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4 May 2011: Rush Limbaugh vs. Lawrence O’Donnell – What Would Jesus Cut?

The political debate, as it is viewed on the twenty-four hour a day cable news television channels, is frequently more amusing than informative. The necessity of keeping an audience glued to the set means that insignificant things are hyped into being major stories. There is indeed a crisis a day, sometimes elevating political nonsense into …

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Q & A:

I in no way intend to belittle you or cause you to become angry over this e-mail. I am a born-again Christian putting my complete faith in Jesus Christ as my savior because I am a sinner and have no way to heaven except through the Son. I thank God every day for opening my eyes and showing me the path to salvation. I just want to take a second of your time after reading your thoughts on Judas and ask why you haven’t investigated in Acts 1:12-21 when Luke tells of how “The Eleven” became “The Twelve” again after adding Matthias to the disciples and how the disciples quote the Old Testament telling of the one that will betray the Messiah, and by you saying this never happened, then you are bringing into question not only the authenticity of the gospels, but of the whole Old Testament and New Testament. I ask that you sincerely delve into the issue and ask yourself why you are really making these claims. You talked about when Paul wrote about Jesus returning and showing himself to Cephas (Peter) and the twelve. Isn’t this the newly-formed twelve (with Matthias as the twelfth)? And couldn’t Jesus have appeared to the eleven (in Matthew) because they had not yet added Matthias? I know it is okay to ask questions, but you aren’t doing a good job answering your questions thoroughly. I am afraid you are trying to destroy the gospel piece by piece instead of truly seeking the truth. I pray the Lord will change your mind and that he will be able to open your eyes so that you might believe in him. Thank you for your time and consideration.

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28 April 2011: Peter J. Gomes, 1942-2011, Preacher Par Excellence

Both the United States and world Christianity lost one of its more preeminent voices recently with the death of Peter J. Gomes, the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at the Harvard Divinity School and the Pusey Minister of Memorial Church at Harvard. He was a friend, a prophet and a remarkable human being. The public …

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Q & A:

I am a big fan of yours and the work you have done over the years. I met you in Charlotte when you lectured at the Gay and Lesbian Center and then arranged for you to speak at Unity Church of Greater Hartford even though I was unfortunately unable to attend as I was there on a one-year assignment as Transitional Minister. I am also a big fan of Rocco Errico and the understanding he brings to the Bible from being a disciple of George Lamsa, who grew up in Kurdistan and spoke Aramaic as his native language. It seems that Rocco makes a big point of his belief that the New Testament was written in Aramaic first and then translated into Greek. I don’t think that’s true but I do find enormous help from his understanding of the Aramaic language and his understanding of Semitic thinking, customs and culture. As a small example, according to Dr. Errico, the phrase “a burning bush which would not be consumed” is a Semitic idiom which means having a big problem which won’t go away. I’ve always interpreted that to mean that Moses knew it was his mission, his guidance to get the Israelites out of Egypt and humanly he didn’t want to accept this guidance.

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21 April 2011: Examining the Story of the Cross, Part VII: What Judas Iscariot Meant in the Eighth Ninth & Tenth Decades of Christian Development

Last week we began a biblical analysis of Judas Iscariot.  First, we noted that Paul, who wrote and died before any gospel had been written, was totally unaware of the tradition that one of the “twelve” played the role of the traitor.  Not only is there no mention of this when Paul wrote the account …

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Q & A:

I am a Methodist fan of yours in Fort Worth, Texas. I first became acquainted with your work in my Sunday School class about three years ago. I was astounded and relieved to find that someone else, a retired bishop no less, shared my doubts about the literal, supernatural claims of the Bible, and even further that this person could claim to be a Christian.

I read your book Why Christianity Must Change or Die and thoroughly enjoyed it. My wife is currently reading another of your books A New Christianity for a New World. On page 15 of this book, you describe an encounter with “an iconoclastic journalist who identified himself as an Atheist.” You and he were both panel members on a television program in London and he was well prepared to combat the old fashioned Christian God, but not the new line of Christianity you advocate. This sure sounds like Christopher Hitchens. Is it in fact? Could you provide some more information about the television program?

I have read your comments that of course the angry vengeful God that Hitchens writes about is not great. I rather like these debates between Hitchens and Christian apologists but unfortunately the ones I’ve seen cling to the old Theistic God that Hitchens so eagerly argues against. I would love to learn more about your encounter with him (or whoever this person may be) since you argue so strongly for a God so different from that old vengeful one.

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14 April 2011: Examining the Story of the Cross, Part VI: The Enigma Called Judas

The anti-hero of the Christian story in general and of the crucifixion story in particular is one who is known as Judas Iscariot. Scorn and ridicule have been heaped on this figure over the centuries of Christian history. Much anti-Semitism has flowed from the depiction of this character. No one anywhere names his or her …

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Q & A:

We met at Stetson University in Florida several years ago. I am the Pastor of Colby Memorial Temple in Cassadaga, Florida, a Spiritualist Center. I am currently reading your book Eternal Life: A New Vision –Beyond Religion – Beyond Theism – Beyond Heaven and Hell. Are you familiar with the Spiritualist ideas on death? If so, how do you respond to those ideas in relation to your Christian thinking, even though you obviously think outside the box? Would very much like to hear from you. I do use your material on Easter when teaching the Easter experience to my congregation.

