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The Infidel and the Indifferent -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

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To quote Richard Dawson:  "Survey Says . . ."  (I know Steve Harvey is the current host of the long running game show, I just like Newkirk!).  Surveys tell us that a growing number of Americans, especially younger Americans, are "religiously unaffiliated."  Martin Marty, who wrote a book long ago entitled The Infidel:  Free Thought and American Religion, seeks to better understand what all of this means.  When we dig deeper we find that this category has some complexity to it.  But, at least as I read the posting, is there not another category we need to be looking at -- those who are "Indifferent."  It's a good question.  I expect there might be many folks populating pews that are "indifferent" when it comes to matters theological and religious.  In any case, I invite you to read and offer your response.
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Sightings SightingsThe Infidel and the Indifferentby Martin E. Marty
Monday |  April 29 2013Fifty-two year…

The Rule of Taize -- A Review

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THE RULE OF TAIZE: Bilingual Edition: English and French.  Brewster, MA:  Paraclete Press, 2013.  Xii + 131 pages.

                Down through the ages monastic movements, from the Benedictines to the Jesuits, have drafted or adopted monastic rules.  These rules guide community life, from worship to work, and they’re essential to the harmony of community life.  As I understand it, looking from outside, to live in community can be a blessing, but it can also be a challenge.  To live in community requires one to relinquish a great deal of individuality for the common good of the community.  This is often expressed in commitments to share one’s goods with the community, and live in obedience to the prior or prioress. 
Monastic rules provide guidance to a community, but they also help inquirers know what is expected of them before entering the community.  Since most monastic communities involve vows of chastity (celibacy) and poverty (community of goods), such rules resolve many possible…

Barriers Breached -- A Sermon for Easter 5C

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Acts 11:1-18


Remember the night the Berlin Wall fell?  What a night of joy it was for the people of Berlin and Germany.  Or what about the wall of segregation breached by the Civil Rights Movement?  That too was a moment of joy, and yet dividing walls continue to exist. Eleven o’clock on Sunday morning remains the most segregated hour of the week. 
Not many of you remember 1920 when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution granted women the right to vote, but it was a great victory for women and for American democracy.  Unfortunately many Christian communities still refuse to ordain women and America has yet to elect a woman President.  
As we continue this sermon series focusing on transforming encounters with the Risen Christ, we’ve reached the climactic moment in the first half of the Book of Acts.  With Peter’s vision and his report to the Jerusalem Church, the focus of the story shifts to the Gentile mission.  What we see here is that change can be difficult, and barriers difficult to…

Faith and Creeds by Alister McGrath (Review)

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FAITH AND CREEDS: A Guide for Study and Devotion (The Heart of Christian Faith)By Alister E. McGrath.  Louisville:  Westminster John Knox Press, 2013.  X +115 pages.



What is faith?  Is it assent to doctrine or is it putting your trust in God?  Diana Butler Bass has suggested that the Latin word credo, which we usually translate as “I believe”, should be understood as “I set my heart upon” or “I give my loyalty to” (Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakeningp. 117).  It has less to do with doctrinal formulations and more to do with relationships.  I’m attracted to this idea.  At the same time, this embrace of another is not ephemeral.  There is substance – not perhaps an abstract scholastic version, but substance nonetheless.  Peter Rollins in a recent book speaks of  “the idolatry of God," and raises questions about seeking certainty or satisfaction in our conception of God.  Although Rollins and Bass come from different angles, …

The Pope and the Poor -- Sightings (Joshua Connor)

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Many of us have been fascinated by the demeanor and attitude of the new Pope.  Pope Francis has been a breath of fresh air with his humility and openness.  He's not a liberal (he supports the crackdown on the American nuns), but he exudes hope.  He has made the poor a focus of his attention, but not all are convinced.  He has critics, especially in South America, where some see him as unwilling to take the more radical systemic steps necessary to change the way things work.  In other words, he is not a liberationist.  That is true.  But then it's unlikely that one would be a Cardinal in the contemporary church if one were of that mind.  The more liberal Cardinals like Dom Helder Camara are either retired or have passed on.  He won't be encouraging radical political experiments, but personally, as one who has studied Liberation Theology, I take it as a good sign that Leonardo Boff hailed his election.  In this posting from Sightings Joshua Connor takes a look at the convers…

Love's New Day -- A Lectionary Reflection for Easter 5C

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Acts 11:1-18
Revelation 21:1-6
John 13:31-35
Love’s New Day
            A bombing at the Boston Marathon, letters laced with ricin, news of torture and death from around the globe, news like this leaves us wanting a new day that’s free of such things. We seek news of a day when life will be different and love shall prevail.  Such a vision seems far from realistic.  We may fall into despair when contemplating such a vision, but for people of the Christian faith this is part of vision of God.  It may be an eschatological vision, but there is no reason why the blessings of the eschaton cannot be felt now in this time and place.  It is as Jurgen Moltmann puts it – “In the community of Christ we experience foretastes and anticipations of God’s coming kingdom” (In the End-The Beginning: The Life of Hopep. 91).     
The realities of this life often complicate our ability to see the fullness of God’s promise, but if we we’re open then we can begin to see signs of hope streaming into our lives.  …

The Faiths of the Postwar Presidents -- A Review

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THE FAITHS OF THE POSTWAR PRESIDENTS: From Truman to Obama (George H. Shriver Lecture Series in Religion in American History).By David L. Holmes.  Athens, GA:  University of Georgia Press, 2012.  Xiii +396 pages. 

            Americans take great interest in the religious affiliations and views of their presidential candidates.  When I was only two, Americans wondered whether a Roman Catholic could be safely elected President.  They breathed easier after John Kennedy was elected and Rome didn’t take control.  I cast my first presidential vote for Gerald Ford in 1976, while many of my Christian friends chose Jimmy Carter, because he was “Born Again.”  My claims that Ford was a good Christian fell on deaf ears.  Ironically, four years later most of my friends abandoned Carter for Ronald Reagan, apparently because they didn’t think his politics matched his faith.  So, what should we make of our seeming obsession with the religious beliefs of our Presidents, even though the U.S. Constituti…

Confidence in Religion Drops -- Sightings (Martin Marty)

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Would you be surprised to learn that there has been a drop in confidence for organized religion and religious leaders?   Survey after survey tells us that more and more people are dropping out.  Many find religious folk to be hypocrites, if not worse.  Some of the charges leveled against the religious community are spot on, others not so much.  Religious communities are no monolithic, so we must be careful that we don't paint with too wide of brushes.  
In this edition of Sightings, Martin Marty visits recent "measurers of opinion," which tell us that the military comes out on top -- and that despite recent scandals at the top.  We're not as bad as Congress, but not where we once were.  We could suggest that this is all an anti-religious (read anti-Christian) animus on the part of media, etc., but I don't think that would help our cause.  But the key point that Dr. Marty wants us to hear is that the public is paying attention! I invite you to read Marty's post…