Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - 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

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

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) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

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

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Monday, April 30, 2012

Recasting Hinduism for the 21st Century: SC / Dalit Stories of Oppression, Success & Racial Equality

Kalpana Saroj. She acquired Kamani Tubes after clearing a debt of Rs 140 crore and turned it
around into a profit-making venture. One should not be cowed down by one’s station in life, she says.


Indian woman defies caste, becomes a real-life 'slumdog millionaire'

The Los Angeles Times
Published: 21 April 2012 07:34 PM

Dahlit women
NEW DELHI — She was called dirty, ugly, a “little packet of poison,” the offspring of donkeys. These days, Kalpana Saroj is called something else: a millionaire.

Saroj, a dalit, or “untouchable,” epitomizes what was once unthinkable in India: upward mobility for someone whose caste long meant she would die as she was born: uneducated, dirt-poor, doomed to a life of dangerous and filthy work.

The manufacturing tycoon — one admirer called her “a real slumdog millionaire” — is among a legion of dalits embracing new opportunities in business, politics, the arts and academia as prejudices ease and economic reforms open new doors in a culture that traditionally emphasized fate and reincarnation.

“Before, Indians thought the only way up was life after death, assuming they avoided hell,” said Chandra Bhan Prasad, a dalit researcher and activist. “Now, not having a mobile phone is hell. Dalits can't become Brahmins, but they can become capitalists. Once you become rich, you become free.”

Others counter that a few Horatio Alger bootstrap stories can't sugarcoat the continued suffering of the 17 percent of India's 1.2 billion people facing discrimination under an ancient, complex system that traditionally determined one's occupation and social status at birth, with Brahmins at the top and “unclean” dalits at the bottom shoveling human waste.
Dalit children looking for opportunity
Saroj, 51, once hissed at by Brahmins, has built a business empire that employs thousands of upper-caste workers, she said. As she sipped tea in a luxury New Delhi mall, she was wearing gold bracelets, diamond earrings and a traditional salwar kameez worth thousands of dollars. (After her daughter settled on studying hotel management a few years ago, Saroj bought her a hotel. With her son now in possession of a pilot's license, she's shopping for a plane.)

Emerging from extreme poverty and pariah status to a position of strength and wealth has certainly been satisfying, she said. That fact that she is a woman — in a country ranked by the United Nations as among the world's most dangerous places to be born a girl, given high female infanticide, inferior health care and nutrition — made her rise more extraordinary.

And although her ascent hasn't been without its share of speed bumps or caste-related jibes, she said, she has tried to channel anger and frustration into getting things done.

“I'm aware people may still look down on me because I'm a dalit,” she said. “But even when I was very agitated, I never lost my cool, always trying instead to find my way out of difficult situations.”

Saroj was born in Repatkhedha, a tiny village in the western state of Maharashtra, the eldest daughter of a homemaker and a policeman. Dalits were barred from drinking from Brahmin wells, and school for Saroj was an eight-mile walk on dirt paths, interrupted by occasional beatings by upper-caste children.

Dalit's celebrating a national hero. Thousands of Dalits or low-caste Hindus have gathered in the western
Indian city of Mumbai to pay homage to their leader, Babasaheb Ambedkar. (Photos: Monica Chadha).

When she was 8, she asked her mother why, and was told to accept her fate.

“This was my world,” she said. “I didn't really think about it.”

She was married off at 12 to a laborer from Mumbai at the insistence of an uncle who considered girls “little packets of poison.”

“Your daughter's an ugly, dark-skinned kid,” he told her father. “If someone from Mumbai is willing, you'd darned well better marry her off.”

Her husband, his alcoholic brother and wife all beat her. Sometimes her brother-in-law would yell: Whom did her mom sleep with to produce this donkey?

“All my dreams were shattered,” she said. “It was hell.”

After six months, her father rescued her. But the village ostracized her and she ended up drinking rat poison and fell into a coma, barely surviving. Afterward, villagers concluded that she must have a guilty conscience.

“I realized, whether I live or die, I'll get blamed,” she said. “So I might as well go for it.”

Dalits at the National Conference of Dalits in New Delhi. Photograph: Manish Swarup/AP

Saroj lobbied to return to Mumbai, threatening to try suicide again when her family balked. Once there, she got a job removing lint from finished garments at a hosiery company for 15 cents a day. During lunch breaks she practiced on the sewing machines and became a tailor for $5 a day.

“It was the first happiness in 15 years,” she said. “I've earned millions. But that initial $5 was the most satisfying.”

When Saroj was in her early 20s, her sister became ill and died because they couldn't afford a hospital. “I realized, if it's all about money, I need to control it,” she said.

She borrowed $1,000 under a lower-caste government program, opening a furniture and blouse-making business that prospered. She learned about some property ensnared in liens and acquired it for $5,000 in savings and an IOU for a fraction of its worth. Eventually she secured the necessary clearances and found a partner to build a shopping complex.

