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7 March 2007: The Rise of Fundamentalism: Fundamentalism’s Roots — Part I

Is the escalating conflict, which is public in mainline Protestant Christianity and private in Roman Catholic Christianity, really about homosexuality? I do not think so. Homosexuality is only the content of the present dispute, even being called by some right wing ideologues “the final straw” that drove them into a stance of militancy. If, however, …

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Q & A:

I live in the United Kingdom. I am an Anglican Christian in

the Diocese of Canterbury. We have been asked to provide voluntary help in

staffing and supporting the 2008 Lambeth Conference. This set me thinking

about the nature of that meeting and what might transpire. I am feeling more

and more that the Anglican Communion is being forced by the vocal minority

of bigots into a position where almost the only topic will be homosexuality

and whether the Anglican Communion should be inclusive or exclusive. Any

vote on that issue can only be divisive and could result in schism. I and

many others would value your thoughts on this matter.

Have we reached the place where schism of some sort would

actually be beneficial to the Anglican Communion? Would we, in the words of

a retired, high-ranking Church of England Clergyman of my acquaintance who

was not a bishop, have a purer form of Christianity as a result? He and I

are united on the "side" of inclusivity? I am a member of something called

"The Inclusive Church Movement," designed to change attitudes here in this

diocese. My experience is that although this matter is acknowledged as

vital for the future of the Anglican Church, no one is prepared to discuss

it.

One of our bishops (Graham Cray of Maidstone) is the

Episcopal Advisor to an organization known as "Anglican Mainstream," whose

chairman, Dr. Philip Giddings, led the witch hunt against Dean Jeffrey John,

the openly gay priest who was appointed as an area bishop in the Diocese of

Oxford in which, as you rightly say, the new Archbishop bowed to the bigots.

Bishop Cray is conducting a parish visit here next month. I want to raise

this issue at the Church Council meeting which will bring his visitation to

a close. I will have the support of some of the council and the tacit

support of at least two of our clergy - the incumbent and our retired

curate. Is this occasion the best in which to tie a bishop down? The

Church of England faces financial meltdown as a result of many bad

investment decisions taken over the decades. These decisions violated all

the Old Testament laws on usury, financial manipulation and abuse, of which

there are many more than those laws in the Old Testament which refer to

homosexuality, which nevertheless has been placed in the forefront of the

present debate in the church.

Can you suggest ways forward that will ensure that the Church

remains inclusive - as established by Our Lord - and retains the last shred

of integrity in the eyes of the country it is said to represent? I am

excited and haunted at the moment by words from the introduction to the

book, "Anglicanism: The Answer to Modernity" written from the perspective of

theologians and priests working in universities. One passage talks about

the deep dissonance between the students expectations of dialogue and the

paternalistic dogmatism of the church which the students see or sense not

far below the surface. These are the words: "What they (the new students)

yearn for is wisdom and to be good. What they are told by the Church to

desire is to be saved and to be obedient." Where do we go from here?

I write in great admiration of your stand and ability to

communicate it with such vigor and integrity - long an inspiration to me and

many others.

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28 February 2007: Why Did You Write JESUS FOR THE NON-RELIGIOUS? The Perennial Question

A new book possesses for its author and sometimes even for its potential readers a mysterious quality. Writing a book represents such a large investment of time and energy that something has to compel the author to undertake it. A novelist, for example, must be captured by the plot that he or she plans to …

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Q & A:

When you were talking about secular humanism, you said

nothing awaits a secular humanist. Were you referring to non-realism (God

is not real) and the belief that this life is all the life we have? I

suddenly thought of Don Cupitt. I like a lot of what he writes but

absolutely cannot agree that God is not real or that we have no future in

God.

Read the Answer...

21 February 2007: The Birth of the Book – Jesus for the Non-Religious

It does not matter how many times it has happened before, for me it is still a transcendent moment. The doorbell rings, a courier bearing a package so important that it merits the cost of overnight delivery, is at the door. I see the return address to be that of my publisher, HarperCollins, and I …

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Q & A:

What do you think about estate taxes? I know you want to spread it around

but how can you tax it twice?