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7 April 2011: Examining the Story of the Cross, Part V: Barabbas – Another Interpretive Figure

In Mark’s original story of the Passion of Jesus, he introduces for the first time in any written Christian record the figure of Barabbas.  In this story we are told two things:  First, it was a Roman custom to release a prisoner at the feast of the Passover, one whose freedom the people desired.  Second, …

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Q & A:

We appreciate that you don’t want to throw out the Bible, but rather to “rescue it” and focus on its message of love. Do you think there will ever be a day when the Bible will include not only the Old Testament and the New Testament, but also the “Newest Testament” that might reflect modern Christian thought?

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30 March 2011: My Friend: Richard Lester Shimpfky 1940-2011

Recently, I preached at the funeral of one who had been a close friend for more than 40 years.  His name was Richard Shimpfky.  Let me tell you something of his story. I first met Richard when he was a senior at the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, where he was described by Clifford Stanley, …

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Q & A:

You have spoken frequently about talking to our clergy about their role in equipping us lay people for our ministries. I am a lesbian, feminist Episcopalian in a diocese whose bishop has an unspoken “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays. Given this atmosphere of fear and schism in our church, how can I help my bishop come to Jesus or should I just try harder to be a Unitarian or move to New Jersey?

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24 March 2011: Examining the Meaning of the Cross, Part IV: The Symbols of the Hebrew Scriptures in the Crucifixion

The first narrative account of Jesus’ crucifixion in the Bible is found in the gospel of Mark written some 40-43 years, or approximately two generations, after the events it purports to describe.  You may read it in Mark 14:17-15:47.  It does not claim to be an eye witness account.  Indeed it draws most of its …

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Q & A:

A common poem found in the Announcements/Obituary section of most (if not all) newspapers is titled “The Plan of the Master Weaver.” I’m sure you have seen this poem many times, it begins. “Our lives are but fine weavings that God and we prepare. Each life becomes a fabric planned and fashioned in His care. Sometime a strand of sorrow is added to His plan and though it’s difficult for us, we still must understand. That it’s He who fills the shuttle, it’s He who knows what’s best. So we must weave in patience and leave Him to the rest. The dark threads are as needed in the Weaver’s skillful hand as the threads of gold and silver in the pattern He has planned.” I personally find this brings more discomfort than comfort. It was written, I’m sure, with good intentions but a person has to ask: does it really bring a grieving family any comfort to know (for example) that their child was killed as part of God’s plan? I have to believe that someone (somewhere) has put together some better words of comfort. Something that does not throw us all together into a basket of weaves within the Master Weaver’s plan. What message or words would you suggest to help bring healing and comfort to those who have lost a very dear friend, a colleague, an acquaintance or a family member?

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17 March 2011: Examining the Story of the Cross, Part III: There Never Were “Seven Last Words” From the Cross

One of the most dramatic services of Holy Week for me has always been the Good Friday “Three Hour Service.”  It was designed to enable Christian worshipers in some dramatic way to watch by the cross as their Lord died.  The traditional content of that three-hour service traditionally consisted of sermons or meditations on what …

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Q & A:

When you realize that 10% of the population of the USA owns 87% of the wealth in your country and that this figure has been growing during the past 60 years, you may need to add wealthism (the belief that disparity of income and wealth is OK) to your list of unacceptable prejudices. Do you know how little the bottom of the USA population owns? Perhaps you could find out. That may convince you that capitalism as practiced is not working. How can this be allowed to continue in a country which still regards itself as nominally Christian?

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9 March 2011: Examining the Story of the Cross, Part II: Did the Crucifixion of Jesus Occur at Passover?

It is a common assumption that the crucifixion of Jesus took place in the context of the Jewish observance of Passover.  That is certainly the point of view developed in each of the four gospels.  Mark portrays the journey of Jesus and his followers to Jerusalem, which eventuated in the crucifixion, to have been for …

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Q & A:

I grew up in a small town north of Charlotte, NC. I now live in the Charlotte area. My parents went to the Baptist Church about three times a week. My father was the head deacon….Well, you get the picture. I have read several of your books because I have been “in exile” for years, but I still have strong moments of fear and guilt. I can not find a church in this area where I feel at ease. I feel that I should be raising my children in the church but they really don’t want to go. I was raised to believe that if you accepted Jesus in your heart that you would be saved. I struggle with this daily and I feel extremely alone with my thoughts. What should I do?

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3 March 2011: Examining the Story of the Cross, Part I: Analyzing the Details of the Crucifixion

In a few weeks the Christian world will enter the season of Lent that culminates with Holy Week and the liturgical reading of the Passion narrative of Jesus’ crucifixion.  The story of the cross is clearly the focal point of the New Testament with the last week of Jesus’ life taking up about a third …

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Q & A:

I am a Reader in the Anglican Church, but have been unable to believe in a God “up there” or indeed a personal God for some years. I have tried to understand Tillich’s idea of God not being a “Being,” but “Being itself” and the concept of the “Ground of all Being” without that much success I should say. More recently I have read Borg’s “The God we never knew” and the concept of “Panentheism” both transcendent and imminent. I have also read all of your own books which have brought me often out of the slough of despond, but sometimes I am still feeling very alone in my particular churchmanship to which I still wish to contribute. The question is: If I do not believe in a theistic God, does that now make me an Atheist or an a-theist, at least in comparison to the modern atheists like Richard Dawkins et al? I hope not, as I still wish to serve God, whoever or whatever that means through ministry to other people and have no wish to leave the church, but I must be true to myself and to other people.

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