“She is a struggler,” said Madhusudan Anand Batkar, 38, a social worker from Keriveri, a village near Saroj's hometown, “a real slumdog millionaire.”

Her reputation as a fixer led to another disputed property. When goons threatened her, she stared them down. “I wasn't afraid,” she said. “I'd already faced death.”

That too did well, leading to a stake in a sugar company and then to industrial equipment maker Kamani Tubes. The troubled firm was saddled with a $24 million debt and 140 court cases after its workers took over the factory for unpaid wages. The union asked her to run it and within a few years, she'd also turned that around.

These days, Saroj acknowledges being a bit of a workaholic. She starts her day with yoga, often works 12-to-14-hour days and spends several more hours commuting. In her meager free time, she likes listening to music and cooking. Her other passion is gardening at her rambling terrace apartment, which she designed to her taste because she owns the building.

Periodically, Saroj returns to her village to distribute food and clothing, set up schools, offer jobs to abused women. “She's very confident,” said Chaggan Khandare, 36, a dalit social worker in the district. “She tells us to fight for what you want, never give up.”

Although clearly extraordinary, she's not alone in her success. The Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry now has several dozen millionaires among its 1,000 members.

“There are two kinds of poverty,” says the CEO of Das Offshore Engineering, Mumbai. “One that brutalises man, and the other which is humane and can be overcome through sheer hard work.” The second is what Khade prevailed over, to preside over a company with a Rs 550-crore turnover.  http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?271501

“We want dalit capitalism,” said millionaire contractor Milind Kamble, the chamber's founder and chairman. “We've been very inspired by black capitalism in the U.S.”

But even as millions of lower-caste Indians climb into the middle class with the help of affirmative action policies, progress for the vast majority of dalits is incremental, at best.

“There are success stories,” said Damodar Manohar, a 68-year-old villager in Repatkhedha. “But the overall situation hasn't changed much.”

There are still thousands of attacks on dalits annually and hundreds die. A dalit was stabbed to death recently for hitting a bull, considered holy by Hindus; a dalit was beaten to death for filing a lawsuit against an upper-caste member; and a dalit widow was beaten and reportedly paraded naked after her son eloped with his upper-caste girlfriend.

Dalits, caste activist Kancha Ilaiah says, should take a cue from the social upheaval that helped African-Americans battle racism.

“A sprinkling of millionaires, some top politicians won't change people's thinking,” he said. “We need a civil war.”

But for Saroj, owner of “five or six” cars, including a $200,000 Mercedes S-Class, it's been quite a ride.

“I was treated as something lower than a person,” she said. “But I'll die a human being.”

Every hour two Dalits are assaulted,
 Every day three Dalit women are raped,Every day two Dalits are murdered
& two Dalit houses are burnt in India….”


Recasting Hinduism for the 21st century

"It is important that Hindus take the lead in acknowledging the
damage that caste discrimination does and resolving to tackle it."


In a newly published report, the Hindu American Foundation tackles the issue of caste discrimination, and of the immediate and urgent need for Hindus to acknowledge that caste is not an intrinsic part of Hinduism; that continuing caste-based discrimination is a major human rights problem; and only Hindus, through reform movements, through an activist agenda, and through education can rid Hindu society of the scourge of caste-based discrimination.

While there will be naysayers in the Hindu community, who wish to get into their bunkers and fight a rearguard battle to "defend" Hinduism from what they see as a concerted campaign of vilification by Christian missionaries, Muslim fundamentalists, Marxist Hindu haters, and a global-capitalist-western hegemony, it is important that Hindus bell the casteist cat themselves. In this regard, the HAF report points out that caste-based discrimination is a serious human rights issue in the Indian subcontinent, and that over 160 million people, whom the Indian government categorises as "scheduled castes" (SCs), suffer from discrimination by not only a variety of Hindu caste groups but even by "upper caste" Christians and Muslims after they have converted to Christianity or Islam.

The Indian constitution, whose chief architect, BR Ambedkar, was himself a member of the scheduled castes, outlaws "untouchability" – the act of segregating and ostracising a social group by literally prohibiting physical contact with members of the SCs. Alas, India is hobbled by a weak and sometimes dysfunctional judicial system, and therefore acts of discrimination against the SCs (or Dalits, as many of them prefer to call themselves) either go unpunished or ignored.

Other lawlessness in India goes unpunished but the challenge of dealing with caste-based discrimination has been the most disheartening. This is especially so in rural areas where caste dynamics continues to play havoc. In 2008, for example, according to the Indian government, there were 33,615 human rights violations of various types – from the denial of entry into temples to denial of service in wayside restaurants, and from bonded labour to the exploitation of women.

HAF's report therefore begins with an important point: that Hindus must acknowledge that caste arose in Hindu society, that some Hindu texts and traditions justify a birth-based hierarchy and caste bias, and that it has survived despite considerable attempts by Hindus to curtail it. It notes that caste-based discrimination represents a failure of Hindu society "to live up to its essential spiritual teachings," that divinity is inherent in all beings, and that caste is not an intrinsic part of Hinduism.

