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

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

A Loss of Faith Doesn't Mean a Loss of Personal Faith...

A Loss of Faith Doesn't Mean
a Loss of Personal Faith...

But Perhaps It May Mean a Reorientation of Faith

by R.E. Slater
June 28, 2022

I came across Bob Schneider's article the other day and thought he made some important observations about why his Jewish faith was important to him as versus say, no faith, or the Christian faith he grew up in.

In contrast to Bob's experience, my own faith holds a lot of good memories of exploration and discovery, albeit from a Fundamentalist position, for the majority of my youth until I married into a conservative evangelical Reformed church. The conservative part was composed of pastor, the church board, and its affiliations (which later changed under a new pastor, Ed Dobson) and the progressive part was it's congregation. Years later this all changed again.

During that time I had just finished my psychology major and bible minor degrees at a private Christian college and had begun to attend seminary at the same school. It's roots were my roots - fundamentalist Baptist (GARB), but had by this time moved into the evangelical phase of Christianity (from 1930-60s dogma to 1970-80s semi-progressive thinking) because of its non-rural urban center.

My home church was also part of this movement where I had done a lot of urban ministries before leaving for a large university to study math and science, then transferring three years later to a private Christian curriculum. At that time I felt the Lord calling me into these next six years of study (a four year M.Div. degree) and student ministries which carried through until my mid-50s. As I have said, I had a full and happy spirit-life under many good teachers, preachers, professors, and friends. Then it all changed....

Removal and Renewal

As I read Bob's personal stories and experiences they resonated with me because I was immersed in my own growing evangelic faith which was moving towards a progressive stage in seminary, then an emergent Christian stage much later, and finally, a mega-progressive version of itself when I finally moved out of conservatism altogether.  

Somewhere around the years of 2000-2010 I became cognizant of evangelicalism's culturally regressive movement (begun in the 1990s with its inerrancy declaration) towards a militant, excluding, even threatening, fundamentalist expressions of itself socio-politically and doctrinally. I speak to this as Dominionism. Others as Kingdom Reconstruction, that is, replacing any socio-politico system with a theocratic version of itself as determined by church rules, beliefs, and legalisms.

Evangelicalism's refusal to grow into contemporary academics and an expanded awareness of their own growing uncivil democracy (re fairness and equality) towards Muslims, women, lgbtq, immigrants, etc., had caused me to break faith with its "moral majorities" and "literal bible"  claims to knowing God in 2012, ten years ago. Little did I know I was joining other dissenting Christians choosing a progressive verson of evangelicalism over its recalcitrant regression back into its dogmatic shell.

It also left me hanging out in thin air completely abandoned by my fellowship which refused to ask the hard questions I was asking of it to make. And so, began my journal here at Relevancy22 through many, many years of self-directed, and prayerful research, study, and personal writings.

A New Beginning...

I consider those early years of leaving what I had known extremely important to where I am now. During those first seven years of my journey here at Relevancy22 I was carefully laying out: i) what I was learning, ii) why it was important to me, and iii) where I thought it might be leading me towards. Those difficult and demoralising years required a lot of parsing of my faith and Scripture to get to where I am today.

Lately, these past three years, I've become very focused and directed in what I might generally describe as a post-evangelical expression of my immersive faith. One, I might describe as adding new elements, or character changes:

