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21 January 2010: Uganda, Homophobia and the Incompetence of Certain Christian Leaders
Does the Ku Klux Klan have the right to parade through a black community, hurling racist insults at the people of the neighborhood and raising racist fervor throughout the land because their right to free speech is guaranteed by the constitution? Does a neo-Nazi group have the right to demonstrate in a Jewish community, shouting …
Mark Dickinson from Ottawa, Ontario, writes:
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?
If there is one book in the New Testament that might be called “The Gospel of Paul,” it is the Epistle to the Romans. This letter is different from all of Paul’s other work in several ways. First, Paul had never been to Rome and so he had no relationship whatsoever with the Roman church. …
7 January 2010: Thoughts on the Passing of 2009
It was an incredible year, that weary old 2009. It dawned with the high expectations surrounding the new president-elect. We reveled in the pomp and circumstance of his inauguration. The world greeted this new president with an enthusiasm that had not been seen since the election of John F. Kennedy. In the Obama election, the …
Sally and Jon from Washington, D.C., write:
Proposed health-care reform legislation included a provision that allows Medicare to pay for "end-of-life" counseling for seniors and their families who request it. The provision, which Sarah Palin erroneously described as "death panels" for seniors, nearly derailed President Obama's health-care initiative. Some Republicans still argue that the provision would ration health care for the elderly. Does end-of-life care prolong life or does it prolong suffering? Should it be part of health-care reform?
It is quite easy to see how one could read Paul, especially those epistles known as I Thessalonians and Galatians, and come away believing that Paul saw the resurrection of Jesus as a literal miracle in which a deceased body, quite physically, was restored and walked out of a tomb alive and once more was …
24 December 2009: The Origins of the New Testament, Part X: Resurrection According to Paul — I Corinthians
The first written account that we have of the Easter event in the Bible — Paul addressing the congregation in Corinth around the year 54-55 — gives us material that is both scanty and provocative. In order to understand his meaning fully, we need to cleanse our minds of the traditional Easter content found in …
Charles Brittain from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, writes:
I am a progressive Christian, one who follows your scholarship and that of my pastor. In fact, you have visited our church and I have heard you speak in person. It was a wonderful experience for me. The problem I'm having at this present holiday season is that the scholarship and the traditional Christmas music and the visuals are not in agreement with each other. I feel that I abandon my intellectual knowledge when I participate in the traditional forms of Christmas liturgy and imagery. Can you suggest how that I may enjoy both the scholarship and the traditions of Christmas without feeling conflicted?
17 December 2009: The Origins of the New Testament, Part IX: Paul on the Final Events in Jesus’ Life
“I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received.” With those words Paul set out in writing to the Corinthians the earliest account we have of the final events in the life of Jesus. Paul was not an eyewitness to these final events, since as far as we know he never met …
10 December 2009: The Origins of the New Testament, Part VIII: The Corinthian Letters
Paul was a complicated mixture of many things. He was a missionary who traveled hundreds of miles by foot and by boat to tell his story. He was, as we noted last week when examining the letter to the Galatians, an intense zealot who would fight vigorously to defend his understanding of the gospel. He …
3 December 2009: The Origins of the New Testament, Part VII: Paul’s Early Epistles, I Thessalonians and Galatians
In our Origins of the New Testament series, I now turn to the epistles of Paul since he was the first author to write any part of the New Testament. My plan is to divide the authentic writings of Paul into three broad categories. There is what I call “the early Paul,” best seen through …
26 November 2009: A Church Tower in a Shopping Center! A Restaurant in a Church! Is This Evolving Christianity?
I have just completed a whirlwind tour of the United Kingdom — nine lectures in eight days in places as far east as Colchester, as far north as Edinburgh, as far west as Exeter and as far south as London. This tour was under the auspices of a group called the Progressive Christian Network of …
A. Wiant from Gainesville, Florida, writes:
If we are to presume that being gay is just a personality trait of a minority of people and that gay people should be welcomed into the Christian community as "equals" (whatever that means in this context), how do we consider pedophilia as a perversion of the human condition to be segregated and punished if the source has similar roots in the mind? If this is so, why do we as a society feel that pedophilia can and should be treated and homosexuality should be considered a normal variation? (This is an academic question and does not reflect my own feelings in this matter.)
19 November 2009: Canterbury and Rome: Ecclesiastical Kindergarten Games
Let me see if I have this straight. The Pope has a clergy shortage and the Anglicans have a small group of alienated clergy who cannot adjust to women priests and bishops and who abhor the idea of homosexual people being welcomed into the Christian Church. Why not solve both problems at once? That seems …
The Rev. Dore' Patlian from Sarasota, Florida, writes:
I have long been an ardent admirer of your wonderful work to return Christianity to the root values of love, empowerment and healing of the body, mind and spirit. Anger and condemnation have no place in any church or group calling itself Christian. My question is, do you feel Paul and John, in particular, are responsible for much of the twisted doctrines of male domination, exclusion and hatred that are found particularly in Evangelical Protestantism? They did, as you point out, write nearly 80 percent of the New Testament, and Paul virtually invented Christianity as a religion.
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