Sure, untouchability is practiced not just by Hindus in India and Nepal but by non-Hindus in Yemen, Japan, Korea, France, Somalia, and Tibet. But the sheer number of people who are discriminated against in India makes this a uniquely Indian and Hindu problem. Fishing in India's troubled waters are therefore missionaries who for long have sought to make India Christian, and the left/Marxist forces in India who see only Hinduism as a problem but not religion per se. In recent decades, and especially after George W Bush became president, there was a surge in monies funneled into India for planting churches and converting Hindus. Organisations like the Dalit Freedom Network, led by and catering to mostly Christians, have gone on overdrive and sought to categorise SCs as non-Hindus and therefore arguing that they are not converting Hindus to Christianity.

HAF's report, a first of its kind by a modern Hindu advocacy group, provides readers a handy but grand sweep of the problem of caste – from its origins to its role in the past and at present, its use and abuse, and reform movements from the earliest by the likes of Basaveshwara to the great 19th- and 20th-century reform movements like the Arya Samaj movement, and reformers like Jyotiba Phule, Narayana Guru, Mahatma Gandhi, and others.

Noting that there are defenders of the caste system, not just the curmudgeon and cruel among Hindus, but the likes of Voltaire and Diderot who fought against the monotheistic intolerance of Christians and Muslims, to sociologists like Louis Dumont who argued that the "distribution of functions leads to exchanges", to the great Indophile, Alain Daniélou who argued that caste does not equate to "racist inequality but … a natural ordering of diversity," the HAF report argues that a birth-based hierarchy is unacceptable, that inequities against and the abuse of the Dalits/SCs is a human rights issue, and that the solution to this social ill is available within Hindu sacred texts themselves, and that Hindus should be at the forefront of putting an end to the system of birth-based hierarchy as well as taking the lead in energising the Dalit community to fight discrimination.

As the British seek to draft a new bill of rights, and from what one hears, equate caste with racism, similar to what was sought at the United Nations Durban conference on racism and racial discrimination, as western Europe and US-based missionary groups ratchet up the calls for actions and sanctions against India, and as we move into a new era of global interaction, it is time for Hindus to act.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A "Call to Faith by Breaking Faith," by Ross Douthat, NYT

From the tenor of this article it seems that postmodern Christianity has a lot of issues to work through - its history, its message, its mission, its ministries, it teachings. One that will require the many hearts, hands and minds of Christiandom around us. And that fact alone makes me confident in Christianity's future after coming through so large a parade of this past 20th Century's (including modernism's!) foibles and follies. Rather than despair at the great task set ahead of us it should be look upon as one of providential opportunity and blessing. One filled with possibility and encouragement. For there can be no despair for the world - nor for Christians specifically - when Jesus is the focus of our discussions and our relationships with one another. Surely, the only despair can come from our errant perceptions and idolatries surrounding Jesus in what we deem Christianity to be - or should be - rather than what it really is, and can be. Let us learn from the past, listen to today's critics, and discover a more substantive faith that can comport with today's global environment and mutli-cultural issues, problems and greatness.

We need Christians who can re-vision the world around us - not Christian revisionists who stick their heads in the proverbial sand like an ostrich and refuse to update their faith and their people! People of God who understand how to minister and preach to the needs of humanity without losing the soul-and-spirit of the biblical themes of God's love and redemption, and the grace and forgiveness found in Christ Jesus our Savior and Lord. Several of the people we have been following here in this web blog are mentioned below (sic, Dr. Roger Olson and Miroslav Volf). And it is to this wisdom of God's discerning body of believers that will come the Church's future directions and goals through providentially placed thinkers and contemporary theologs.

Be at peace then and know that God is bigger than us. That God's Kingdom will surely invade the Age of Man to lead humanity out from its sin and woe by a heavenly Child come to be our Savior-Messiah. Be as little children then. And be at peace in your child-like faith. For God is great and can do marvelous things beyond our imaginations.

R.E. Slater
April 28, 2012

Breaking Faith

‘Bad Religion,’ by Ross Douthat
April 27, 2012

From “God’s Controversy With New England,” Michael Wigglesworth’s 1662 call to repentance, to the latest campaign autobiography by a presidential aspirant, the jeremiad has been one of the most durable literary forms throughout American history. Typically, the author identifies some golden age, one just now dissolving in the rearview mirror; recounts the slippery path of declension; and then prescribes an amendment of ways in order to avert further disaster.

Ross Douthat’s contribution to this genre, “Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics,” laments the departure from what he calls “a Christian center,” which “has helped bind together a teeming, diverse and fissiparous nation.” Absent a national church, he argues, Christianity “has frequently provided an invisible mortar for our culture and a common vocabulary for our great debates.”