  • One large change which was made from my tradtional Christian heritage was to remove my traditional Christian faith from it's synthesized forms of Greco-Western thought based in neo-Platonism. To do this, I had to explore Continental thought (I found it nicely tied into my earlier psychology and philosophy studies) which later led me in a round-about-way to Process thought ala Whitehead, Cobb, et al. And it is this latter outlook which has greatly expanded and informed this newer version of  my reclaimed Christian faith into full conversations with today's sciences and academia. It is also where I try to focus a lot of my current articles these past recent years. To do that, I had to write myself out of the Old and into the New, proceeding theologically, and later, philosophically and culturally, as I intersected my faith with society.
  • Another large change was to abandon the theological position of Calvinism altogether and to transition my theological upbringing back to my Baptist roots of Arminianism. As I did, I also repositioned my Reformed theology to a less harsher form of itself based upon a God of Love as versus its God of wrath and judgment. I found both of these adjustments to be very healthy changes to my own faith. Hence, when I speak to a Process Christianity, it would more specifically speak to my Protestant upbringing which I am familiar with. I do not pretend to know Catholicism or Orthodoxy well but can say that Process Christianity can quite easily absorb these theologies quite capably. And, I might add, many, if not most, of the world's religious and non-religious thought. Process Philosophy is what can be described as an Integrative Philosophy. Which is why it speaks so easily to evolution, the quantum sciences, and nano/bio/quantum technologies, et al.
  • One last, though there are more foundational reasons then these several I am setting out here.... I had initially tried to discover a more pervasive hermeneutic for interpreting the bible but later realized  after some years of research that my understanding of the bible actually needed a new philosophical basis, not a better hermeneutic. One that could more easily embrace an enlarged, interpretive, socio-progressive, biblical center (my evangelic background lies in Covenant Theology as versus my earlier fundamenalist position of neo-dispensationalism). A new hermeneutical approach to the bible could not resolve what was required. I needed an altogether different philosophical foundation... Not a better interpretation of Scripture. It took seven years of trial-and-error to discover this.... But again, it is why the Spirit of the Lord brought me through such a desperate time of spiritual pain, anguish, and blackness. Without this personal experience I would not have had the resolve to have endured as long as I did at this formidable task. But like any figure of the bible who has come through a loss of faith I came out of my own upheavals with an exceptionally clear vision of what needed to be done, thanks be to God's leading and guidance.

A Renewed Christian Faith...

The tasks set before me were:

  • First and foremost, to deconstruct and dissent;
  • Second, to begin reconstructing a better theology more conversant with society; and,
  • Third, to settle in enough to expand this new theologic center.

Moreover, this renewed Christian faith had to be:
  • One centered around doubt-and-uncertainty, not strict positionalism;
  • One which leaves a lot of room for open-ended discussions to future discoveries and human learning;
  • One that might be expansive enough to receive all faith-seekers yearning for something beyond the material realm knowing that a living faith meant a living God;
  • One which was deeply relational and dynamic in its faith expressions which moves progressively upwards with one's communities; and lastly,
  • One whose absolute center of faith is founded on a God of absolute Love. For without love, even God himself would be like a clanging cymbal:
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Co 13.1)

Now you would think this was an easy task to discover a better expression of God-and-faith than the evangelical one I knew but it was anything but easy. When begun, I went into a spiritual tailspin I can only describe as having all I thought I knew-and-believed removed from underneath me.

This desert land of wilderness was a harsh place to live for the length of time the Lord left me there. And it was in this spiritual space I refused to move unless the Lord drew me out. Several times I nearly abandoned this Spirt-enforced wilderness but it was nearly a year before I felt I had the Spirit-vision needed to leave by the Lord's call even as he had called out to Lazarus to "arise and come out of the lands of death" which encircled and held him in its grasp.

Remember too, I had no one to help me in this task though I tried. Later, I would be joined by many other questioning faith seekers (the late Rachel Held Evans was one) whom the Spirit had come upon to stir their heavy hearts and souls. And later still, I would find the foundation I was seeking. But it would take a few years to get there.

Hence, this next stage of Christ-renewal was one of removal, relearning, acquisition, and announcement. I had to have time to rethink my past evangelical theology so that it would make more sense to those who, like me, had fallen out of their church's belief system through disappointment, disillusionment, or lost of perspective.

Below, Bob's journey took him in a similar, but different, direction than mine own. But one just as valid for his own spiritual life as was mine. Though I must insist on Jesus and his atoning work as the center of my Christian faith I can understand why the Jewish faith has become important for so many others.

However, as point of fact, Process Theology's center is that of relationality. It is the outcome of a Loving God embracing creation. Without a relational faith with our Creator/Redeemer, with one another, or with God's creation, we would be spiritual paupers.

Hence, Judaism is not the only faith centered in relationships. A good Christian faith - like the one I grew up in before it fell apart - runs around this center of relationality in its faith-theology. And in Process Christianity (which is similar in outcome, but significantly different in its doctrinal foundations, than progressive evangelical Christianity) "relationality" is its very core. Thus it is aptly described as a Process-Relational Theology whose outcome is social progressiveness in the embrace of a society in search of faith-communities center around God's love as expressed through Jesus' salvation.


