According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Emergent Christianity's Voice Is More Than Emergent Village's Assertions


Emergent Christianity is Not Progressive Christianity

As introduction, I should point out that I do not automatically associate "Emergent Christianity" in the same category as that of "Process Theology" - as is being billed by Emergent Village (a progressive Christian group more than it is an Emergent group) in its upcoming 2012 conference.

Just as Classic Theism and Open Theism are part of the Emergent movement's discussion, so too may Process Theology be part of that discussion. But unlike Emergent Village's bold statement, process theology is not the sum-total of Emergent Christianity, but part of a larger conversation between itself and Theism. Regardless of its Christian claimants.

What I am saying here is that Emergent Christians are investing themselves in all forms of discussions about God - who He is in His nature and essence - and in His relation to creation and time via His authoritative divine will and ourselves. Hence, it is for this reason that this blog has been created to speak more clearly about what Emergent Christianity is, both in it's diversity, as well as in its central core of beliefs. It is my intent (as well as others similar in intent as mine own) to add to that discussion, and lend it directional support. To uncover, renew or remake older expressions of the orthodox Christian faith into updated, postmodernistic forms of expression.

Accordingly, we must acknowledge that Emergent Christianity has a larger audience than that of Evangelicalism - for it includes progressive Christians and mainline denominationalists as well; has a broader orthodoxy and orthopraxy consequently; and more of a postmodern mindset. But, it cannot be simply defined by Tony Jones and Emergent Village's belief statements any longer -  though neither should it be lessened by those same sentiments. Emergent Christianity must be as mainline as it is radical. And it behooves Emergents to understand and know who they are, what they are, and why they are, from the right to the left of its participating groups.

Consequently, we should not be content in simply stating that Progressive Christianity (or Big Tent Christianity) is the completing definition of Emergent Christianity. It is not. If anything, Progressives are further left of Evangelicalism than Emergents are. And there are large distinctions too (more on this in later posts).

However, like Emergent Christianity with its mix of conservative denominations and post-conservative evangelicals, Progressive Christians are seeking to expand their assemblies and associations both right and left of their movement... not unlike what Emergent Christianity has been doing since its break out about ten years ago (1998? 2004?). And both groups are each seeking to discover a more progressive form (or, updated form) of Christianity over and beyond traditional orthodoxy and classic Calvinistic associations and assemblies.

For me, Emergent Christianity is simply understood as any-and-all participants who can define themselves around Jesus as Redeeming God and Savior. Assuredly syncretism will occur (more probably for the right side than the left side of the religious line of pluralism)  but hopefully at the cost of apprehending Jesus more clearly than we have at present through our delimiting religious cultural expressions found currently in its classic or traditional expressions. Expressions that we leave with thankfulness and appreciation for its many years of declaring Christ to the world. But one that must be left in today's marketplace of postmodernism.

The central focus of Emergent Christianity must then be an understanding of Jesus (i) unhindered by past Reformational decrees and Calvinisms - including worship practices, demeanor and missional statements. As well as (ii) deliverance from Liberalism's unbelieving assertions of Jesus' non-divine personage, mission and ministry, and denial of the Bible's divine revelation. (And by Liberalism is not meant Progressive Christianity - which has formed the rear-guard of discerning mainstream Christianity from Liberalism's Continental incursions into America.) And finally, (iii) Emergent Christianity includes all those frustrated Christians unwilling to submit to either branches of Christianity because it is the popular thing to do. Or the politically correct thing to do. Who find themselves as moderates and independents seeking better expressions of Jesus to the world than is currently being offered from either the right or the left. Culturally, politically, societally, religiously.

Emergent Christianity is a spectrum unto itself. A third man as it were. Neither Catholic nor Protestant. It is stateless and wishes to remain so while offering a broader outreach to the world's religions and mankind than can currently be done within present institutional systems and parochial beliefs. This then would be the true spectrum of Christianity: one without boundaries and barriers, stateless and universal, color-blind, gender-neutral, disavowing all human limitations to its mission and charter (http://relevancy22.blogspot.com/2011/09/four-views-of-evangelicalism-emergent.html).