Douthat’s halcyon age is the postwar period, especially the 1950s. Mainline Protestantism was flourishing, and Roman Catholics, having demonstrated their patriotism in World War II, enjoyed new status as part of Will Herberg’s ­“Protestant-Catholic-Jew” America. “A kind of Christian convergence was the defining feature of this era,” Douthat asserts, and he cites the work of Reinhold Niebuhr, Billy Graham, Fulton Sheen and Martin Luther King Jr. as evidence that “the divided houses of American Christendom didn’t just grow, they grew closer together, re-engaged with one another after decades of fragmentation and self-segregation.”

Or did they? Niebuhr snubbed Graham during that evangelist’s storied 16-week revival at Madison Square Garden in 1957, and Graham did not participate in any of King’s civil rights marches or demonstrations. Bishop Sheen’s television popularity notwithstanding, Protestants continued to take shots at Catholicism; witness the runaway success of Paul Blanshard’s “American Freedom and Catholic Power” (11 printings in as many months) and the religious opposition that very nearly cost John F. Kennedy the presidency in 1960. Douthat, an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times, extols Dwight Eisenhower’s laying of the cornerstone at the Inter­church Center in Upper Manhattan on Oct. 12, 1958, as “a celebration of Christian convergence and institutional vitality,” but he neglects to mention the temple bombing in Atlanta earlier that same day, a tragedy that even the president managed to acknowledge amid his platitudes about religion as the “firm foundation” of the nation’s character.

But a jeremiad, almost by definition, will not let thorny details stand in the way of a good romp, so let’s set aside these cavils and play along. Douthat locates the end of “the postwar moment” in 1963, just after King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. American Christianity, the author says, was at the height of its influence; Richard Russell, the segregationist senator from Georgia, would complain that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed only because “those damn preachers got the idea that it was a moral issue.”

Douthat’s narrative of decline implicates the sexual revolution; globalization (by which he means exposure to non-Christian religions); and the Vietnam War, which bifurcated American Christianity. Seminary enrollments declined, denominations faced budgetary stringencies and the elites “understood that the only reason to pay attention to traditional Christianity was to subject it to a withering critique.” Add to that the ordination of women, the growing acceptance of divorce and the destigmatizing of homosexuality, and you have a traditionalist’s nightmare.

Douthat, himself a conservative Catholic, believes that evangelicals generally hewed to the resistance model. By the 1980s, he insists, “what vitality remained in American Christendom was being sustained by the unexpected alliance between evangelicals and Catholics,” although he acknowledges that the religious right’s identification with George W. Bush tarnished its reputation.

The plunge into heresy, Douthat believes, can be traced to theological developments like the revisionist Jesus Seminar and the unlikely trinity of Elaine Pagels, Bart Ehrman and Dan Brown. Douthat accuses them of discrediting Christian orthodoxy in the interests of remaking Jesus in their own image, often for political ends. Debunking the debunkers, Douthat concludes that “they speak the language of the conspiratorial pamphlet, the paranoid chain e-mail — or the paperback thriller.” The currency of these ideas has given rise to what the author calls the “God Within” movement. “A choose-your-own-Jesus mentality,” Douthat writes, “encourages spiritual seekers to screen out discomfiting parts of the New Testament and focus only on whichever Christ they find most congenial.”

The “God Within” malady has infected evangelicals as well, as seen in the so-called prosperity gospel. Douthat harvests a lot of low-hanging fruit in this section, and who can blame him? The pablum peddled by Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer and countless others surely represents an adumbration of Christian orthodoxy, but Douthat also criticizes Michael Novak’s defense of capitalism for being a betrayal of traditional Catholic teachings. All of this leaves us sinking into a morass of gluttony and narcissism, which has been inflected into the political arena as American ­exceptionalism.

Although Douthat’s grasp of American religious history is sometimes tenuous — he misdates the Second Great Awakening, mistakes Puritans for Pilgrims and erroneously traces the disaffection of American Catholics to the Second Vatican Council rather than the papal encyclical “Humanae Vitae” — there is much to commend his argument. Yes, the indexes of religious adherence are down, and the quality of religious discourse in America has diminished since the 1950s, in part because of the preference for therapy over theology. Theological illiteracy is appalling; many theologians, like academics generally, prefer to speak to one another rather than engage the public.

But the glass-is-half-full approach, to borrow from the famous Peace Corps ad of this era, looks rather different. I’m not sure that the enervation of religion as institution since the 1950s is entirely a bad thing; institutions, in my experience, are remarkably poor vessels for piety. An alternative reading of the liberal “accommodationists” Douthat so reviles is that they have enough confidence in the relevance and integrity of the faith to confront, however imperfectly, such fraught issues as women’s ordination and homosexuality rather than allow them to fester as they have for centuries. I suspect, moreover, that Douthat has overestimated the influence of intellectual trends like the Jesus Seminar. The thinkers he quotes are important, but I would also recommend the lesser-known work of writers like Roger Olson, Jean Sulivan, Doug Frank, Miroslav Volf and David James Duncan as evidence of the vitality of Christian thinking; they may occasionally poke provocatively at the edges of orthodoxy, but most do so from well within its frame. Finally, the fact that we are having this conversation at all (much less in the pages of this newspaper) is testament to the enduring relevance of faith in what sociologists long ago predicted would be a secular society.