R.E. Slater
June 29, 2022

Follow up article
An XGen Indie Artist Speaks Up for Jesus

* * * * * * * * *

A popular, but incorrect, meme found on Facebook


June 26, 2022

The Bible is a collection of stories about myths and legends not to report or record history, but to make a theological point. 

I suspect this article will irritate two groups of people: atheists, and Fundamentalist Christians. I’m not judging your religious beliefs, or lack thereof, rather I am often asked why I am not an atheist? I am asked this question nearly equally by the two above-named groups. Many of my friends, and family members don’t understand my reasons for abandoning Christianity, my mother’s religion.

On social media, I mentioned that the Bible is not the word of God. It is a collection of myths, stories, and often questionable history. A few fundamentalist folks immediately proclaimed me a heretic and an atheist.

This event followed my visit to an Atheist site that proclaimed the Bible a lie, and that people were worshipping a fantasy. The atheists proclaimed me an ignorant fool who prays to thin air and is anti-science.

Neither case is true, especially the latter.

I was raised in my mother’s Baptist tradition, complete with two Southern Baptist minister uncles. I could memorize phrases from the Bible and use them as “proof” of truth with the best of them.

As a boy, I ran into a buzzsaw at the Wall Street Baptist Church in Kankakee, Illinois, my hometown. My sins must have been memorable because I was sent to the church’s basement with the minister’s wife, so she could engage in some one-on-one brainwashing.

She was not the most intellectual of women.

Here was my deep sin that caused hand-wringing and great concern for my immortal soul. I dared to ask a Sunday School teacher in front of kids why there were two creation stories in the Bible? I wanted to know why Genesis Chapters 1 & 2 are contradictory, with only a shred of similarity?

Rather than answer the question, I was told there weren’t two and I should learn to read. Undaunted, I asked if we all were descendants of Adam and Eve, and she said yes, they were the first created by God, and every human on earth is their descendant.

This was where I ended up in the basement. I asked the teacher, how could that be? Eve had three sons, and who were these people later that Eve’s sons married? Exasperated, the Sunday School teacher told the kids to lay hands on me as she prayed for the demons to be cast out of my soul. She then left, returning with the pastor’s wife.

I won’t regale you with the conversation that led the minister’s wife to hate me until the day she died. Those are stories for another day.

There is a big problem the religious have, and that is a lack of faith, and so they need to hang their faith on a book that is comprised of myths, legends, shakey history, and some outright fiction. It is a trap many thinking people are pushed into, only to fall through the door into believing it is all a lie.

My Mother left our small church primarily because of me. My ability to read, not accept anything at face value and question authority made her scorned by the church management. She had given birth to a heretic and my questions reflected on her as a parent in a negative light.

My mother taught me to question and challenge authority, and she is from where I learned how to state my case the right way. My curiosity reflects on her as a parent in a good way. There is not a religion on earth that doesn’t try to encourage unquestioning, blind obedience, and people like me are a pain for ministers.

Mom stopped taking me to church, and that probably was best for my spiritual life. I was free to read, and question and she didn’t tell me I was Hellbound as I had heard in church. I decided that Christianity was not for me, but I delayed dropping that bomb for a very long time.

I trudged off to college, and in my first semester took a course in religious studies. It was finding an oasis in the desert of religious anti-intellectualism. There is an ocean of differences between biblical scholarship and promoting faith to the masses.

On day one of the class, after a lecture from the professor about statements based on scholarship vs. faith statements, she delivered the news that Moses did not write the first five books of the Bible. I wanted to jump up and scream, “I knew it!” In the Torah, I read laws prohibiting Jews from intermarriage with people from nations that did not exist at the time of the Exodus, and would not come into existence for hundreds of years later.

Many people come to college, take religious studies, and turn to atheism. They feel they are worshiping a big lie. Some adopt atheism as a religion and run around with the zeal of any Christian evangelist spreading their Gospel of Don’t Worship a Lie.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

I was lucky. I had a professor who taught more than just scholarship applied to religious writings. She taught me how Bertrand Russell in the meme above got it very wrong.

