Showing posts from August, 2018

Religious Liberty—Yes, but for whom?

We are hearing a lot in the political arena about religious liberty. For the most part this message is coming from more conservative corners of the religio-political spectrum. More often than not the focus is on two items—contraception and gay marriage. It has become a rallying cry, especially among conservative evangelicals, but also among Roman Catholics. While I might disagree with my fellow religionists on both matters, they are free to believe and practice these beliefs if they choose. What they can’t do is force those beliefs on others. Therefore, what you desire for yourself you must grant others. At least, that is my reading of the First Amendment.
Here’s the thing. I’m a pastor, and as a pastor I’m all for religious liberty. I believe that religious liberty is enshrined in the First Amendment and needs to be defended. People should be free to believe what they wish and practice their faith as they choose (as long as those practices are not illegal and do not endanger others—t…

Believe Me (John Fea) -- A Review

BELIEVE ME: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump. By John Fea. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2018.

It is said by pollsters that 81% of white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump in 2016. The question on the minds of many is why? Why Donald Trump? After all, the current President has demonstrated few if any marks of being a Christian, let alone being an evangelical. His past is filled with morally dubious activities, including affairs. He is coarse in his language. He seems to be a bully. He shows little if any compassion for others. Feels most at home when bashing others. Indeed, he doesn't seem at all concerned about matters on the heart of Jesus. So, why did so many white evangelicals vote for Donald Trump?
Evangelical historian John Fea, who describes himself as being among the 19% who didn’t vote for Trump, sets out to answer that question. In a book titled Believe Me, which borrows a phrase regularly on the lips of Donald Trump, Fea lays out the road map to the …

Arise My Love! - A Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 15B (Song of Solomon 2)

Song of Solomon 2:8-13 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The voice of my beloved!
    Look, he comes,
leaping upon the mountains,
    bounding over the hills.
My beloved is like a gazelle
    or a young stag.
Look, there he stands
    behind our wall,
gazing in at the windows,
    looking through the lattice.
10 My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my fair one,
    and come away;
11 for now the winter is past,
    the rain is over and gone.
12 The flowers appear on the earth;
    the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
    is heard in our land.
13 The fig tree puts forth its figs,
    and the vines are in blossom;
    they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my fair one,
    and come away.


The Pentecost journey through the Hebrew Bible, at least the pathway I’ve chosen, leads us to this selection from the Song of Solomon. The prior week’s reading invited us to consider Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the Temple. Solomon w…

Honest Worship (Manuel Luz) -- A Review

HONEST WORSHIP: From False Self to True Praise. By Manuel Luz. Foreword by Rory Noland. Downer’s Grove: IVP Books, 2018. 192 pages.

I must confess, I'm always a bit leery about the use of the words honest and authentic when used as adjectives for things religious or spiritual. Too often these adjectives are used in ways that are more generational or matters of personal taste. What is authentic to one, might not be to another. When it comes to worship, there is this belief that free form/contemporary is authentic and liturgical/traditional is not. The guitar is considered authentic, but the organ is not. In the end, these debates have more to do with personal preference than spiritual authenticity. Thus, it was with a bit of reticence that began reading this book on worship written by Manuel Luz. Yes, I eyed the book with a bit of suspicion since it promised to distinguish between the “false self” and “true praise.” Some of my concerns were confirmed, but not all of them. Thus, the …

Dwelling in God’s Presence - A Sermon for Pentecost 14B (Psalm 84)

Psalm 84

I have been going to church all my life. I was baptized as an infant at St. Luke’s of the Mountains Episcopal Church in LaCrescenta, California. I was an acolyte at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church of Dunsmuir. I was confirmed at age twelve at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Klamath Falls, where I was an acolyte, lay reader, and choir member. I was baptized once more in a creek in Oregon at age seventeen, after I moved to the Foursquare Church. I was then ordained at age twenty-seven at Temple City Christian Church. That should qualify as dwelling in the house of the Lord all my life, “for a day in [God’s] courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.”  
What is true of me might be true of you as well. Your story might be different in its details, but you have been dwelling in the House of the Lord your entire life. In fact, I know that at least a couple of our members were on the cradle roll of Central Woodward when we were in Detroit. Of course, going to church and dwelling in God’…

Who is Righteous Among Us?

