Saturday, July 30, 2016

Go Forth and Catch 'Em All -- Sightings (Kristel Clayville/Emmanuelle Burton)

While I'm not a Pokemon Go player, I'm intrigued by some of what I've read about the idea of augmented reality (as opposed to virtual reality) present in this phone-based game. What intrigues me is the idea of enchantment or re-enchantment present. Richard Beck, a psychology prof at Abilene Christian University has written about the theological implications of the game, noting that this augmented reality allows us to envision and enchanted universe. In this Sightings piece Kristel Clayville and Emmanuelle Burton of the University of Chicago Divinity School speak as well of re-enchantment -- how the game overlays an augmented reality on top of nature.  What implications might this have for the way we see the world and God's presence in that world? 

Go Forth and Catch 'Em All:
Pokemon Go's Contingent Re-enchantment of the Natural World
Kristel Clayville and Emanuelle Burton  JULY 28, 2016
Even if you don’t own a smartphone and have never played a computer game more sophisticated than solitaire, you have probably heard of Pokémon Go by now. The phone-based game boasts 30 million players worldwide, less than a month after its release on July 6th. In that brief time, it has been both praised and blamed for its impact on the larger world. The internet is awash with testimonials from players with depression and social anxiety, who say the game has helped them get out of the house and meet new people; balanced against these are the many news stories about traffic accidents, caused by drivers who are paying more attention to catching Pokémon (the word is a portmanteau of “pocket monster”) than to other drivers. For weal and for woe, Pokémon Go is already having an impact on how its millions of players participate in social space.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Reviving the Heart of Our Democracy

One of the most powerful preachers and prophets for justice of our time is the Rev. Dr. William Barber II. I have met him. I've heard him preach and speak several times. He inspires me to be true to my faith and the call to justice that is rooted in my faith tradition. Last night he spoke to the Democratic National Convention. Yes, he voiced his support for Hillary, but his message is much more the call to being agents of justice. It is a call to be, as he says, the "moral defibrillators of our time," so that we might shock the world with love. Rev. Barber is a Disciples of Christ minister, President of the North Carolina NAACP, and founder of the Moral Mondays Movement. Let us hear his voice calling for the reviving of the heart of our democracy! It doesn't matter what our party affiliation is, the point is attending to the moral imperatives that are the heart of faith and in goal our democracy!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Social Problems and Religion - Sightings (Martin Marty)

Does the public believe that religious congregations including churches and synagogues do a good job in addressing social problems. Survey says that an increasing number say no. This is the message reported by Martin Marty.  I could give anecdotal evidence to the contrary, but is anyone paying attention?  For the past several years I've been involved in congregation-based community organizing. Our coalition was small, but we helped push the state government to better federal funds for foreclosure prevention, turn a vote on medicare expansion, bring to the attention of the broader community the problem of human trafficking, and raise awareness of the need for effective regional transit. My congregation partnered with a small congregation in Detroit to launch a ministry that assists people in making their homes more livable and their neighborhoods safer. I could go on, but this seems a sufficient introduction to Marty's essay, which I invite you to read and ponder!

Social Problems and Religion
By MARTIN E. MARTY   July 25, 2016
Meanwhile. . . .

Other things than political campaigns are going on this summer, but they have a hard time gaining notice. Media attention to them crowds out other events and spheres of life. Some of the latter do not suffer: sports, celebrity worlds, markets, etc. do well. Among the obscured ones come those under the category of “religion” or, institutionally, “churches,” “synagogues,” and the like. The Pew Research Center (see “Resources”) measures activity on their front, as Michael Lipka did in his report of July 18.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Listening God

I am attending a conference on liturgical worship.  It’s the Association of Reformed and Liturgical Theology. I’m not sure I’m Reformed in my theology (okay at least a little bit), but I do believe that liturgy is at the heart of the Christian faith. That is, without worship, and liturgy has to do with worship, Christianity becomes little more than either a social club or a service organization. Those might be fine, in and of themselves, but they’re not the essence of Christianity. That would be the God we know in Jesus and experience through the ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit.

Okay, with that as an introduction I get to the statement that titles this piece. Our plenary speaker for this conference is philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff, who wrote an important book on liturgical theology (from a philosopher’s perspective) titled The God We Worship: An Exploration of Liturgical Theology (my review appeared on this blog in August).  In the book and in the presentation he spoke of God as the “Listening God.” In the presentation and in a later conversation he noted that he could find no theologians who spoke of God in these terms. They might speak of the God who responds, but not in terms of listening.  We know from Scripture that God listens. That’s the message that God gave to Moses in the burning bush.   God said to Moses: “I’ve heard their cry of injustice because of their slave masters. I know their pain.” (Exodus 3:7).

The idea that God listens stands at the heart of worship. Why else would I pray if God does not listen? Of course, often our prayers are more directed at the congregation than God. Still, we pray to God because we expect to be heard by God.
I’m on a mission though. I need to find some theologians who speak not only of a responsive God, but a listening God!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Go and Do the Same: Treasure What Matters - A Stewardship Sermon

Luke 12:13-21

Money makes the world go around. It’s true that in the world of Star Trek no one seems to need money, unless you’re a Ferengi, but it takes money to navigate through our world. The question is, how much is enough? And, how much is too little? Down through the ages we’ve heard warnings about the dangers of greed. One of the best examples is the story of King Midas, who was given the ability to turn whatever he touched into gold. Unfortunately, that meant his food, and ultimately his daughter. So be careful what you ask for!

During this political season we’ve been hearing messages about taxes, income inequality, stagnant wages, the high cost of health insurance, and much more. Money plays a big role in our political debates, in part because it takes money to fund political campaigns.

In the reading from Luke 12, a person in the crowd listening to Jesus’ message asks Jesus to arbitrate a dispute with his brother over the dispersal of the family estate. Jesus declines the request, but he does offer a warning: “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” (Lk 12:15).