Her Doctorate is in ancient literature. She taught, and I believe, that the Bible is a collection of stories about myths and legends not to report or record history, but to make a theological point. Approaching it in that light took away the big lie stigma others face when scholarship meets faith. Instead, I was studying literature.

I thought of myths in terms of Greek Mythology. Surely no one believes that man received fire because Prometheus gave it to humans, thereby angering Zeus to the point that Prometheus was chained by Zeus, and his liver eaten by eagles. While it is absurd to believe that myth, there are stories in the Bible no less sensational. In later courses, I learned that the writings of Homer share much in common with The Bible.

The stories that sell myths are literature, and often fiction with tales of magic. They explain the unexplainable and are enlarged by the authors not to be taken literally, but to illustrate a point and teach a theological lesson.

From Dr. Morey-Gaines, I learned about many of the allegories in the Bible. For those who need a refresher on the definition of an allegory, it is a story or poem that is used to illustrate a moral or a political point. Emphasize the word story, because as a story, absolute fact is not required.

The Sodom and Gomorrah story is a prime example. A “righteous man” as the yarn unfolds, does not accurately describe Lot, the protagonist of the tale. There are many messages and sub-messages in the narrative that has nothing to do with sin and debauchery. Two of the central messages of Sodom and Gomorrah are: “get away from evil people,” and “don’t look back.” Whether a city was destroyed, or a woman was killed is not the point.

The dual stories of creation are not the only contradictions in the first five books. I read a source that counts thirteen dualities and contradictions in the Torah.

The Babylonian Creation Myth is the foundation of Genesis 1 and 2, which makes sense, as tradition places Abraham as from Mesopotamia. The myth is present in other religious traditions. Judaism borrows from other traditions, like borrowing the creation story, and puts a local spin on the stories.

In 2022, there are no purely native religions. All have borrowed one another’s material. It grates on the nerves of those who practice religious orthodoxy when I say it’s all good. That is my steadfast belief.

I don’t accept the notion that the Bible is dictated by God. When it is called The Word of God, that is marketing. It is the work of men and many men.

If the religious among us read this far, and I doubt many will, they may ask themselves how can this guy be a theist? Likewise, I am sure some atheists somewhere will think the title of this narrative is clickbait, and deep down I am one of them.

There is another element to my story that I have not brought up. That is the Jewish element, which is central to why I am a thinking person, yet not an atheist.

Whether Jews and Christians want to admit it, the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple was a seismic event for both religions and forced the two branches into a decision. For Jews, it was the birth of Rabbinical Judaism. With no temple, there was no longer a need for Priests, so the Sadducees became people without a job, while the bookish Pharisees emphasized reading Torah and praying, laying the foundation for today’s Judaism.

The loss of the Temple forced Christians to cope by extricating themselves from Judaism and concentrating on the person of Jesus of Nazareth to fill the Temple void. So the destruction of the Temple, rather than the crucifixion in my view was the splitting of Christians and Jews.

In my studies of Judaism, the Torah, Tanakh, and readings in the Talmud, Judaism appeals to me because it concentrates on how we are to relate to one another charitably in this life, rather than emphasizing a life to come. It is about my relationship with a Creator in the here and now and has no hoops to jump through to find God while providing me a guidepost on how to treat others.

Judaism is a three-thousand-year-old tradition, and I am part of it. It horrifies some members of my family who are incredulous at my decision. However, it is my decision, and I am now part of that tradition.

Judaism was good enough for Jesus, and it is good enough for me.

If there is any interest, I will write another text about how I feel about Christianity. It is the religion of my mother and her family. I have no hostility or disrespect for the faith. It is a beautiful religion as they all are when not weaponized for political ambitions.

I have wonderful memories of Christmas with my mom’s family, and with my former wife and children, filled with warmth and love. I can belt out a round of Hark the Herald Angels Sing with the best. Many find comfort, meaning, and God through Christianity. I respect that and my beliefs do not invalidate their religious beliefs.

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

When I was a young man, often I would try to imagine infinity. I tried to picture the universe expanding with no end and try to comprehend how it all started from nothing.

