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24 February 2011: Should this Column Deal with Political Issues?

I value the letters I receive from my readers.  They often offer me new perspectives, bringing to my attention new facts that contribute significantly to my understanding or challenge my conclusions.  Frequently these letters express appreciation for insights that I have been able to give them.  The most appreciative letters come from two major sources: …

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Q & A:

I am interested in hearing your reflections on the proposed Anglican Communion covenant. I have read it through once and have not totally digested its meanings. My overall view is that it seems like a lot of rules to keep unruly Anglicans/Christians/ Episcopalians in line. The simple covenant would seem to be yours: Live life fully, love wastefully and be all that you can be. Help me here. I look forward to hearing your comments.

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17 February 2011: Why I Value Valentine’s Day and How I Lost my Hat on Broadway

On February 14, I took my wife to the Valentine concert at the Avery Fisher Hall in New York City. This concert featured the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under the gifted direction of Harvard graduate Alan Gilbert in a presentation of some of the works of Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Strauss, Lehar, Falla, Lara and Leonard Bernstein. …

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Q & A:

I am retired, 79 years old, and am an active member of my local United Methodist Church in Springfield, Oregon. I regret that I could not attend your seminars held in Eugene, Oregon, because I have read most of your books and thoroughly enjoy hearing your lectures.

Recently I read the book, Godly Play, by Jerome W. Berryman. He has an interesting approach to Christian Education for children, but what struck me was his discussion about the basic questions of existence. Those questions each person must face alone. He lists these four: death, the threat of freedom, unavoidable aloneness and the need for meaning. I think I can make a case for Christianity providing answers to these questions, but I would like to learn about your answers (although I realize that full answers would take a book to cover the topic fully).

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9 February 2011: The Transition from Tribalism: The Tea Party, States’ Rights, Strict Constructionists and the Reading of the Constitution

Recently, I read Brian Burroughs’ book, The Big Rich, the story of the rise and fall of the major Texas oil fortunes.  When I had finished this book, I finally understood the source of the irrational anger expressed toward the Federal Government in today’s political climate; the revival of “States’ Rights;” the meaning of the …

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Q & A:

I have read most of your books and have enjoyed all of them. I was once a fundamentalist Christian and your books have really opened my eyes to many things. I have been giving my husband your books to read but he is still not totally convinced and leans towards Biblical literalism. His problem is that prophecies in the Bible have come true; i.e. the Jews returning to their homeland in 1948 as prophesied in the Bible thousands of years before. He also sees great power in the north forming now and expects Armageddon to happen shortly. What are your thoughts on Bible prophecy especially in regard to the Jews and their homeland?

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3 February 2011: Milton Reese LeRoy, 1922-2010

He was competent, but gentle; successful, but not aggressive; genuine without being pretentious.  His name was Milton Reese LeRoy.  He graduated from Clemson University in South Carolina in 1943 as an engineer and, after a tour of duty in the armed forces during World War II, from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1950.  He was ordained …

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Q & A:

Environmentalism, as measured by number of adherents, is the dominant religion in the United States today. Like all religions, it is based on myths masquerading as truth or fact. You are recognized as especially gifted in seeing through the fog of myth underlying Christianity. It is disappointing to note your inability, as demonstrated in the “Either Hogs or Hines” essay, to see through the mythical basis of Global Warming. There is voluminous scientific evidence refuting the claims that human activity, including carbon dioxide emissions, is causing climate variation.

“Wisdom is the ability to distinguish truth from myth”. (Origin unknown)

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26 January 2011: Watching the United Kingdom Wrestle with its Deficit

All economic downturns have political ramifications. What the actual effect will be is determined to some degree by the psyche of the nation itself.  In the Great depression of the 1930’s Germany turned to Adolph Hitler to lead them out, while America turned to Franklin D. Roosevelt.  One must admit those were two radically different …

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Q & A:

I finished reading your book Liberating the Gospel this past Sunday and was fascinated and excited by the biblical scholarship you outlined in it. I’ve read Why Christianity Must Change or Die and Jesus for the Non-Religious and I look forward to reading the rest of your books as well. You have no idea how wonderful it has been for me to find a religious leader who presents such thoughtful and meaningful perspectives on the Bible; perspectives that allow me to use my brain while remaining spiritual.

Later that night, I turned on the TV only to hear Jack Van Impe and his wife Roxella (people I was not familiar with until that very moment) reminding viewers that he and his wife do not preach about the end of the world, they preach about the second coming of Christ. He quotes passages that say a certain number of people will go with Christ up to heaven and then come back to live 1000 years ON EARTH…and then something else will happen and then God’s chosen ones will live here FOREVER. Each of his assertions was supported with Bible verse after Bible verse like a man with Tourette’s.

The distance between your views in Liberating the Gospels and the views expressed by Van Impe’s struck me that day. In my life there are people around me who believe in the literal interpretation of scripture. Have you ever considered creating a television show of your own to provide an alternative view to the craziness I heard on the airwaves Sunday night? Are there personal approaches you might suggest that I take with people I know that take scripture so literally (e.g. women shouldn’t be ministers for Jesus had no female disciples, homosexuality is an abomination or “love the sinner, hate the sin”, etc., etc., etc.

