways could be found in the fact that the book was being published by Harper One and not Zondervan (forgetting that Zondervan is a division of Harper-Collins and that by moving the book to Harper One, Bell’s book would get a bigger audience – especially among non-evangelicals).
The problem with Bell’s position was that in affirming the premise that Love Wins, he was somehow undermining t…

Am I Addicted to Blogging?

75%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

Cheryl thinks I'm addicted, but I say no, I'm not addicted to blogging. I have it all under control.
But, thanks to James McGrath, I have been able to gauge the level of possible addiction. As you can see I'm 75% Addicted! Not too bad for a daily blogger.
By the way, may this be a blessed Good Friday!

Father Forgive Them (The First Word from the Cross) -- Luke 23:32-34

Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, "Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
All dressed in his imperial splendor, the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate sits in judgment of Jesus. Surrounding Pilate is a group of Jesus' accusers. It would seem that the governor doesn’t know what to make of Jesus. He appears to be just some kind of religious teacher, but as he listens to the charges he begins to see Jesus in a different light. Maybe this Jewish teacher is really a threat to the stability of his province. If the charges are true, then he will need to take the threat seriously, and that means condemning his prisoner to die on a cross. He comes to this decision after a night of debate and his decision is final; there will be no appeal. It's interesting …

Death and Resurrection! -- A Lectionary Meditation for Easter

Jeremiah 31:1-6

Colossians 3:1-4

Matthew 28:1-10

Death and Resurrection!

As we once again experience Holy Week, we’re reminded that life emerges from death. There is no better analogy of this truth than the transition from winter to spring, which is why it seems appropriate that Easter and the coming of spring coincide. With spring’s coming, the long dormant flowers and trees suddenly come back to life as spring’s warmth replaces winter’s cold darkness. Surely, we can see the parallels between this and Good Friday/Easter.
Now, of course, there are questions to be addressed when it comes to the Resurrection. David Hume has had his way with us, and we must face the fact that people just don’t rise from the dead every day. Therefore, we don’t have analogies that can truly help us grapple with this article of faith. Is it a physical event or a metaphor? The Gospels speak of empty tombs and appearances, and we even have defenses of the event against charges that the disciples stole the body. O…