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

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Progressive Christianity & The Politics of the Conservative Christian Faith


Photo Illustration by Emil Lendof/The Daily Beast

Facebook link

The Fundamentalist Witch Hunt’s New Prey
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/04/21/the-fundamentalist-witch-hunt-s-new-prey.html

by Karl W. Giberson
April 21, 1955
Thomas Oord, former NNU Theologian

A beloved professor forced from a Nazarene university this month is the latest casualty in a war that’s being waged against thinking evangelical Christians.

Evangelicals have just voted another intellectual off their island.

On the eve of April Fools’ Day, while on vacation in Hawaii with his wife, Professor Tom Oord got an email from the president of Northwest Nazarene University (NNU) notifying him that he was being terminated. NNU is one of eight schools sponsored by the evangelical denomination Church of the Nazarene.

Oord was a tenured full professor—the highest rank in academia—who had been on the NNU faculty for 13 years, after several years as my colleague at Eastern Nazarene College. Oord was the university’s leading scholar, with 20 books on his CV; by most measures he was also the denomination’s leading scholar and one of a tiny number of Nazarene theologians whose reputations reached beyond evangelicalism. Oord had won multiple teaching awards and was wildly popular with students and respected by his colleagues. He had brought over a million dollars of grant money to the university—a remarkable accomplishment for a professor at a small, unsung liberal arts college.

Oord, however, was controversial.


He strongly supported evolution and had long been a target of creationists in the denomination. He embraced “open theism,” the view that God does not know the future but responds in love—rather than [Calvinism's] coercive control—to events as they occur, rather than foreordaining everything. Fundamentalist critics called him a heretic and had been vying for his termination for years. But Oord was also gentle and pastoral, especially with students.

As I write these words hundreds of dismayed NNU students are wearing bright-red shirts on campus, emblazoned with Oord’s motto: “I choose to live a life of love.” Almost 2,000 people, many of them current and former students, have joined a Facebook group called “Support Tom Oord” (just renamed “Support Tom Oord & NNU) in the past two weeks.

“American evangelicalism’s failure to make peace with the progressive scholars within its ranks—or even keep the conversation going—has alienated it from a broad range of scholarship.”

Getting rid of tenured faculty requires administrative creativity. In Oord’s case a small downturn in graduate enrollment cracked open a legal door that allowed the president to declare a financial problem. Curiously, this financial problem required the termination of only one faculty member. Even more curious, this financial problem came in a year of record overall enrollment when NNU was celebrating its great financial health in press releases.

NNU’s president, David Alexander, has denied on several occasions that Oord was targeted. In an April 15 letter to “NNU alumni and supports” he “assured” readers that his wildly unpopular decision was “not focused on any single individual.”

Alexander and Oord, however, have been at odds for years. As recently as last year Alexander informed Oord that he would not be returning because a theological review board was investigating him and was about, in so many words, to declare him a heretic. Such a declaration would remove Oord’s status as an “Ordained Elder in the Church of the Nazarene” and make him unsuitable to serve as a professor of religion in a Nazarene college. Prior to that, Oord’s course load had been restricted by President Alexander to quiet the concerns of fundamentalists.

I asked on the “Support Tom Oord” Facebook page if anyone believed Alexander was telling the truth in his claims that he was not targeting Oord. No one does. Apparently on April 14 NNU faculty met and overwhelmingly voted “no-confidence” in the president. The trustees have now launched an investigation into the entire affair; the president has apologized in writing to the faculty for losing their trust; and Oord's termination is "on hold" although not rescinded.

Thomas Oord, Philosopher Theologian
The controversy at NNU is, tragically, just one of many related incidents that have plagued the Church of the Nazarene. In 2007 biologist Richard Colling was forced out of another Nazarene university for his book arguing that evolution was true and should be understood as God’s way of creating. In 2010 I left Eastern Nazarene College (ENC) after years of being attacked by fundamentalists as a heretic for my views on science.

A few years earlier a colleague had been forced out of ENC for refusing to condemn gay marriage in his social work classes. Two months ago the chaplain at another Nazarene university was demoted for a sermon questioning whether enthusiastic war-mongering was compatible with Jesus’ command to love our enemies. An entire college could be staffed with the victims of fundamentalist witch hunts in the Church of the Nazarene. And, if we add the victims of witch hunts in other evangelical traditions, we could staff a [new] major research university.