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14 February 2007: An Audacious Institution

The Episcopal Church has been in the news recently. One diocese on the west coast, led by its bishop, has amended its canons to remove every reference to the Episcopal Church to deny that it is bound by that church’s constitution. Eleven Virginia congregations have voted to depart from the Episcopal Church in order to …

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Q & A:

I am a 63-year-old man who was raised in the Pentecostal Church until I

rebelled and forced my way out at about age 14. I subsequently have lived

my life with the existence of God as an open philosophical question to me

and with utter contempt for all religious structures and teachings. I have

always thought they were self-serving as institutions and for the people who

wrap themselves in those teachings.

I once had a conversation with two doctors who were both raised in the

same Muslim faith. One remains devout in the most human way. The other has

drifted from the religion of his birth. He now believes that "democracy"

is the best religion. I have thought about his concept and your teachings

as I have read them in your newsletter and several of your books.

Democracy, in its purest form, and the Christ experience as you ponder and

teach it. What a marvelous concept. In a pure democracy there would be

neither "man nor woman" nor any other of the differences that exist now in

our world and religions. For me, my recent reading of your teaching on Paul

and the scripture quoted above seems to make "democracy" and humanity the

best religion. As for the Christ experience and your teachings not just of

faith but humanity in the Christ experience, it is something I have started

to think about. I must thank you for a lifetime of faith, work and all that

goes into it so that one day I might pick up your writings, read them, and

begin to think about WHY AM I HERE DOING THE GOOD "CHRISTIAN DEEDS" IN MY

LIFE WITHOUT THE SUPPORT OF RELIGION OR EVEN A BELIEF IN GOD BECAUSE I

BELIEVE THEY ARE RIGHT?? Maybe there is a new Christianity that would

reveal itself in me, but perhaps not in my lifetime. Thank you for

reaching out to people like me. I look forward to each newsletter.

Read the Answer...

7 February 2007: There is a Time to Grieve: John Harvie Knight 1960-2006.

Life, for all its sweetness and wonder, still strikes us with unbearable pain from time to time. Tragedies that are so far out of the normal order of things are never anticipated. Yet that experience engulfed close friends of mine when a phone call at 4:00 a.m the day after Christmas informed them that their …

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Q & A:

"As the presidential campaign begins to take shape, do you think it is

appropriate and or important for the candidates to express their personal

religious views and to use religious rhetoric? Why?"

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31 January 2007: There is a Time to Grieve: John Harvie Knight 1960-2006.

The Gospel of John is dramatically different from the gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke. It begins by identifying Jesus with the “Word of God” spoken in creation. It ascribes to Jesus the holy name of God, “I Am” by placing into Jesus’ mouth a series of “I Am” statements: “I am the bread of …

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Q & A:

I have recently read your account of your dialogues in Norway and

Sweden. My cousin is a Lutheran pastor and believes the wine in communion

is transformed literally into the blood of Christ. Apparently this is a

belief in many denominations. If that is such a pillar of their faith, how

can such a tradition be replaced without destroying the liturgical

foundation of their faith? My Congregational Church doctrines were in

keeping with what you express.

Read the Answer...

10 January 2007: A Conversation in Grebenstein, Germany

While on a lecture tour of Europe this winter, we had one stop in Grebenstein, Germany, that was unique in many ways. No lecture, press conference or even a meeting with some ecclesiastical leader was scheduled here. We were simply responding to an invitation from a retired Lutheran pastor, named Gerhard Klein, who had translated …

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Q & A:

I subscribe to the teachings of Christ and regularly attend the United

Methodist Church. However, my question is this: Is "God" or "Yahweh" really

a defined word? Here is my reason for suspecting that it is not. "One" is

a pronoun. The pronoun "one" in the dictionary definition of the nouns

"creator" and "ruler" (one that creates/rules) - which is contained in what

the lexicographers allege to be a definition of "God" and publish in their

dictionaries - has never been assigned an antecedent and no antecedent seems

possible. If this is the case, then the alleged definition of "God" is not

a definition at all. You can't define a noun only as a pronoun with no

possible antecedent. That seems to be a language trick used in alleged

definitions of "God." Oftentimes, the word "spirit" is given as the

antecedent of "one." However, a similar question can be asked about the

meaningfulness of the word "spirit." Can you expound on this?

Read the Answer...