Like any good jeremiad, “Bad Religion” concludes with what evangelicals would recognize as an altar call. Douthat invites readers to entertain “the possibility that Christianity might be an inheritance rather than a burden,” and he elevates such eclectic phenomena as home schooling, third-world Christianity and the Latin Mass as sources for renewal.

Religion in the rearview mirror never looked better.

Randall Balmer, an Episcopal priest and a professor of American religious history at Barnard College, is the author of a dozen books, including “Thy Kingdom Come” and “God in the White House.”

Repost: Matthew Harding - "Let Us Dance!"

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.' " (Rev 21.1-4)

Let Us Dance!
by Matt Harding



"This is now an older video but it works still, for me, as a powerful visual metaphor for the 'new heavens and new earth,' the biblical notion that this whole earth will be restored and renewed under God’s eschatological loving care.

To be fair, it wasn’t the original intention of the video, which is pretty cool all on its own (apart from the analogical connection to eschatology), but set it alongside the vision of Rev. 21 and you have a picture of: Dancing. Joy. Happiness. Reunion. Health. Solid, beautiful earth. Reconciliation and Peace. The 'coming of God.' The New Jerusalem joining the present world. The coming Kingdom. Of Christ who is all in all. Maranatha! "

by Kyle Roberts, Bethel College

When I first saw this video I didn't know what to expect and the longer I watched it the more my heart was moved by its incredible vision. It brought tears of joy to my eyes, and my heart just wanted to burst with its beauty, as I thought of God's love for us and this wonderful life made so beautiful when we all join in. Come, let us Dance! Let us Celebrate t-o-g-e-t-h-e-r in this thing called Life!

R.E. Slater
May 15, 2011

On Things that Last - Revival, Relationship, Faith

"I Used to Be On Fire for God"

Jordan White
Me and Britt
It started junior year of high school when I went to my friend’s charismatic youth group. The room was dark, the music was loud and there was a lot of dancing. People were crying on the floor, shouting unintelligible languages and jumping.

It was the weirdest, most electric thing I’d ever experienced. I was "on fire" for God.

I was raised almost completely out of church by completely Christian parents. I’ve only recently come to understand what it was that hurt them about church and why they can’t bring themselves to go back. It’s an unspoken bond not unlike people who’ve experienced something traumatic like a car accident. The connection is in the eyes, in the way we talk about who we were as compared to who we are. When I was in high school and on fire for God, I thought my parents were scared. Little did I know, God is scary.

The problem with revival is that it is a fleeting notion.

While in high school and on fire for God, I was a leader for a campus ministry called CRASH. The name came from a group of rhinos running into buildings or something Christian-edgy like that. We met once a week on Friday mornings before school, and it was my job to lead sermons for the 15 or so students brave enough to show up before school and worship. When I didn’t sleep through my alarm, I dragged my younger brother to school at six and planned out lessons five minutes before I was supposed to deliver them.

I was really terrible at leading CRASH. My ego and self-confidence levels were at an all-time high with practicality trailing enormously behind me. That was a serious problem with my brand of Christianity. It was more about me believing unwaveringly in my own enlightenment than it was about sharing God’s love. I saw myself as a revolutionary Christian leader whose stories were sure to circulate for millennia to come. It was all about the sexiness of healings and loud worship and not at all about listening. But one time, I did do something right. “Right,” meaning "impactful."

Our group met in the old theater of the high school. Our small following didn’t come close to filling the 1,000-seat auditorium, but occasionally that worked in our favor. On this particular morning, I was talking about how we shouldn’t be scared to spread the Gospel to each and every person we meet. I’m sure I quoted (potentially misquoted) the verse about how if we deny God before man, then Jesus will deny us before His Father.

From the stage, I asked for a volunteer to come stand on a box. After a long pause, I got one. He slowly approached the steps to the left of the stage and stood next to me. Then I asked him what he was passionate about. I had also been talking about how God works through our passions and that we should be bold about those as well. Like a good revolutionary, I took this simple question and made something radical and showy out of it.

I jumped off the stage and ran toward the back of the auditorium. By the time I got to the door, my participant, viewers, fellow leaders and church instructor were all very confused. From the back of the auditorium I shouted at my participant and asked him again what he was passionate about. He responded, but I couldn’t hear him—or rather, pretended not to. I kept having him repeat it at increasing decibel levels until the boy was screaming from the box. I felt like Brad Pitt in Fight Club.

Everyone laughed as I walked back up, and the electricity of emotion overwhelmed the group. People were nervous (and maybe a little bit excited) about the concept of yelling in front of their peers.

“If you can’t yell about God here, in an empty auditorium with all of your friends, how are you going to preach the Gospel out there [I pointed to the rest of the school] in the real world?” I baited them.

One by one, students walked up to the box and yelled at me. Like I said, this was the highlight of my CRASH career. At the end of the meeting, our church advisor, Paul, talked to me about the lesson. He was a youth pastor at a local Baptist church and much shyer than any of us.