When I was in seminary I wrote a paper challenging the doctrine of original sin. I didn’t doubt the ubiquity of sin, just its origins. The doctrine has its roots in the story of the Fall, where the first couple chose to disobey God’s directive, ate the forbidden fruit, got cast out the Garden. I had a good rationale for my position, which I won’t go into, and I probably would still stand by much of it. However, over time I have come to recognize that things are more complex than first discerned. Reading Reinhold Niebuhr has helped form a more nuanced position regarding the human condition. My recent reading of Langdon Gilkey’s memoir Shantung Compound,which describes his internment in a Japanese concentration camp in China, offers additional evidence. Published in 1966, this memoir written by a University of Chicago Theology professor, Gilkey’s story tells of the ups and downs of life among the inmates of the camp. The focus is not on the captors, but on the relations among this group…

An Urgent Question for Us All (By Steve Kindle)

From time to time I share posts written by friends. One such friend is Steve Kindle, a Disciples minister, like me. Quite a number of years back, he and his wife Diane joined the church I was serving in Santa Barbara. He assisted me in that ministry, and by his own admission got me in trouble with the church. But the cause was just, so that is okay. This is a piece that Steve has written concerning the concept of the Imago Dei (Image of God). It is written from the perspective of Progressive Christian theology. If you click on the link you can go to his page, where you can sign up to receive more information from Steve. You can also leave your comments here as well. 


An Urgent Question for Us All by Steve Kindle
So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.Genesis 1:27
Has the biblical idea of humans being created in the image of God (Imago Dei) outlived its usefulness? Even though it is o…

God’s Dwelling Place- Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 14B (1 Kings 8).

1 Kings 8:22-30,41-43 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands to heaven. 23 He said, “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and steadfast love for your servants who walk before you with all their heart, 24 the covenant that you kept for your servant my father David as you declared to him; you promised with your mouth and have this day fulfilled with your hand. 25 Therefore, O Lord, God of Israel, keep for your servant my father David that which you promised him, saying, ‘There shall never fail you a successor before me to sit on the throne of Israel, if only your children look to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.’ 26 Therefore, O God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you promised to your servant my father David.

27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and …

A Road Trip Ends

I haven't been blogging much of late. If you have missed my pronouncements, I hope to get up and running soon. I spent a week on the road with my son, who was moving to Southern California to take up residence at the Claremont School of Theology, where he is pursuing his MA in Inter-religious Studies. I drove out west with him, so he could have his car with him, and to help him set up his apartment. I completed those tasks and returned home yesterday. The above picture was taken as we drove across the Mojave Desert from Kingman, AZ to Claremont last Thursday. One thing to note is that while the desert might be dry, it is still alive. I wonder if that has some spiritual significance. Indeed, I wonder of the life I could see as we passed by gives us some hope for the church itself!
In the coming days, I will be returning to more regular blogging, but I will need to catch my breath. I kn ow that much is happening in the world around us. Politically our nation seems to be in continuo…

On the Road

I've not been blogging much this week as I'm helping my son move to California, where he will be in his first full term at Claremont. School of  Theology. I realize much is happening in the  world, but first  things first. Once I'm back home I'll be back writing! My word for the moment is simply to keep focused on what is good, right, and just so that the love of God revealed in Jesus might be made known to the world.

Alexander Campbell and Joseph Smith: 19th-Century Restorationists (RoseAnn Benson) -- A Review

ALEXANDER CAMPBELL AND JOSEPH SMITH: 19TH-Century Restorationists.By RoseAnn Benson. Forewords by Thomas H. Olbricht and Robert L. Millet. Provo, UT: BYU Press; Abilene, TX: Abilene Christian University Press, 2017.Xx + 396 pages.

The first half of the 19th century was a period of religious and cultural ferment as the new American nation pushed west into new territory. During this period of religious experimentation and expansion, new and often heterodox movements emerged. With people leaving behind more settled communities for the frontier, they encountered a variety of movements that sought to claim their allegiance. Many of these movements claimed to restore earlier and purer forms of religion, though their visions of restoration often diverged when it came to the details. Among those who preached a restorationist message were Joseph Smith and Alexander Campbell. Both spoke of restoring the ancient order of things, but their visions of restoration were quite different. Because the …