And with that said, and in an effort to (i) better our understanding of Process (Relational) Theology; and to (ii) explore and create some kind of theosophical alternative within the folds of Classic Theism that doesn't require a panentheistic base, but a theistic base; (iii) Emergent Village is hosting a 3 day event at Claremont School of Theology, Jan 30- Feb 2, 2012. Below may be found Emergent Village's itinerary, guest speakers, and registration links. Thank you.

RE Slater
November 13, 2011


Join Us For the Theological Conversation

http://www.processtheology.org/sample-page/


    

The Emergent Village Theological Conversation has quickly established a reputation for deep thought and rich interaction. This year’s conversation will engage Process Theology as we explore the dynamic conception of the living and life-giving God. Monica A. Coleman, John Cobb and Philip Clayton will lead the conversation engaging with Jeanyne Slettom, Bruce Epperly, Julie Clawson and Daniel Shroyer

Cobb has proclaimed that the church should “join God in working for the salvation of the world.” This strong assertion flows right out of the open and relational vision of theology he has pioneered throughout his career. It is our belief that in conversation with Cobb a progressive, missional, holistic, and radically relational theology with legs will emerge.

After setting the context with an introduction to process theology we will immediately turn towards the biggest challenges facing the world, making those essential conversations for all creation the location for doing theology. Through practical engagements of Process and Emergence we will reflect on how God relates to the world, works within the world, and do what all theology is suppose to be doing: seeking to engage and transform the world as it exists in reality. This will take us into ecology, economics, religious pluralism, secularism, and the relational ramifications for the Church both locally and globally.

Come join us in Claremont California, January 30- February 2, 2012 for the conversation.

Partners: This event is sponsored by the Emergent Village & hosted at Claremont School of Theology in partnership with Process & Faith

Hotel: Our event hotel is the Hotel Claremont. They are giving our participants a special deal with rooms for 59 – 69 bucks a night for bed, breakfast, and a shuttle to the campus. Just let Steven Mercado know you are part of the ‘emergent village’ when reserving your room. Email him: reservations@myhotelclaremont.com

Sign up: Registration is limited in order to create the conditions for conversation. For now it is just $99 bucks until the New Year when it will go up to $119 or when we cap it off. So sign up now.




5 Sessions
 http://www.processtheology.org/5-sessions/


The Emergent Village Theological Conversation 2012 will carry forward some of the best aspects of previous conversations. It will also feature some innovations that appropriately reflect the topic of this year’s gathering.
Here are some highlights of what you can expect:
  • Process Theology emphasizes an open-ended and relational view of faith. The 5 sessions will integrate a format that is thoroughly relational and open-ended.
It is important that the information being presented match the organization
  • Process Theology introduces new concepts and vocabulary. Each of the 5 sessions will begin with a ‘keynote’ presentation from a scholar, who will then be in dialogue with two other practitioners and thinkers. The conversation will then be expanded to the gathered participants – with each session utilizing an appropriate format for the themes of that session.
Use of technology like the Twitter-Tumbler and an empowered moderator will facilitate real-time interactions with the presenter during the session.
  • The structure of the five session are organized in a chiastic format. Monica A. Coleman will lead us in session 1 and 5. John B. Cobb will host session 2 and 4. Philip Clayton has agreed to provide the ‘hinge’ session 3.
Session 1 is Introduction with Monica Coleman
Session 2 is Expansion with John Cobb (Christian Belief and Pluralism)
Session 3 is Dissection and Doubt with Philip Clayton
Session 4 is Application with John Cobb (Economics and Ecology)
Session 5 is Construction for Ministry with Monica Coleman
  • Julie Clawson, veteran of Emergent Conversations, pointed out that most conferences don’t build in a time to question, disagree, and push-back. Great ideas are presented and insightful questions are asked … but the real wrestling is done either individually or after hours.
We still want personal wrestling and after-hours conversation, but we have also purposefully built in a session for wrestling out loud. Session 3 will let us debrief with Philip Clayton who navigates the worlds of Emergent and Process, Church and Academy in a masterful way.
  • Each session will be followed up with related break-out tracks. One will focus on ministry specific issues.Jeanyne Slettom, director of the Center for Process & Faith and co-Pastor of a process-centered congregation will be helping us with this. Another track will be theological-conceptual. The third will be a wild-card showcase.
Five times we will come together for the main sessions to hear a presentation, listen to a dialogue, participate in a conversation, and then disperse for break-out sessions. These four expanding levels of engagement will allow for both learning and expression in each of the five chapters.