The controversy at NNU is one battle in the long war that is being waged—and slowly won—against thinking evangelical Christians. Battles at the various institutions are eerily similar and unfold along the following lines: Progressive, educated scholars push their [religious] traditions to make peace with new ideas, to be open to reconsidering historical positions on human origins, the nature of God, the morality of homosexuality, the meaning of Bible stories, the status of other religions. Such conversations have long been part of religious traditions that, in earlier centuries, managed to make peace with troubling notions like the motion of the Earth

Thomas Oord at peace with his thoughts.
Fundamentalists, threatened by new ideas, push back but they typically lose when the war is waged on the field of ideas. Evolution, alas, is true and most educated people understand that. So, the battles are fought instead with political and financial weapons. Fundamentalist pastors, youth ministers, and concerned lay leaders apply pressure to college presidents behind the scenes to get rid of progressive faculty. During my years at ENC, a few irate fundamentalist pastors withdrew their churches’ financial support of the college because of me. Youth pastors would tell the enrollment office not to send recruiters to their churches because they did not want their young people going to a college that taught evolution. This was exactly what happened at Olivet Nazarene University when Richard Colling was forced out. And few doubt that Oord’s termination is anything other than President Alexander’s surrender to similar pressures.

In the short run, silencing controversial voices does quiet things down and probably creates space for college administrators to think about other things. But this peace is an illusion.

American evangelicalism’s failure to make peace with the progressive scholars within its ranks—or even keep the conversation going—has alienated it from a broad range of scholarship. In The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age, historian Randall Stephens and I lament that most evangelicals now get their science from young earth creationist Ken Ham, their history from the discredited revisionist David Barton, their social science from the homophobic James Dobson. 

Evangelicalism’s greatest scholar is probably historian Mark Noll who, ironically, now teaches at the University of Notre Dame. Noll coined the term “Scandal of the Evangelical Mind” to describe the intellectual crisis of his religious tradition—a crisis created by that tradition’s inability to break free of the fundamentalism out of which it arose.

In a few weeks we will know if Professor Oord’s pastoral, controversial voice will still be heard in classrooms at Northwest Nazarene University, encouraging students to think and to follow evidence and reason wherever it leads. Many suspect it will not. And that, once again, the fundamentalists will have won.



A Parable of Two Sons and One Father


Author, Teacher Jared Byas

Two Sons: My Journey with God & The Bible
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2015/04/two-sons-my-journey-with-god-the-bible/

by Peter Enns
with Guest Writer Jared Byas
April 21, 2015

THE ONE

Once upon a time there was a boy who loved his father and longed to be just like him. His father seemed all-powerful, all wise, all good. And the father always helped his son, told him what to do and which decisions were for the best.

The boy, he grew, and his childhood was glorious and serene. Whenever he faced a difficult decision, he’d run to his father who would hug him tightly and tell him just which road to take. The boy found such comfort, knowing that he could trust his father with every decision he faced.

At night, the boy would sit with his father by the fire and recount the difficult questions that had confronted him through the day. He’d tell his father his thoughts and hopes, but would always end the same way: “That’s what I want father, but just tell me what to do and I’ll do it.” He was glad to trust his father with the answers for his life, to place them in the hands of one who knew far better.

When the boy became a man, his father grew ill. And for the first time, fear assaulted him; it struck him to the core. “I am lost without my father! How can I make a single decision without his clear direction?” And in that moment came the most devastating revelation of all: he was nothing like his father. He was neither wise, nor good, nor powerful.

The father recovered but the son never did.

THE OTHER

Once upon a time there was another boy who loved his father and longed to be just like him. His father seemed all-powerful, all wise, all good. And the father never seemed to help his son, rarely told him what to do and which decisions were for the best.

The boy grew frustrated. When he would ask (and I admit, sometimes he demanded) the best path to take, the best road to choose, the father would simply smile and say “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Day after day, the boy would come to him with a decision, a crossroads in his life, and the father would simply say “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The boy felt unacknowledged. Hurt.

He would go to his mother in exasperation, yet she would simply open the book and read ancient tales about the father. Sullen and confused, he would say, “I don’t want to know what my father did; I want to know what I should do right now!”

But in bed at night, when the house was still, the boy would find himself reading the book again and again. But no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t find clear answers to the problems he faced. He would slam it shut in disgust and say, “I’ll just have to make my own decision.” And so he did.

When the boy became a man, his father grew ill. He stood at his father’s bedside. “Before you go, I need to know one thing. Why did you never tell me what to do? Why did you never answer me clearly? Why did you give me nothing when I needed your direction most?”

His father replied, “Nothing? I gave you everything you needed. Giving you answers is taking; it is to rob you of the gift of the struggle. To be like me requires struggle. The struggle matures.”