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19 January 2011: Biblical Ignorance in Public Life

One of the things I look for in my elected representatives in government is that they understand the issues on which they speak with some level of competence. When people in authority take stands on public issues, I believe, they do have a responsibility to be informed.  Two events occurring recently in our political landscape …

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Q & A:

I was pondering this past week about the right wing fundamentalists and their real fear of anything that smacks of socialism. For me, the word socialism means that the society cares for those who are marginalized, who have major difficulties coping with basic life issues, the poor, etc. My understanding of Christian belief is that this care is at the core of our belief - to care for those who need our care, our support, our understanding. Why do those who are “fundamentalist” refuse to see this as part of the Christian gospel? Or am I missing something?

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12 January 2011: Facing Hard Choices in the 21st Century. It’s Either Hogs or Hines!

In the last half of the 19th century a country doctor named Edgar Hines lived with his family that included two sons, Edgar jr. and John Elbridge in Oconee County, South Carolina, near Clemson University.  Edgar Hines, Jr. went on to become an outstanding doctor.  John Elbridge Hines grew up to become the Presiding Bishop …

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Q & A:

As an ordained member of the Church of England, I do not think that Jesus is the founder of Christianity or that he intended to create the institution called “the Church.” My study, including the reading of your books, leads me to the conclusion that he sought to reform Judaism, to call people to share his experience of the God presence, an experience that helps people to know abundant life. (I’m still trying to find my way there!) The challenge then, for me as a clergyperson, is whether I simply bring comfort to the dying – individuals, congregations, the church – or a somewhat ill formed vision of the resurrection experience beyond, but not instead of death.

Your words to me the first time we met in England were “be of good courage, Mike, they can only kill you.” Whether you realized it or not, there was a great truth in those words. If I choose to challenge the “domination system” of the church then I know because of my personal vulnerabilities it could “kill me.” If I don’t, then suppressing that challenge is creating as dis-ease within me, which will cause me to wither away into the shadow of my being. At this point in time Buddhism (without a deity) seems to be a healthier and a better option. The wisdom teaching of Jesus and the Buddha feed my soul in equal measure. I would prefer to sit in a meditation hall than most church buildings.

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5 January 2011: Joseph – An Essential Character in Matthew’s Vision of Jesus

Christmas has faded from our memory.  The trees are down, the tinsel and the chaos of the day have been cleared away.  The crèche scenes have been stored in the basement or attic for another year.  It is, therefore, a good time to focus on the least understood member of the Holy Family that dominated …

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Q & A:

Why do we introduce the Lord’s Prayer by saying: “And now as our Savior Christ has taught us, we are bold to say:” Why does one have to be bold to say the Lord’s Prayer?

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30 December 2010: Thoughts at the End of 2010 – Darkness Ahead

Momentarily a new year will dawn. 2010 has been difficult economically for this nation and the world. Now is a traditional time both for looking backward and forward. When I watch our politicians discharge their duties at year’s end, I find myself despairing for two reasons. First, few people in public life seem eager to …

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Q & A:

I have just finished reading Eternal Life: A New Vision. Thank you for writing this wonderful book, and thank you for sharing your vision of life eternal fulfilled. I embrace your vision with enthusiasm and I share in your celebration of our spiritual life.

In the early chapters of the book, you spend some time describing your journey, as a child and as a youth, within the boundaries and constraints and limitations of a conservative Protestant tradition. I can identify with many of your memories, and I can recall (20 years ago or so) sharing many of the "fundamentalist" beliefs and ideologies with young Sunday School students that I taught for 10 years within a Lutheran church outside of Ottawa. The stories of Genesis and Exodus and the narratives of the gospels rolled easily into the empty, hungry minds of the children and, in the spirit of most stories (and especially folklore), left these children excited and intrigued. But now, looking both backwards to where I started and from what I see today, communication or rather education of our young people becomes a little more complex and challenging.

If many (or rather, most) adults have difficulty jettisoning the literal interpretations of the Bible, how do we pursue the important task of presenting allegorical, symbolic stories abut the history of God's journey with humanity in a format and language that our young children can absorb and understand? Consider the following analogy: If we don't learn how to ride a bike before we can balance ourselves on two legs (and hopefully walk a few meters), should we not then continue to educate our very young with the images and stories that capture their imaginations and speak to their intellect (at that age)? Possibly, the problem with our Christian education process is that we never leave "the uncomplicated pictures" that we experience in the early grades of learning and that rather than maturing and growing in our divine-human journey, we remain closed in an understanding that we should have outgrown a long time ago. In other words, is the problem equally as much how we teach, (i.e. training adults not to remain in a child's thinking) as what we teach?

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23 December 2010: Christpower

Dear Friends, On December 24th, 1974 I delivered in my Church in Richmond, Virginia, a sermon, which sought to put the Christmas story into a modern context through the medium of poetry. It was based on an earlier poem I had written, entitled Christpower. In 1975 this Christmas piece was incorporated into and published along …

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Q & A:

In a lecture series last spring in Hendersonville, North Carolina, I noticed that you were wearing a cross, one of the symbols of Christianity. In light of your spiritual evolution, what does the symbol of the cross mean to you today?

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