When I failed in wrapping my brain around that which can’t be enclosed, my only conclusion was the same as the desert dwellers three-thousand years ago, as they sat by their fires telling stories that one day would become scriptures: There must be a God.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Evangelical Anxiety by Charles Marsh

Author Charles Marsh

Growing Up Evangelical:
An Interview with Charles Marsh

University of Virginia professor of religious studies Charles Marsh on the ‘cosmic entitlement’ and ‘mental torment’ of the white American evangelical mind and why Donald Trump is Christianity’s ‘most influential grace pimp’

June 18, 2022

[comments or italics are mine - re slater]

  • "The dangers of the American evangelical project and its nationalistic or messianic ambitions..."
  • "It also has an effect of obliterating difference or of prescribing political and social strategies that obliterate difference..."
  • "[It has attached to itself a] narcissistic identity. An identity that is totalitarian in its understanding of the world and its understanding of truth. It doesn’t admit difference. If it sees difference - whether sexual, political, or racial - it wants to obliterate that [difference], or consume it, or overwhelm it, by its own powers.... [Evangelicalism] simply cannot abide difference. It can’t ignore difference; it has to remove it.

A Man praying holding a Holy Bible | Duncan Andison/Adobe Stock

Charles Marsh was a teenager in Laurel, Mississippi, when, on the edge of the woods one day, he came across a jettisoned Playboy. He dared take a look, to see the naked breasts that graced the magazines crumpled, mildewed pages. To, in other words, grievously sin.

It’s a memory that makes multiple appearances in Evangelical Anxiety, Marsh’s memoir, out this week. And it’s a moment that’s emblematic of the freighted nature of the evangelical upbringing Marsh details within the book’s pages, an upbringing steeped in conservative, white evangelicalism and the psychological baggage such an upbringing can bestow. For Marsh, now a professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia, the imperatives of “purity” inherent in his religious education, the ever-present narrative of a cosmic battle between a righteous God and the ruinous temptations of Satan, led to both crippling anxiety and years of afternoons spent on an analyst’s couch. For the reader, the book is an erudite glimpse into the psychology of white evangelicalism and how the current proliferation of white Christian nationalism could spring from the religious imperatives Marsh details. Rolling Stone recently talked with him about religion, mindfucks, and mental health.

As I was watching the January 6th hearings, I kept thinking about your book, and white Christian nationalism and its psychological effects.

I mean, we’ve seen the evangelical commentary industrial complex crank out hundreds, thousands of stories on the strange, dangerous, shocking behavior of white evangelicals over the years, but I don’t think we’ve really understood or tried to understand the psychological shape of that worldview. One of the things that is not typically conveyed in all the stories about evangelical harm—and the dangers of the American evangelical project and its nationalistic or messianic ambitions—is that an evangelical childhood is a total mindfuck. I mean that in a multitudinous sense: it may have a kind of rapacious quality, but it also is exciting and thrilling.

Author Charles Marsh | Photo by Tina Boyadjieva

How so?

The world of the evangelical is really overcharged with meaning. I mean, there is nothing more associative than the evangelical mind at first blossom. It’s a psychedelic kind of world that you inhabit. In those times when you are in worship and celebration and repentance and in the deep community of evangelical fellowship, you feel that you are right in the center of the metaphysical whirlwind, and you have been invested with a divine, almost superhuman destiny. That excess of emotion and feeling and energy leaves its mark.

It puts white evangelicals at the center of history, the center of the human story.

This kind of evangelical formation does create a profound sense of entitlement, cosmic entitlement. But I think it also has an effect of obliterating difference or of prescribing political and social strategies that obliterate difference.

Can you explain?

Well, let’s propose that the next issue of the DSM includes a diagnosis called evangelical anxiety. It would have descriptions of rapture fears and terrors of the body and all these attendant manic and panic types. But also, I think, it would need to somehow ground that in what is finally this narcissistic identity. It’s an identity that is totalitarian in its understanding of the world and its understanding of truth. It doesn’t admit difference. If it sees difference—whether sexual, political, or racial—it wants to obliterate that or consume that or overwhelm that by its own powers. The awakening into a new identity, a born-again identity, is also an awakening in too many cases to a sense of having an answer for every question and a prescription for every kind of sexual behavior, human behavior, of having such supreme confidence that you’ve been brought into this one truthful, eternally enduring identity. And so when it observes difference, it simply can’t abide difference. It can’t ignore difference; it has to remove it.