Here is a potential picture of Session 5: Monica Coleman will present ideas and stories about her ministerial experiences and context specific opportunities and challenges for ministry with a Process framework. Then Danielle Shroyer and Bruce Epperly will join her to tell a bit about their context and their engagement of Process in ministry. Next, we will break down into smaller circles to compare notes in order come into the Question & Response time. This main-session conversation will propel us into the the breakout sessions. One breakout will have two pastors talking about preaching Process. One will be about comparing theological vocab & concepts between different schools of thought. Another will address sexuality in the church & community.

For John Cobb’s session 4 on Ecology and Economy, a conversation partner like Julie Clawson (author of Everyday Justice) and another thinker would be followed by breakout sessions that correlate.

This is going to be a wonderful time – come to the registration page and sign-up now.



The Deism (or, Natural Religion) of Some of America's Founding Fathers


Our “founding fathers” - Christians or what?

by Roger Olson
posted November 13, 2011

Recently I’ve been delving once again into deism, or what is more appropriately called natural religion. (Deism has come to have connotations of belief in a distant, uninvolved and even uncaring God. That wasn’t true of all who have been lumped together as deists. [The] real sine qua non of “deism” was a belief in natural religion, not a doctrine of God.) I’ve been re-reading Locke (a precursor), Toland and Tindal (among others). These men thought they were Christians. Well, there’s some doubt about what Tindal actually thought, but let’s say they all considered themselves Christians–probably “of a higher order” than those around them.

My mind began to wander and wonder about those who claim publicly that most, if not all, of our republic’s founding fathers were orthodox Christians, if not evangelical Christians. I’m not going to name any names here, but if you pay close attention to this controversy I think you can figure out some of the people I might be referring to.

There are writers and speakers, conservative evangelicals all (so far as I know), claiming that even Thomas Jefferson was a “real Christian.” I don’t see them or hear them talking about Benjamin Franklin much. Maybe they don’t consider him one of our founding fathers. Or maybe they would say he’s the exception that proves the rule. In any case, writings and video recordings by these people are being used in numerous home schooling situations. I have had students who came out of a home schooling situation who thought, on the basis of some of these books and videos, that Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and all the others were good Christians by which they meant something similar to what we would today call evangelical.

What I wonder is whether these writers and speakers really believe the things they are saying and writing or whether they are intentionally misleading people.

My uncle, a retired denominational leader, called me to ask me about something he heard one of these writers (who is also a frequent speaker at churches and conferences and even political events) say on a Christian talk show on a Christian television network. According to my uncle, the man claimed that “Jefferson’s Bible” (The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth) was created by Jefferson to have a handy, abbreviated version of the four gospels to give to Native Americans to evangelize them for the gospel. He denied that Jefferson “cut up” the New Testament to cut out the supernatural or offensive sayings of Jesus–as “liberals” claim. My uncle genuinely wanted to know what I, as a church historian / historical theologian, thought about that.

It didn’t take much research to discover that Jefferson himself explained why he created the so-called “Jefferson Bible” (now published by the Unitarian publishing house Beacon Press) in letters to friends, especially John Adams. In a letter about The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth dated 1813 Jefferson compared the portions of the gospels he cut out and pasted into his book to diamonds separated from dung. He left no doubt that, while he admired Jesus, he did not agree with everything Jesus said or did. He ended his book with Jesus’ death and omitted the resurrection. Most, if not all, of the miracles were also left out.

I reported on Jefferson’s 1813 letter to Adams to my uncle who was shocked and dismayed. He said to me “I wonder what [he named the man he saw and heard on the Christian television program] would say about that?” I wonder, too.

There is no doubt that SOME of the founding fathers were orthodox Christians, but to claim that all or even most of them were is simply stretching the truth.