“I’m not sure I could have done that, man. If you would have called me up there, I’m not sure I could have yelled like that. That would be way out of my comfort zone,” Paul said. 

I could barely hear him talking over the sound of my already bulbous ego being further inflated with the hot air of spiritual elitism. I was more spiritual than a grown man who was working as a youth pastor! That was worth, like, 3,000 revival points!

The problem with revival-driven ministry, as I’ve come to understand it, is that it leaves its believers high and dry when they run out of steam. It’s a dangerous act of creating unrealistic expectations and glorifying actions. Or at least, that’s what I’ve seen in my friends from my old church who don’t go anymore. 

That’s how I felt after I cooled off for God and realized I’d been placing all the importance on the “acts of God” as opposed to a relationship with God. I felt like I’d been chasing healings and miracles and revivals for so long that I’d forgotten how to be a normal person. I also felt like normality was defeat, that if I wasn’t speaking in tongues during algebra, I wasn’t pleasing to God.

One of my friends listens to a pastor who says that the opposite of Christianity isn’t atheism, it’s idolatry. I think he’s right. The tricky part is that we make idols out of some really cool things sometimes. Whenever the mission becomes more important than the person for whom we’re doing the mission, we get in trouble.

Accepting grace is probably one of the hardest things for humans to do, especially in a culture where we’re made so very aware of our shortcomings. But just like anything else, accepting grace is a balancing act. The charismatic church I attended through high school was focused on just that. We were good at accepting grace. Weirdly enough, that was kind of our thing. We were so good at accepting grace and believing ourselves to be revivalists that we didn’t really have room for the guilt of our transgressions.

If there’s anything I’ve learned about God, it’s that all my formulas fall short. Grace is so strange because it doesn’t fall into the natural cause-effect relationship of our Earth. I’m starting to think the relationship is what’s most important—that no matter how many healings I’ve seen or auditoriums I’ve yelled in, quality time is what’s most important.

Jordan White started writing in the sixth grade when he told a girl that he wrote poetry in order to make her like him. Turns out, she wanted to read some of his poetryso he started writing and never looked back. Read his blog here.


Of God's Love & GateKeepers of Another Sort - How Does God Love? "...If Not More"

Three little words about how we are loved raises a bigger question
Published: Friday, April 27, 2012, 9:37 AM
Kathy Higbee

GRAND RAPIDS, MI -- Some powerful voices shared the air at a breakfast this past week to help extend the reach of Hope Network's pastoral services.

But it was a three-word interjection from a woman in a wheelchair who stole the show, or at least helped drive home a point that perhaps all of us should stop to consider from time to time.

"If not more," said Kathy Higbee, just loud enough to be heard, but in a tone so reverently put that it raised both mild laughter and goosebumps.

Kathy was listening to Chuck Ely describe how God loves us all, and how that includes the likes of Kathy, people with special challenges whom we too often relegate to a back burner.

Because they look or sound or feel different from the rest of us "normal" people, we consciously or unconsciously tend to subjugate them to second-class status, and that's dangerous territory, especially from a spiritual standpoint.

Chuck was reminding those at the breakfast that Our Lord loves those with limitations just as much as everyone else.

And that's when Kathy piped up with "If not more."

You can slice and dice this a lot of different ways, of course. You could blame Kathy for a haughty attitude, daring to assume that the Creator plays favorites, that his chosen ones use wheelchairs and crutches and braces. That they require special therapies, feeding tubes.

But maybe he does. And wouldn't that be a wonderfully startling thing, to see Heaven's gatekeepers adorned in halos of another sort?

I first met Kathy last year, while writing profiles of people who make Hope Network the force that it is for people both struggling and soaring. It's an organization that works tirelessly to help 23,000 people a year harness their gifts, to reach their potential, no matter their lot in life.

We're talking ex-offenders and kids with autism and people fighting back from traumatic brain injury. People with needs the rest of us could only imagine, elements capable of humbling us each and every time we sweat the small stuff that makes us look, well, small.

Kathy Higbee is part of a prayer group that Chuck Ely helps direct at one of Hope Network's many sites. And I still have in my notes the first words I heard her utter, responding to the prospect that handicapped people raise their voices in song:

"The Lord doesn't mind how we sound."

How profound. Although that's not my first impression of Kathy, because I am ashamed to say that when I first laid eyes on her, my mind registered "Gal in wheelchair."

Kathy Higbee never asked for that. If it weren't for a motor vehicle accident some 20 years ago that robbed her of the ability to walk and talk without a slight slur -- that caused injury to her brain at the age of 19 -- I might have met her and thought "Engaging woman in her late 30s…nice hair."

With three words, though, Kathy helped me to see well beyond that and wonder if those with so-called limitations have a special place in the Savior's heart. And why not, given Jesus' propensity to break bread with the untouchables of his time on earth.