Having supreme confidence in one’s intolerance—that sounds like a pretty good definition of Trumpism.

Honestly, I’ve asked myself, “What did Trump offer white evangelicals from a psychological perspective?” Well, he is quite obviously not a man troubled by doubt. Donald Trump is not a man who has any worries about the second coming of Jesus Christ or his eternal salvation. I mean, he may be a slow-moving apocalypse, but he is not worried about the Day of the Lord, right? And so he offers a kind of balm, a temporary balm, to evangelical anxiety of a certain sort. He speaks unapologetically to and beyond our deepest resentments and paranoia and cultural anger. He’s an antidote. Unlike [George] W., who may have tapped into white evangelical, global, militaristic ambitions, Trump is like Christian history’s most influential Grace Pimp. You know, “God not only forgives your prejudices and your nativist, nationalistic attitudes, but God loves them.” These nativistic beliefs have become like sacred dogma.

That’s amazing. I will forever refer to him in my mind as “Donald Trump, the Grace Pimp.”

I mean, I was part of the first fully integrated school system in Mississippi. We imagined that it was our mission as white evangelicals to preserve the purity of the sovereign, sacred South and to preserve the purity of the South’s attendant expressions of purity: the white woman’s body, the sexual body, the body of the church. This Jesus we professed and the idea of the Christian life was very much a projection of these cultural and psychological fears and anxieties.

In my mind, I always think that the number one value of fundamentalist Christianity is a certain conception of purity while the number one value of more mainstream Protestantism is a certain conception of justice or fairness.

Yeah. I mean, we saw race, we saw sexuality, we saw the federal government, we saw civil rights acts as defiling forces that not only would soil our cultural and regional ideals but would wreck us as men and women. It would unsettle us in the same way in which I learned that losing my virginity or losing my purity would bring about a profound and inescapable psychic ruin, that young people who had lost their purity had also lost something central to the integral self, to the self as a coherent functional unity.

If we’re talking psychology, of course we’d end up talking about sex.

God is exceedingly interested in your genitalia and my genitalia and what we do with it. I heard in the earliest sermons on the meaning of life and our eternal destiny and the cosmic import of every decision we make in our life and matters of heaven and hell, that sex is right at the center of that. And so, you know, it’s literally a world charged with the insatiable erotic energies of God, with God and your religious authority figures as micro-managers of your sexual desires and of the things you do with your body.

That sounds healthy. [an expression of cynicism - res]

And there was a sense in which these predatory forces, these little demonic forces, were always after me. I was very enamored by all the persecution passages in the New Testament because I understood, as a young man of God seeking to remain pure and do God’s will, that I was under a constant state of persecution by the forces of the world, and they could take many forms but the intent was an assault on purity and on this ideal of coherence that followed from that. I remember I went out to dinner one night my freshman year in college with this guy from my youth college ministry, and we were talking about sexual temptation and he told me, “Well, you know, Charles, the way I feel about it is that if I ever succumbed to desire and in the excitement of the moment had premarital sex, once I came to my senses, I would have to kill myself.” And I was like, “Oh, wow, that’s awesome. I feel the same way. I’d have to kill myself too.” And we were both like, “Yes!” The irony, of course, is that I technically followed the straight and narrow and kept my purity and went crazy anyway—maybe as a result of that. It was just absolutely too much for my mind and body to bear.

But you ended up on a psychoanalyst’s couch instead of a white nationalist rally or, God forbid, the capitol [riot] on January 6.

Yeah, the fire has to go somewhere. The fire would have, in my instance, led to suicide, which is a violence. I mean, I do think that violence is the end of both of those trajectories if there’s not an interruption of grace in some form or fashion.

Why don’t more “recovering Christians,” as they’ve been called, seek out the sort of grace you did?