Some of these writers and speakers quote from various proclamations and prayers of founding fathers as if those actually expressed their own personal beliefs. Anyone who has paid careful attention to even more modern presidents and their religious rhetoric should know that presidents (and other government officials) sometimes sound more religious in public than they really are. And, yes, like Toland and Tindal, even the most secular of the founding fathers considered themselves Christian in some sense of the word. But just because they talked about God, the Bible and Jesus in glowing terms hardly justifies claiming them as ones “of us” (evangelical Christians).

My point here is not to get into the details of the religious lives of the founding fathers; that has been done in many volumes. The problem is that it is increasingly becoming apparent that some of the most popular ones are simply unreliable; they promote a revisionist history that appears to be blatantly dishonest.

Why can’t the founding fathers have been simply good men? Why do we have to claim they were orthodox, even spiritual Christians to hold them in high esteem? And why not just pick out the ones who really were orthodox Christians, such as apparently Patrick Henry was, and hold them up as “our heroes?”

Sloppy and/or revisionist history is not becoming of any Christian; it pays no real compliments to God or the founding fathers. In the end, when home school young people get to college (unless they go to one of two or three schools that specialize in promoting revisionist history about the founding fathers) they will be disillusioned and wonder whether anything they were taught was right. Better to be honest and real and let the chips fall where they may than pretend and then be exposed as a fake scholar who promoted blatant falsehoods. That only results in broken trust and sometimes lost faith among young people.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
  
Some Personal Observations

R.E. Slater
December 30, 2011


I have included the article below from the Smithsonian Magazine on Thomas Jefferson's strange form of Deism to show that we as followers of Christ are no less prone to subtracting from (or adding to) the Word of God in our daily lives as we pick-and-chose which of God's words to listen to and obey. A large part of this past year's blog has spent many hours showing the many ways that modern day Christianity delimits God's wondrous word spoken to both the Church and the world-at-large as we argue over doctrines of Universalism, Heaven and Hell's entrance requirements, various forms of biblicism and the resulting folklore interpretations that we prefer to adhere too, and so on and so on.

It is a curious fact that whenever God speaks to our hearts we immediately begin to decipher what we have heard from our competing philosophies of life experiences. And it is a wonder at all that God is able to communicate with us through the noise of our lives. We see this with Adam and Eve's re-interpretation of God's first words to them by inquiring "Has God said?..." With Abraham's debate with God whether to proceed from Ur of the Chaldees into the strange, wild lands of the West; his furthering questioning of God concerning his wife Sarah's married status to himself when approached by a intriqued King of her beauty; and later, with her barrenness as Abraham provides substitutions to God's plan by helping God along in the dispatch of His promises of becoming a father to all the nations [sic, of faith]. We again read of this in Moses' many experiences, such as when he strikes the Rock twice in his anger with God, and in the frustration of his leadership experiences with God's people, Israel. With King David's clear instruction to honor the Lord God in his life as ruler of Israel. And even with the OT prophets, both major and minor, and with the Apostles of Christ themselves in the NT.

Time-and-again we humans sing out in our willfulness whether to believe and obey God's word to us. When God speaks it seems to come each-and-every-time like a new thing to our disbelieving hearts to test us, try us and sort us out. Only praise can be given to our God whose loving persistence and faithful patience sifts and purifies us through our failures to rightly hear and obey His word spoken to our hearts and souls and spirits until the scales fall off our blinded eyes, and our deaf ears again hear heaven's music proclaim "I AM that I AM." It is with but humbleness and a stumbling spirit that we may seek the Divine and know His almighty and mysterious ways. Praise God for His faithfulness to those to whom He would re-birth, re-create, re-new, re-surrect and re-claim! Amen.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

How Thomas Jefferson Created His Own Bible

by Owen Edwards
January 2012

Thanks to an extensive restoration and conservation process, the public can now see how Jefferson cut and pasted his own version of the Scripture

Read more:


Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson believed that his version of the New Testament distilled "the most sublime
and benevolent code of morals which has never been offered to man."