With three words, a woman who's been ignored and passed over and misunderstood raised the consciousness of a roomful of men and women who didn't come to hear her speak.

But I'm guessing that, thanks to Kathy's impromptu lesson, more than one of us walked away to question how warmly we embrace all God's children.

If not more.

Feel moved to help advance the mission of Hope Network? Visit them online.
Email: rademachertom@gmail.com


Friday, April 27, 2012

Stop Waiting For God To Tell You What To Do With Your Life

by Justin Zoradi
April 25, 2012

The waterbed, the pinprick, and the tidal wave

Stop Waiting For God To Tell You What To Do With Your Life
A friend told me that while he hated bussing tables at the restaurant where he was working, he was still waiting for God to tell him what to do with his life. He believed that if he was patient enough and did his work well, eventually God would reveal his true calling.
I told him I don’t think God works like that.
We all want to do meaningful work and find our passion, but I can guarantee you this: Your purpose in life will never be written on the wall. And it will never be revealed to you in full.
I watched a brilliant video recently where some Danish filmmakers did a bunch of really stupid things and slowed them down to 2,500 frames a second. They blew up microwaves, chain-sawed coke bottles, and at the very end, pricked a tiny hole in a waterbed. At first, nothing really happened. A few drops of water spilled out. But in a matter of seconds, 200 gallons exploded from that tiny hole, flooding the bedroom.
You want to do meaningful work? Stop sitting on your hands waiting for God to tell you what to do.
No matter how lofty, unattainable, or idealistic, choose that one thing that keeps you up at night and stick a pin through it. Only then can the tidal wave of God’s glory and purpose flood your bedroom.
It seems like a lot of people are walking around holding that pin, scared to commit to putting it somewhere. Many people die holding it, their purpose and passion endlessly prayed for but never pursued.
I believe God joins us only when we take that initial risk. If you have a tiny twinge of passion toward anything, you have to jump right through it on your own. It is there that God will meet you.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Stephen Hawking, The Grand Design of God and the Cosmos

As an aside, I am currently re-reading Stephen Hawkings book, The Grand Design (2010), wherein he affirms the mechanistic, reductionist view of the form and frame of science. As a Christian, especially as one understanding the entanglement of the Godhead in our created world (sic relational/process theology: How Should We Read the Bible?), this type of assertion rings hollow for me. But one that I will allow from a non-Christian viewpoint because, in the case of natural scientific law, natural phenomena does run with a regularity unnecessary for a supernatural intervention as noted by the mathematician LaPlace to Napoleon when asking of God's necessity if physical laws run themselves (scientific determinism). Quipped LaPlace, "Sire, I have not needed that hypothesis." (pg 30, Hawkings).... And this on the heels of Sir Isaac Newton's earlier discoveries of the foundational classic laws of physics yet believing that God was somehow in the machine that He had built and now maintains.

Yet, this is the very method by which God had chosen to create in order to maintain His creation. In essence, God lies "behind" the process. And when these processes are looked into further, we see a "lively dance of chaotic, complex structure dynamically interacting with itself." That is, "there is an intrinsic openness in nature - seen in quantum phenomena, chaos, even [biological] epigenetics" to loosely quote from Poe and Davis. It is this very "freedom" within nature's inherent structure that testifies to God's imprint and interaction (sic, God's Role in Creation).

"If we were somehow able to fully explain the operation of the physical universe,
we would not have explained God out of the picture. Rather, we would have
explained the regular and repeatable sustaining activity of God." - Biologos

A "freedom" bent towards death and destruction (because of sin) that God has likewise enlivened (or re-invigorated) with a bent towards creative renewal and rebirth unto life and light. But a type of "freedom" that is a necessary consequence of creation's mystery that can allow for reconstruction from chaos (or, for that matter, evolutionary natural selection) by the intent and will of a God intimately involved in this re-creative process as Sovereign-Redeemer-Creator (sic, Evolution: Is God Just Playing Dice?).

Not only did God create, but even now creates, as He ever will - and always will - create until creation becomes one with His mind and will. Enmeshing the trinity of the cosmos, earth and world to the trinity of the Godhead (Father, Son, Spirit, three-in-one) till all becomes a rhombian fellowship in singular eternality (to put it in Hawking paradigm).

Consequently, though I have a very high respect towards Stephen Hawkings and his labor within the quantum physics world (besides being a favorite read of mine), a simple atheistic, reductionist/dualistic view towards science and the world is not satisfactory for a Christian holding a theology that is non-reductionistic/non-dualistic on the very same interpretive basis as the same science used. Nor can it be a helpful theology for biblical discovery and teaching, when thinking through God's interaction with man cosmically, ecologically, anthropologically, and spiritually.

R.E. Slater

by RJS
April 26, 2012

I was recently sent by the publisher a copy of the new book by Harry Lee Poe and Jimmy H. Davis God and the Cosmos: Divine Activity in Space, Time and History. Harry Lee Poe (Ph.D., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the Charles Colson Professor of Faith and Culture at Union University in Jacksonville TN, Jimmy H. Davis (Ph.D. University of Illinois) is University Professor of Chemistry at Union University. This book should prove to be something a bit different from our usual fare of late.