I mean, the white evangelical project is wracked by inner anxieties, but [for many] it feels that it would be somehow unholy or unseemly, if not even sinful, to interrogate those inner anxieties. There is still a pervasive fear of the psyche and a sense that most mental health problems, depression and anxiety in particular, may find some relief through talk or through medication, but their real source is a spiritual lack, an absence of a certain kind of commitment to the disciplines of the Christian life

[Here, at Relevancy22, I have proposed a God of Love in place of a God of wrath and judment and have restated my own evangelical theology with a strong current and central theme built upon a theology of love using Process Theology built upon my former Calvinism and Reformed Theology. It seems to have cured a lot of the turmoil I've grown up with as my virtual brother in Christ has stated here in his own experience. - re slater]

And yet, as the book details, you still consider yourself a Christian even if you no longer have the same commitment to those disciplines?

Yeah, you just have to figure it out on your own in fear and trembling. But I do think in this country, in this time, it takes a certain detachment to maintain that sense of hope and loyalty.

Does anyone escape this upbringing totally unscathed?

I think in some ways evangelical culture in its non-lunatic forms is much healthier than it’s ever been. I mean, my wife is an evangelical campus minister, and she hosted a queer evangelical event about six weeks ago, and there were 45 evangelical Christians who found themselves here. I feel like this is a voice now that has a place within evangelical culture more broadly. I also think, with the rise of psychotherapy programs in churches and psychotherapy graduate programs at places like Fuller Seminary, that things are better. I have to say, though, that just on the announcement of this book, I have been surprised to hear that this trope, “too blessed to be stressed,” is still pervasive within evangelical culture. That it’s just such a formula for mental torment. It’s a cruelty that really needs to be exposed.

* * * * * * *


In this riveting spiritual memoir, the writer, scholar, and commentator tells the story of his struggles with mental illness, explores the void between the Christian faith and scientific treatment, and forges a path toward reconciling these divergent worlds.

For years, Charles Marsh suffered panic attacks and debilitating anxiety. As an Evangelical Christian, he was taught to trust in the power of God and His will. While his Christian community resisted therapy and personal introspection, Marsh eventually knew he needed help. To alleviate his suffering, he made the bold decision to seek medical treatment and underwent years of psychoanalysis.

In this riveting spiritual memoir, Marsh tells the story of his struggle to find peace and the dramatic, inspiring transformation that redefined his life and his faith. He examines the tensions between faith and science and reflects on how his own experiences offer hope for bridging the gap between the two. Honest and revealing, Marsh traces the roots of shame, examines Christian notions of sex, faith, and mental illness and their genesis, and chronicles how he redefined his beliefs and rebuilt his relationship with his community.

A poignant and vital story of deep soul work, Evangelical Anxiety helps us look beyond the stigma that leaves too many people in pain and offers people of faith a way forward to find the help they need while remaining true to their beliefs.

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A noted theologian explains how the radical idea of Christian love animated the African American civil rights movement and how it can power today's social justice struggles

Speaking to his supporters at the end of the Montgomery bus boycott in 1956, Martin Luther King, Jr., declared that their common goal was not simply the end of segregation as an institution. Rather, "the end is reconciliation, the end is redemption, the end is the creation of the beloved community." King's words reflect the strong religious convictions that motivated the African American civil rights movement. As King and his allies saw it, "Jesus had founded the most revolutionary movement in human history: a movement built on the unconditional love of God for the world and the mandate to live in that love." Through a commitment to this idea of love and to the practice of nonviolence, civil rights leaders sought to transform the social and political realities of twentieth-century America.

In The Beloved Community, theologian and award-winning author Charles Marsh traces the history of the spiritual vision that animated the civil rights movement and shows how it remains a vital source of moral energy today. The Beloved Community lays out an exuberant new vision for progressive Christianity and reclaims the centrality of faith in the quest for social justice and authentic community.

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In Wayward Christian Soldiers, leading evangelical theologian Charles Marsh offers a powerful indictment of the political activism of evangelical Christian leaders and churches in the United States. With emphasis on repentance and renewal, this important work advises Christians how to understand past mistakes and to avoid making them in the future.

Over the past several years, Marsh observes, American evangelicals have achieved more political power than at any time in their history. But access and influence have come at a cost to their witness in the world and the integrity of their message. The author offers a sobering contrast between the contemporary evangelical elite, which forms the core of the Republican Party, and the historic Christian tradition of respect for the mystery of God and appreciation for human fallibility. The author shows that the most prominent voices in American evangelicalism have arrogantly redefined Christianity on the basis of partisan politics rather than scripture and tradition. The role of politics in distorting the Christian message can be seen most dramatically in the invasion of Iraq, he argues: Some 87% of American evangelicals supported going to war, while every single evangelical church outside the United States opposed it. The Jesus who storms into Baghdad behind the wheel of a Humvee, Marsh points out, is not the Jesus of the Gospel. Indeed, not since the nazification of the German church under Hitler has the political misuse of Christianity led to such catastrophic global consequences.