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/How-Thomas-Jefferson-Created-His-Own-Bible.html#ixzz1i2HzL4cZ

Thomas Jefferson, together with several of his fellow founding fathers, was influenced by the principles of deism, a construct that envisioned a supreme being as a sort of watchmaker who had created the world but no longer intervened directly in daily life. A product of the Age of Enlightenment, Jefferson was keenly interested in science and the perplexing theological questions it raised. Although the author of the Declaration of Independence was one of the great champions of religious freedom, his belief system was sufficiently out of the mainstream that opponents in the 1800 presidential election labeled him a “howling Atheist.”

Jefferson bible
Thomas Jefferson created his own gospel by taking a sharp instrument to existing copies
of the New Testament and pasting up his own account of Christ's philosophy.

In fact, Jefferson was devoted to the teachings of Jesus Christ. But he didn’t always agree with how they were interpreted by biblical sources, including the writers of the four Gospels, whom he considered to be untrustworthy correspondents. So Jefferson created his own gospel by taking a sharp instrument, perhaps a penknife, to existing copies of the New Testament and pasting up his own account of Christ’s philosophy, distinguishing it from what he called “the corruption of schismatizing followers.”

The second of the two biblical texts he produced is on display through May 28 at the Albert H. Small Documents Gallery of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History (NMAH) after a year of extensive repair and conservation. “Other aspects of his life and work have taken precedence,” says Harry Rubenstein, chair and curator of the NMAH political history division. “But once you know the story behind the book, it’s very Jeffersonian.”

Jefferson produced the 84-page volume in 1820—six years before he died at age 83—bound it in red leather and titled it The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. He had pored over six copies of the New Testament, in Greek, Latin, French and King James English. “He had a classic education at [the College of] William & Mary,” Rubenstein says, “so he could compare the different translations. He cut out passages with some sort of very sharp blade and, using blank paper, glued down lines from each of the Gospels in four columns, Greek and Latin on one side of the pages, and French and English on the other.”

Much of the material Jefferson elected to not include related miraculous events, such as the feeding of the multitudes with only two fish and five loaves of barley bread; he eschewed anything that he perceived as “contrary to reason.” His idiosyncratic gospel concludes with Christ’s entombment but omits his resurrection. He kept Jesus’ own teachings, such as the Beatitude, “Blessed are the peace-makers: for they shall be called the children of God.” The Jefferson Bible, as it’s known, is “scripture by subtraction,” writes Stephen Prothero, a professor of religion at Boston University.

The first time Jefferson undertook to create his own version of Scripture had been in 1804. His intention, he wrote, was “the result of a life of enquiry and reflection, and very different from that anti-Christian system, imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions.” Correspondence indicates that he assembled 46 pages of New Testament passages in The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth. That volume has been lost. It focused on Christ’s moral teachings, organized by topic. The 1820 volume contains not only the teachings, but also events from the life of Jesus.

The Smithsonian acquired the surviving custom bible in 1895, when the Institution’s chief librarian, Cyrus Adler, purchased it from Jefferson’s great-granddaughter, Carolina Ran­dolph. Originally, Jefferson had bequeathed the book to his daughter Martha.

The acquisition revealed the existence of the Jefferson Bible to the public. In 1904, by act of Congress, his version of Scripture, regarded by many as a newly discovered national treasure, was printed. Until the 1950s, when the supply of 9,000 copies ran out, each newly elected senator received a facsimile Jefferson Bible on the day that legislator took the oath of office. (Disclosure: Smithsonian Books has recently published a new facsimile edition.)

The original book now on view has undergone a painstaking restoration led by Janice Stagnitto Ellis, senior paper conservator at the NMAH. “We re-sewed the binding,” she says, “in such a way that both the original cover and the original pages will be preserved indefinitely. In our work, we were Jefferson-level meticulous.”

“The conservation process,” says Harry Rubenstein, “has allowed us to exhibit the book just as it was when Jefferson last handled it. And since digital pictures were taken of each page, visitors to the exhibition—and visitors to the web version all over the world—will be able to page through and read Jefferson’s Bible just as he did.”

Owen Edwards is a freelance writer and author of the book Elegant Solutions.

Read more:


Peter Rollins - Podcast Audio "Insurrection"




Bo Sanders of Homebrew recently recorded Peter Rollins at Claremont (which coincidently will be the January 2012 site for a general discussion of Process Theology) speaking about his new book Insurrection.