There are a number of different questions at play in the discussion of the interaction between science and the Christian faith. For some people the controversy over creation and evolution is driven by a desire to be faithful to scripture, and explicitly to a favored interpretation of scripture. Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis fall into this category. For others there is an appreciation for the sciences, but also a conviction that if the science is true traces of it will be found in scripture. Hugh Ross and Reasons to Believe fall into this category. But there is another set of question at play, especially within the Intelligent Design movement. Science and scientists are finding a natural explanation for all manner of phenomena formerly attributed to the work of God. This appears to squeeze God into an increasingly small corner of the universe – and many argue it removes God from the picture all together. As Laplace famously replied to Napoleon … we have “no need of that hypothesis.” Poe and Davis are addressing these latter kinds of questions in their book. Can a transcendent and personal God really act in the universe? and Can science help us answer this question?

The introduction to the book begins with reflections by Davis and Poe. Davis begins by posing the question – where is God in, for example, a chemical reaction? The reaction is the same and the explanation is the same whatever the worldview or presupposition of the person who brings together the reactants and starts the process.
Modern science assumes that all physical events have physical causes. In order to find these causes, modern science breaks down the event into parts and looks for some mechanism (pattern of connections) that give rise to the event being studied. Modern science explains natural phenomena in terms of natural events and does not invoke supernatural invention. (p. 15)
There is an assumption of methodological naturalism inherent in the processwe are quickly left with a deist view of God. He got things started, set the laws, and now steps back and lets it go.

Davis suggests that the error in this approach lies in the mechanical view of the cosmos. The models we construct are closed machines. But there is an intrinsic openness in nature – seen in quantum phenomena, chaos, and epigenetics.
This openness is an internal part of nature, not a God-of-the-Gaps ignorance that will one day be removed. We suggest in this monograph that God is there not only in the working of the “machine” but in the underlying software that tells the “machine” how to behave in a particular situation. It is an open universe providing an open vista on which the master Artist can craft what he wills. (p. 23)
Do you think explanations for observed phenomena are a zero-sum game – either there is a natural explanation or there is divine action?

Is this either-or attitude a problem in the church or in our society at large?

Harry Lee Poe provides a theological response to begin to address the question of how God relates to the world.
Answers to the question of how God acts on the universe have tended to be reductionist. As such, they have tended to be unhelpful. More complicated answers seldom gain a hearing because people prefer simple, black-and-white, either-or explanations. Politicians learned this trait of human nature long ago; thus the trait has charm both for fundamentalism and for unbelief. (p. 25)
The black-and-white, either-or explanations are intrinsically unsatisfactory. They simply cannot account for the world we see. Poe relates this to the complexity of the world and to the progression or hierarchies of complexity introduced by Arthur Peacocke. He suggests that different kinds of rules apply at different levels of existence. There is, it seems, a fundamental distinction between the laws that describe the simplicity of the atom and the laws that describe the complexity of a living cell.
Neither reductionist science nor reductionist theology help us understand this universe where one kind of rule applies at the level of human experience and another kind of rule applies at the quantum level of subatomic particles. (p. 26)
Poe sketches briefly in this introduction four theological ideas that may help to move us forward:
Freedom of the triune God. God is not just creator who says and it is, not just incarnate Son, not just Holy Spirit who animates but with no plan or goal. He is not deist, self-limiting, or undirected.
Only a truly trinitarian model of one God can help us move to a clearer understanding of how God might relate to such a complex structure as the universe in appropriate ways for different levels of physical complexity. (p. 28)
Directional universe: Simplicity to complexity. The universe is dynamic with a linear direction from energy to matter to life to consciousness. [More rather, from complexity to complexity. - res]
Progress: A value-based goal. Here Harry Lee Poe quotes Edgar Allen Poe (an indirect ancestor of his, about whom he has written a biography Evermore: Edgar Allan Poe and the Mystery of the Universe):
In Eureka (1848), Edgar Allen Poe’s original proposal of a big bang theory and the origin of life, Poe described the interaction of the elements and life forms in adaptation in terms of a grand narrative. He said, “The plots of God are perfect. The Universe is a plot of God.” (p. 29)
Open universe. Here Poe returns to the idea introduced by Davis. There is an openness in the universe at each level of complexity. A personal mind – a human mind or the mind of God – can interact with and change the course of nature without violating the laws of nature. “Rather than hiding in the gaps, God is involved in the big observables that science describes.

The remainder of God and the Cosmos is divided into two parts – first looking at theology and asking what kind of God interacts with the world and then looking at the universe and asking what kind of world allows God to interact. It looks like this will lead to some interesting questions and, I hope, some interesting posts over the next few weeks.

Where would you look for evidence of the action or purpose of God in the universe?

How should Christians respond to the “mechanical” view of the universe that removes God from the picture?

If you wish to contact me directly, you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net.
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