Showing posts from May, 2011

Process and Punishment (Bruce Epperly)

What is the nature of justice and does God care about it?  That is a question that I raised last week as a way of starting a conversation about the way God's love is present in the world.  Since Bruce Epperly has been writing about Process Theology, I asked him if he would focus his attention on this subject.  Last week he wrote about the quest for justice from a Process perspective, noting:
Just actions and social structures enhance beauty of experience, while unjust actions and social structures deface beauty of experience and limit personal possibilities. Accordingly, we can assert that God is on the side of beauty and justice and seeks relationships and institutions that promote creative, intense, meaningful, and beautiful experiences. Following up on this topic, Bruce looks at the question of punishment -- whether God's justice requires punishment and what that might look like.  I think you'll find Bruce's ponderings thought provoking!

Humanism, Newt Gingrich and Sightings

Who are the true defenders of family values?  Too often in the past few years, we've seen politicians and preachers portray themselves as defenders of the family (that means being anti-gay marriage), but show little aptitude for family life themselves.  From Ted Haggard to Mark Sanford, Jimmy Swaggart to Newt Gingrich, partisans on the right have shown themselves less than consistent.  Of course, they all come with excuses, Newt having one of the best -- he loved his country so much he did bad things.  Of course, he repented, God forgave, and well the cycle starts again.  In today's edition of Sightings, Martin Marty points us to a critique of Gingrich by a representative of the atheist/humanist community.  PZ Myers has asked why he's anti-family despite being married to the same person for 31 years without ever straying, while Newt's pro-family and has been married three times, divorcing two wives after having affairs with the next wife.  It's a good question to r…

I'll Be There for You -- A Sermon

John 14:15-21

Soon after God created Adam, God noticed that the man was lonely.  Feeling sorry for him, God decided to fix the problem by creating animals and sending them one by one to Adam.  Adam gave them names, but his loneliness didn’t go away.  Not even the dogs, who are our best friends, nor the cats, who can be good companions – just don’t have too many of them – could fill the void that Adam was experiencing.  Interestingly enough, not even Adam’s relationship with the Creator would suffice, and so God decided to create a companion who was perfectly fit for the man.   When Adam saw the woman, he said to God:  you got it right this time.  She’s bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.  
This creation story reminds us that deep within us is a need to be in relationship with others like ourselves.  Of course, we’re all different and so the way in which we experience relationships is different.  Some of you are extroverts and you can’t get enough of being with people, and the more …

Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

The credo of partisan politics is:  Do what’s best for the party, even if it’s not what’s best for the nation.   And the credo of nationalism is:  Do what’s best for our nation, even if that’s not what’s best for the world as a whole.   Politicians know that if they take care of their party members, their constituents, and maybe even on occasion their fellow citizens (of their nation) they will be rewarded for their service to the narrow good. All of this is rooted in an individualistic philosophy, a philosophy that is exemplified in the resurgent popularity of Ayn Rand’s call to selfishness.It’s a world view that proclaims that we must look out for ourselves, because no one else will.Therefore, I’ll do what’s best for me, and as for my neighbor – that’s their problem. The opposite of such a philosophy is a commitment to pursue the common good.Commitment to the common good sounds wonderful, but it seems out of place in an increasingly partisan, sectarian, and nationalist era.Rarely do w…

For the Defense -- A Lectionary Meditation

Acts 17:22-31
1 Peter 3:13-22
John 14:15-21
For the Defense
Apologetics isn’t something that progressive Christians often engage in; at least we don’t call it that.Apologetics is that theological discipline that seeks to offer a defense of the Christian faith.When I think of this word people like Josh McDowell come to mind.He presents the evidence and demands that we decide for or against the evidence, which is stacked in favor of his position.But, we live in an age when matters of faith are in question.Like Friedrich Schleiermacher two centuries back, as well as Paul two millennia ago, we face our own set of cultured despisers.We face questions that range from the intellectual to the moral.How can you believe in fairy tales?asks Richard Dawkins.Or, how can you believe in a God who allows pain and suffering, such as being experienced by the people of Joplin, Missouri?What kind of God is this that you’re proclaiming?There is something of the apologetic in the texts for this week.Paul is in…

Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? -- A Review

WAS AMERICA FOUNDED AS A CHRISTIAN NATION?  A Historical Introduction.    By John Fea.Louisville:WJK Press, 2011.Xxvii +287 pages.

The question posed by this book continually vexes the American people and seems to drive the unending culture wars.  Partisans argue vociferously for and against the premise that the United States either is a Christian nation or was founded as one.  Both sides lob rhetorical mortar shells back and forth.  On one side Christian Nationalists argue that the intention of the Founders was for this to be a Christian nation governed by biblical principles.   Secularists fire back claiming that at best the Founders were Deists intent on keeping church and state separated by an impermeable wall, wherein the state would stay out of the religious business and the church should in turn keep its nose out of the business of state.  Of course, both sides marshal “evidence” to support their claims.   Stepping into the midst of this fray and calling for a ceasefire is John …

Process Theology and the Quest for Justice (Bruce Epperly)

I started a conversation with the question:  Does God care about Justice?   There are a number of reaons why I'm doing this, but perhaps most importantly this conversation raises the question as to what our calling is as God's people in the world.  Am I called to acts of compassion only, or am I called to seek to change the social realities that marginalize people and work to destroy the world in which we live?  To me, justice has to do with (to quote the Disciples mission statement) seeking to bring wholeness to a fragmented world.  Regarding the first -- I see the kinds of responses that church folk offer to the people of Joplin or Japan.  Regarding the latter (justice) I see working to change systems that dehumanize folks.  Both are important and even essential, and belong together.  In that regard, Bruce Epperly offers some thoughts about justice from the perspective of Process Theology as part of his series on that topic.  I invite you to read and respond.

Love and Justice -- working with definitions

Are justice and love competing values or are they partners?   I think the answer to this question is rooted in definitions.  If we start with the definitions offered by the American legal system, then perhaps that's not possible.  But when we work with biblical terms, it might be different.  Scripture offers a variety of definitions of justice, some of which are suggestive of vindication and punishment, but there are other definitions that suggest something very different.  Of course, how we define love is involved as well.
Although proof-texting isn't fair sport, I do want to start this portion of the conversation with a text from Jeremiah that brings love together with justice and righteousness:
23 Thus says the Lord: Do not let the wise boast in their wisdom, do not let the mighty boast in their might, do not let the wealthy boast in their wealth; 24but let those who boast boast in this, that they understand and know me, that I am the Lord; I act with steadfast love, justice,…