In a related post, Bo comments on the two persons that make up the one Peter Rollins, which I thought to be both insightful and humurous (as I've met, spoken with, and have heard Peter several times, and do enjoy his multifaceted - or is it Peter's schizophrenic/nihlistic (pun intended) personas!). And so, both of Homebrew's posts are presented here together as one. Enjoy.

RE Slater
November 13, 2011

**********


TNT: Peter Rollins at Claremont
http://homebrewedchristianity.com/2011/11/04/tnt-peter-rollins-at-claremont/

by
November 4, 2011

3 Comments
Peter Rollins was at Claremont School of Theology a couple of weeks ago – and we recorded it!
His new book is Insurrection and he is in full form during this hour.
If you like what you hear or want to express some concern, come over here [link] and sound off.


**********


I like both Peter Rollins

http://homebrewedchristianity.com/2011/11/04/i-like-both-peter-rollins/

by
November 4, 2011

10 Comments

Confession: I’m a big fan of Peter Rollins. Actually, I am a big fan of both Peter Rollins.

Maybe I should explain. There seem to be two Peter Rollins
  • the suspicious and sinister author and speaker who mystifies critics with his ability to deconstruct (ie. deceive) and entertain (ie. trick) people into asking Slovoj Zizek into their heart – and thus agreeing to go to hell.
As you can see there are two distinct Peter Rollins. And here is the thing, I like them both.

I like what Peter Rollins is up to and I like what people think that he is up to.

I buy books for my nephews and nieces. The favorites are Donald Miller, Shane Claiborne and Peter Rollins. These books challenge their hearts, expand their minds, and help their faith. They would have one view of Peter Rollins.

I often listen to MDiv and other students at Christian Colleges and Seminaries go after Peter Rollins like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. They accuse him of masking deceptive A/theistic trickery under the guise of deconstruction and post-structural poetics. The accusation is that he is importing some sort of hollow, empty, nihilistic slight-of-hand with a sweet & seductive Irish lilt.

Truth is: I like them both.
  • I like the guy who helps the young people in my family and youth group to think through their inherited faith and mean the things they say, even if it is a bit more humbly.
  • I also like the guy who is subverting and undermining the grotesque bloated corpse of Christendom and its related classicist theology.
I like that I can give his book to almost anyone.

I like that educated evangelical christians think he is up to something.

I am a big fan of both Peter Rollins.




Things Traditional Christians and Gay Christians Can Agree On...

A Non-Zero-Sum Conversation Between the Traditional Church and the Gay Community

by Rachel Held Evans
November 11, 2011


Today I am excited to share a guest post from my friend and fellow blogger, Richard Beck. Richard is Professor and Department Chair of Psychology at Abilene Christian University and the author of Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Mortality. His blog, Experimental Theology, was one of the first I followed and really connected with online. I had the pleasure of meeting Richard (and his delightful wife Jana) when I spoke at ACU earlier this fall. In fact, Richard and I participated in a fun forum on blogging, which you can watch here, here, and here.

Richard has a way of connecting the dots between faith and sociology in a way that consistently resonates with me. He’s a brilliant conversationalist, whose skill in negotiating potentially treacherous ideological waters is something I’ve long admired, and I deeply appreciate his efforts here to try and forge a better way forward in a conversation that has been static for so long.

Be sure to weigh in with your own thoughts…and enjoy!


* * * * * * * * * * *


I'd like to share a few thoughts about the conversation, or lack thereof, between traditional-conservative Christian institutions (e.g., churches, Christian universities, Christian organizations) and the gay community.

I have two interrelated frustrations about this conversation as it typically plays out.

The first frustration is that it tacitly assumed that the only issue at stake in these conversations is the biblical status of same-sex relations. From a biblical perspective, are same-sex relations permissible? No doubt that is the central question, but it's often assumed that this is the only question. That is, once this question is settled, one way or the other, the two groups have nothing much else to say to each other. Usually because they can't agree on this question.

Which leads to my second frustration: the zero-sum nature of the conversation. Since it's often assumed that the biblical status of same-sex relations is the only issue at stake, a "winner takes all" atmosphere is created. Either the traditional Christian side will win (in prohibiting same-sex relations) or the gay side will win (in affirming same-sex relations). This creates a zero-sum "I win. You lose." dynamic that isn't very kind or healthy.