The son considered this, and asked his father, “But why did you take the risk? I could have made all the wrong decisions!”

His father answered sternly, “Did you not listen to what I did tell you? Did you not read the book? You know who I am. I will always be with you, even to the end of the age.”

And then the son understood. His resentment melted away and was replaced by inestimable gratitude.

The father recovered and remained with the son, even to the end of the age.


How To Love Your Loved One, Wife, Daughter, and Mom




It’s About Respect: 15 Signs He Treats You The Way You Truly Deserve
http://elitedaily.com/dating/he-treats-like-truly-deserve/1007416/

by Paul Hudson
April 21, 2015

The trick to a happy relationship is seeing each other as complete equals.

Now, before you all go on about how you treat all people as equals, especially your lover, let me say this: bullsh*t.

People don’t see all people as equals – in fact, we just about never see anyone else as an equal.

The only time we really do is when we love that individual. When we don’t love someone, we are basically saying he or she isn’t our equal and deserving of our love.

It’s difficult seeing other people as complete equals, as we are egocentric beings living a reality from a single perspective, a single point of view.

As far as we’re concerned, we’re really the only people in the world who matter.

Unless we’re in love. 

When we’re in love, the most magical thing happens: We find someone who we believe may be even more important than ourselves.

Ladies, this is the only sort of man for you. If he doesn’t see you as his equal, then he won’t be capable of treating you the way you deserve to be treated.

How do you know he’s treating you the way you deserve to be treated?

1. He gives you attention from the moment you wake up.

He’ll roll over, give you a hug or a kiss on the forehead. Or just plop his heavy arm over you, giving out a groan to show his disdain for the sunrise forcing him to wake from his dreams.

Whatever his morning routine, it involves him recognizing you’re laying there with him.

2. He feeds not just your body, but your mind.

He might buy you dinner; he might make it for you. A man who’s in love lives to satisfy his woman — and that’s equally through her stomach as it is through her passions and soul. He’ll just as easily buy you chocolates as he would books because he knows enriching you is his favorite hobby and it makes the both of you better.

3. He loves surprising you.

Maybe he’ll buy you little gifts. Maybe he’ll pick you some flowers. Maybe he’ll clean your apartment while you’re away at work or running errands. Maybe he’ll book you a trip around the world or simply pack the two of you a surprise picnic. When a man makes a point to surprise you, he understands the importance of keeping the excitement in a relationship alive.

4. He spends time with you because he wants to, not because he feels obligated to.

You don’t need to beg him to hang out, to see you, to spend time with you. In fact, he often finds himself having to hold back from seeing you too often, from coming off as overly eager.

He feels an urge to spend just about every waking moment with you, but he knows better. He gives you the space you need and takes the space he needs, but never fails to be there for you.

5. When he makes plans, you’re a part of them.

As far as he’s concerned, you are the plan. The life the two of you will create together is all the planning he needs. Everything else you’ll deal with when the time comes, together.

6. He consults you before he makes big decisions.

In a relationship, it’s important to share the decision-making. If the man you’re with treats you well, he’ll not only include you because he knows you want to be included, but because he values your opinions, your input.

7. He doesn’t lie to you because he doesn’t have anything he needs to lie about.

Not all men are scumbags. Not all men will lie to you, cheat on you and break your heart. Some, most even, certainly will. But not him. He refuses to treat you the same way every other assh*le in your life has treated you. He won’t lie to you, and he will never have a reason to.

How can he be so sure? Because it’s a choice, and it’s a choice he’s already decided to make.

8. He tells you that you’re beautiful when you feel your worst.

I’d say that to him, you’re always beautiful – which may very well be the case – but when you look like hell, you look like hell. It happens to the best of us. But do you know what? He refuses to tell you that you look like hell because he doesn’t want you thinking yourself to be anything but beautiful.

9. He tells you about his day and asks you about yours.

He wants to know about your life because he feels by knowing your day, he is, in a sense, becoming a bigger part of your life. He enjoys telling you about his day, telling you interesting stories or some issues he has been dealing with. He wants to share with you and wants you to share with him.

10. The only time he makes you cry is from happiness.

There should be nothing in the world that breaks his heart like watching you cry – really cry. He hates the thought of you feeling hurt and even goes as far as to share in your pain. It’s not that he’s trying to, although given the chance, he’d change places in an instance; it’s just that he can’t help it. He hurts when you hurt. It’s out of his control.