3 January 2007: Watching Christianity Evolve in Scandinavia

During the early winter of this year, my wife and I went to Scandinavia for 16 lectures, 5 press interviews and extensive conversations. I returned with a deeper sense of where Christianity is, at least in Norway and Sweden. It was both revealing and hopeful. The tour began in late November with a 4 session …

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Q & A:

I grew up ECLA Lutheran. My mother was raised Mennonite, which

contributed pacifist beliefs. My father was an ordained Methodist minister

but worked in a different profession. I married into a Lutheran family and

my parents now worship at the United Methodist Church.

I tried very hard to "make it work" in mainline Christianity. I

read, "Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism" and that started me on the

path of questioning everything. I've been working my way through all of

your books and enjoying them quite a bit. Some of your sentences are so

finely crafted and beautiful in their content. My mother and I constantly

discuss your work. It is very difficult, however, to reconcile our newfound

awareness with our Sunday morning experiences. Certain statements, hymn

lyrics or rites have to be outright rejected or translated in my mind. (I

refused to allow the Creed at my daughter's baptism!).

I understand your desire for people to stay and fight for change

within their particular churches, but that is like trying single-handedly to

turn the Titanic around. I have only one life to live. I need to go where

my soul is fed. I have recently found the Unity Church and started

attending services. I am interested to know what your opinion is of the

Unity Church.

P.S. I highly respect your opinion, but please do not feel that I am

waiting for your answer in my decision to attend services. I do not mean to

imply anything of that nature.

Read the Answer...

27 December 2006: Facing 2007 with Grave Apprehension

The year 2006 began with an unresolved war in Iraq. It ended with that war not just unresolved, but obviously deteriorating into the unmanageable chaos of civil war and tribal violence. More American military lives were lost in November of 2006 than in any month in over a year. On Monday, December 17, the News …

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Q & A:

My husband and I really enjoyed "Sins of Scripture." We were

both raised Catholic and now belong to what you so accurately refer to as

the Church Alumni Association. My family consists of Polish immigrants, so

they are what I call "fundamentalist Catholics." Think Irish Catholic...it

is that sort of fervor and dedication to the Church and the belief that the

Catholic Church is the only true Church. The Poles are not different.

We are now facing a dilemma. We did not get married in a

Catholic Church, which you can imagine caused a lot of grief. We have

"lost" some family members as a result, who are no longer speaking to us.

We just had our first baby, and the pressure is on to have him baptized

immediately.

We have gently told my family that there will be no baptism.

They are beside themselves. It is one thing to deny ourselves the Kingdom

of Heaven they say but to cast our own child into the pit of hell because of

our own sin and stupidity, well, it is unforgivable in their eyes. Friends

of my father have urged him to "take the matter into his own hands," by

which I think they mean to simply baptize our son without our consent. My

father turns a bright red/purple with rage when the topic comes up and I

fear he is going to give himself a heart attack...at which point I feel

intense guilt and think maybe I should just give the man peace of mind that

his grandson will not wind up in hell for all of eternity. I think it is

absolutely absurd that anyone would characterize the perfect loving God I

experience as this scary monster throwing unbaptized children into hell, or

even purgatory, which are concepts I don't believe in anyway...you get the

point, this is why I "dropped out" in the first place.

So, I come to you with a request. Since we do not have the

wealth of theological knowledge to back up our feelings about God, and they

(the fundamentalist Catholics) have the backing of the Pope, the Bishops and

the "Church," my husband and I often stutter out a bunch of "We

believe...statements which just irritate the fundamentalist Catholics even

more because, in their eyes, it does not matter what "we believe," it

matters what "the Church" thinks.

Can you advise us on how we can gently help my fundamentalist

Catholic family members to respect our decision? We really need your help

on this because I'm afraid we are about to lose more family members and,

instead of losing them, we would really like to live in harmony and mutual

respect with them.

Read the Answer...

20 December 2006: Watching Christmas being Celebrated in Europe

This year I watched Christmas dawn in Europe. It provided me with new insights into this holy day and an understanding of the state of Christianity on the continent as well. In this Christmas essay, I will try to recreate that experience for you. It began in Scandinavia with a majestic Advent portrait that only …

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Q & A:

Please comment on the very recent book by John Danforth, "Faith and

Politics: How the Moral Values Debates Divides America" I realize it will

take a while to get to this, but I eagerly await your views on his views.

Read the Answer...

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