I think we can do better. Even if we disagree on the central question.

Let me come at this from the traditional Christian side as I am affiliated with a couple of different traditional Christian institutions. Let's assume for this discussion that this side, given its traditions and the way it reads the bible, just isn't going to budge on the issue of same-sex relations. A lot of us are associated with groups like this, groups that, at least in our lifetime, aren't going to move away from traditional Christian teaching regarding human sexuality and marriage.

So, with that settled and out of the way, let us go on to ask: Have we exhausted this topic? Is that the only thing that can be said? Are there no other areas of mutual concern?

I think there are. I don't think the conversation is a zero-sum, "winner takes all" game. I think the conversation is non-zero-sum. I think the conversation between traditional Christian groups and the gay community is much wider than the narrow debate about the biblical view of same-sex relations. We have significant areas of shared and mutual concern.

To start, I can think of four:

First, I think both groups share a mutual concern in treating others with respect, love and dignity. We share an interest in the Golden Rule. We both want to be treated well.

This is such an obvious thing, but how often is it forgotten? More often than we'd like to admit. And one reason I think it's forgotten is that we tend to think that the only thing at stake is the biblical question on same-sex relations. This creates the tense and combative zero-sum dynamic. But there is more at stake in the conversation.

Specifically, how we treat each other. And this is where our interests can overlap. We may disagree, but how we disagree is critically important. We can share the desire to be people of peace. Despite our disagreements.


Second, many within the gay community are confessing Christians. Thus, outside of the issue of same-sex relations just about everything else within the Christian experience is open to mutual cooperation and partnership. For example, traditional and gay affirming churches partnering on local projects, ministries, programs and initiatives that are unrelated to issues of sexuality (e.g., poverty).


Third, both groups have a mutual interest in speaking out against discrimination, oppression, and violence. I talked about this in a recent post, The Gospel According to Lady Gaga, regarding how Christian communities should take a more personal and active interest in protecting gay kids from being bullied in schools. Protecting these kids, and any kid being bullied, is an area of mutual concern, a location for partnership and cooperation between the traditional Christian and gay communities. As another example, I've heard conservative Christian friends of mine come out in favor of gay marriage. Not because they are gay affirming (they aren't), but because they see the issue as a matter of civic respect and fairness within a democratic society. A simple act of being a good neighbor. I doubt many conservative Christians will see it this way, but some do (often because they are libertarians) and it demonstrations another area of mutual concern/cooperation.


Fourth, even within the area of sexuality there is significant overlap between gay Christians and traditional Christians. For example, despite differences on the biblical status of same-sex relations, both groups can partner in speaking a clear prophetic word about sexual promiscuity. Additionally, both groups can partner in pushing back on our sex-saturated media. I have some experience with this as I was a participant in a discussion on our campus with SoulForce visitors on the subject of sex and the media. The gay and traditional Christians on the panel found significant areas of agreement in addressing this topic.


The point of all this: The game isn't zero-sum; it's non-zero-sum. Fighting doesn't have to be the only thing we have in common. There are significant areas of mutual concern, locations where we can drop our fists and partner together on important Kingdom work.

I'm passionate about this issue because I'm distressed about how toxic the conversation has become between the gay community and the traditional Christian community. And one reason the conversation has become so toxic is because we've become convinced that the only thing we have in common is the biblical debate about same-sex relations. And since this is believed to be the only area of mutual concern we treat the conversation as a winner takes all cage match. With the zero-sum outcome of exactly one winner and exactly one loser.

But we have so much more to say to each other. So many other things of mutual concern and interest.

And if we paid attention to these areas of mutual concern, speaking a word of peace to each other now and again, how much poison might be sucked out of the current dynamic?

Imagine how the conversation would change between the traditional Christian and gay communities if traditional Christian communities became, say, known for their guardian angel and anti-bullying programs and initiatives, often partnering with local gay advocacy groups to get this work done. Imagine how traditional Christians would be perceived if, say, they advocated for gay marriage on the grounds of democratic fairness, this despite their deeply held convictions that God disapproves of those marriage. How might actions like these change the dynamic that is currently playing out?