11. He tells you he loves you, but he doesn’t have to, because you already know it.

This is where most men – to be fair, women as well – make a big mistake. If you love someone, it matters less that you love that person than it matters that you make him or her feel loved.

People seem to have it backward. They are under the illusion that the way they themselves are feeling is how to best define love.

On the contrary, love is defined by actions – not by emotions or theories. Unless he knows how to make you feel loved and does his best to do so, he’s being selfish and egocentric. How can that be love?

12. He’ll give you the bigger half.

It’s the little things. It’s those little moments when he thinks about you before he thinks about himself. It’s giving you the bigger half of the sandwich, the bigger half of the bed, the bigger half of the closet, the bigger half of his heart, the bigger half of his life.

People are egocentric by nature – they will always think about themselves and will think about themselves first, most of the time. It’s not something that can be helped.

Look out for these little acts of selflessness because they are, in true sense, proof of his love for you.

13. He makes you feel safe.

He may not be the tallest, the fittest, the fastest, the strongest guy in the world, but if push comes to shove, he will sooner die trying to save you than to allow you to be abused, hurt or harassed by another.

In your heart you feel he would risk his life to save yours, if it came down to it. And although you would never ask him to do that, pushing him out of the way as he protects you from the incoming bullet, knowing he would makes you feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

14. He keeps his promises.

He may not make many of them – if only to lessen the chances of having to break them – but when he makes a promise, he always delivers. He knows you trust him and have faith in him – he doesn’t want to disappoint you. He just wants you to be happy.

15. He makes you feel like a woman.

You may be his best friend. You may be his partner, his confidante, his advisor, his better half, but first and foremost, you are a woman – his woman. And he wants you to feel like a woman. He treats you with respect. He makes you feel sexy. He makes you feel loved.

He makes you feel like he wants you – every part of you – because he does.

*For More Of His Thoughts And Ramblings, Follow Paul Hudson On TwitterAnd Facebook.


Jimmy Carter - Standing Up for the Equality of Women


Illustration: Dyson


Losing my religion for equality
http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/losing-my-religion-for-equality-20090714-dk0v.html?stb=fb

by President Jimmy Carter
July 15, 2009

Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long
in a twisted interpretation of the word of God.

I HAVE been a practising Christian all my life and a deacon [in my church] and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention's leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be "subservient" to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women's equal rights across the world for centuries.

At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.

The impact of these religious beliefs touches every aspect of our lives. They help explain why in many countries boys are educated before girls; why girls are told when and whom they must marry; and why many face enormous and unacceptable risks in pregnancy and childbirth because their basic health needs are not met.

In some Islamic nations, women are restricted in their movements, punished for permitting the exposure of an arm or ankle, deprived of education, prohibited from driving a car or competing with men for a job. If a woman is raped, she is often most severely punished as the guilty party in the crime.

The same discriminatory thinking lies behind the continuing gender gap in pay and why there are still so few women in office in the West. The root of this prejudice lies deep in our histories, but its impact is felt every day. It is not women and girls alone who suffer. It damages all of us. The evidence shows that investing in women and girls delivers major benefits for society. An educated woman has healthier children. She is more likely to send them to school. She earns more and invests what she earns in her family.

It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population. We need to challenge these self-serving and outdated attitudes and practices - as we are seeing in Iran where women are at the forefront of the battle for democracy and freedom.

I understand, however, why many political leaders can be reluctant about stepping into this minefield. Religion, and tradition, are powerful and sensitive areas to challenge. But my fellow Elders and I, who come from many faiths and backgrounds, no longer need to worry about winning votes or avoiding controversy - and we are deeply committed to challenging injustice wherever we see it.

The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by former South African president Nelson Mandela, who offer their influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity. We have decided to draw particular attention to the responsibility of religious and traditional leaders in ensuring equality and human rights and have recently published a statement that declares:

"The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion
or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable."

We are calling on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices, no matter how ingrained, which justify discrimination against women. We ask, in particular, that leaders of all religions have the courage to acknowledge and emphasize the positive messages of dignity and equality that all the world's major faiths share.

The carefully selected verses found in the Holy Scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place - and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence - than eternal truths. Similar biblical excerpts could be found to support the approval of slavery and the timid acquiescence to oppressive rulers.

I am also familiar with vivid descriptions in the same Scriptures in which women are revered as pre-eminent leaders. During the years of the early Christian church women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets. It wasn't until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy.

The truth is that male religious leaders have had - and still have - an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions - all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God.

It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.

- President Jimmy Carter


*Jimmy Carter was president of the United States
from 1977 to 1981.