There is so much work to be done. And most of it we can do together.


Love Wins - Companion & Enhanced Edition


 
Description
Love Wins Companion
$10.95
Love Wins Companion offers support and resources for individuals, groups, and classes wishing to further explore the ideas presented in Love Wins and includes brand new material from Rob Bell.

 
Love Wins Companion includes:

• Insights and commentary by theologians, scholars, scientists, and pastors

• An in-depth exploration of Bible passages on heaven, hell, and salvation

• Detailed chapter summaries, discussion questions, and study guides for individuals, groups, and classes

• Excerpts from several historical works that speak to the breadth and diversity of Christian viewpoints on heaven, hell, and salvation.

• New material from Rob on his mission for the book, the positive and negative attention it has received, and some thoughts for readers
 
 
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Love Wins Enhanced Edition
Love Wins Enhanced Edition
$14.99
Description

This enhanced e-book includes the entire text of Rob Bell'’s Love Wins, The Love Wins Companion - A Study Guide for Those Who Want to Go Deeper, and eleven exclusive author videos.

 

 

 

 

 

Rob Bell's 'Love Wins' study guide promises deeper look into Mars Hill pastor's ideas
http://www.mlive.com/living/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2011/11/rob_bells_love_wins_study_guid.html

Published: Tuesday, November 15, 2011, 6:00 AM Updated: Tuesday, November 15, 2011, 9:56 AM

Rob Bell book signing for \Rob Bell talks about his new book "Love Wins" at the Woodland Mall Barnes & Noble in Kentwood on April 3, 2011.
 
GRANDVILLE — Whether it brings readers farther into the pit of hell or more fully into the grace of God, a new study guide for local pastor Rob Bell’s latest book promises a “deeper” look into the megachurch-pastor-turned-television-producer’s edgy ideas.
 
“The Love Wins Companion” was to be released today (TUES) by Harper Collins Publishers. With commentary from theologians and excerpts from historical works on salvation, the guide “offers support and resources for individuals, groups, and classes wishing to further explore the ideas presented in ‘Love Wins,’” according to a promotional website.
 
Bell over the weekend wrote to his 82,482 Twitter followers that “I’m thrilled with how it turned out,” and noted that a “Love Wins” enhanced e-book with new video content also will be released.
 
The guide “offers scholarly support and critiques” and “brand new material by Rob Bell himself,” according to the Harper Collins site. Among the additions: chapter summaries and discussion questions, in-depth review of Bible passages on heaven and hell and Bell’s take on response to the book, both positive and negative.
 
“In nuance, I didn’t agree with everything. In generality, I didn’t find anything troubling or contrary,” said the Rev. Bryan Schneider-Thomas, pastor of Peace Lutheran Church in Sparta, which studied the book via Facebook this summer.
 
“The most insightful thing that I got (from the study) was that the book was not at all that radical to our congregation. In fact, as we studied it, the most often response was kind of like ‘Yeah, so.’”
 
Schneider-Thomas said “(‘Love Wins’) is such a simple book that I can’t imagine much of a use for a study book” for the casual reader. But because “Love Wins” is characteristic of Bell’s conversational writing style, a study guide could add detail to the book’s assertions, he said.
 
“Love Wins” hit No. 2 on the New York Times bestseller list in March, when it was released, drawing reaction both grateful and damning from Christian leaders. It prompted Time magazine to name Bell one of the world’s 100 most influential people.
 
Bell announced in September that he’s leaving Mars Hill, the Grandville megachurch he started 12 years ago, to work in Los Angeles on a TV pilot loosely based on his life. The church at the time said Bell would continue to preach through December, with co-pastor Shane Hipps and others speaking at Sunday services through next spring. The church has no new plans to announce, spokesman Lee Jager said.
 
Bell last week in Toronto launched his “Fit to Smash Ice” tour, which also stopped over the weekend in Ithaca, N.Y., Providence, R.I. and Philadelphia. Upcoming dates include Nov. 25 in Pittsburgh, Nov. 26 in Charlottesville, Va. and Nov. 27 in Jersey City, N.J.