Is there an alternative? This book proposes that the renewal of American churches requires a season of concentrated attention to faith's essential affirmations--a time of hospitality, peacemaking, and contemplative prayer. Offering an authentic Christian alternative to the narcissistic piety of popular evangelicalism, Wayward Christian Soldiers represents a unique entry into the increasingly pivotal debate over the role of faith in American politics.

"With Wayward Christian Soldiers, Charles Marsh again shows that he is one of the most astute observers of evangelicalism today." --Jim Wallis, author of God's Politics

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In the decades since his execution by the Nazis in 1945, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor, theologian, and anti-Hitler conspirator, has become one of the most widely read and inspiring Christian thinkers of our time. Now, drawing on extensive new research, Strange Glory offers a definitive account, by turns majestic and intimate, of this modern icon.

The scion of a grand family that rarely went to church, Dietrich decided as a thirteen-year-old to become a theologian. By twenty-one, the rather snobbish and awkward young man had already written a dissertation hailed by Karl Barth as a “theological miracle.” But it was only the first step in a lifelong effort to recover an authentic and orthodox Christianity from the dilutions of liberal Protestantism and the modern idolatries of blood and nation—which forces had left the German church completely helpless against the onslaught of Nazism.

From the start, Bonhoeffer insisted that the essence of Christianity was not its abstract precepts but the concrete reality of the shared life in Christ. In 1930, his search for that true fellowship led Bonhoeffer to America for ten fateful months in the company of social reformers, Harlem churchmen, and public intellectuals. Energized by the lived faith he had seen, he would now begin to make what he later saw as his definitive “turn from the phraseological to the real.” He went home with renewed vocation and took up ministry among Berlin’s downtrodden while trying to find his place in the hoary academic establishment increasingly captive to nationalist fervor.

With the rise of Hitler, however, Bonhoeffer’s journey took yet another turn. The German church was Nazified, along with every other state-sponsored institution. But it was the Nuremberg laws that set Bonhoeffer’s earthly life on an ineluctable path toward destruction. His denunciation of the race statutes as heresy and his insistence on the church’s moral obligation to defend all victims of state violence, regardless of race or religion, alienated him from what would become the Reich church and even some fellow resistors. Soon the twenty-seven-year-old pastor was one of the most conspicuous dissidents in Germany. He would carry on subverting the regime and bearing Christian witness, whether in the pastorate he assumed in London, the Pomeranian monastery he established to train dissenting ministers, or in the worldwide ecumenical movement. Increasingly, though, Bonhoeffer would find himself a voice crying in the wilderness, until, finally, he understood that true moral responsibility obliged him to commit treason, for which he would pay with his life.

Charles Marsh brings Bonhoeffer to life in his full complexity for the first time. With a keen understanding of the multifaceted writings, often misunderstood, as well as the imperfect man behind the saintly image, here is a nuanced, exhilarating, and often heartrending portrait that lays bare Bonhoeffer’s flaws and inner torment, as well as the friendships and the faith that sustained and finally redeemed him. Strange Glory is a momentous achievement.

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We have seen progress in recent decades toward Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream of beloved community. But this is not only because of the activism and sacrifice of a generation of civil rights leaders. It happened because God was on the move.
Historian and theologian Charles Marsh partners with veteran activist John Perkins to chronicle God's vision for a more equitable and just world. Perkins reflects on his long ministry and identifies key themes and lessons he has learned, and Marsh highlights the legacy of Perkins's work in American society. Together they show how abandoned places are being restored, divisions are being reconciled, and what individuals and communities are doing now to welcome peace and justice.
Now updated to reflect on current social realities, this book reveals ongoing lessons for the continuing struggle for a just society. Come, discover your part in the beloved community. There is unfinished work still to do.

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How do we transform American Culture through our religious convictions?

Discover here the compelling stories of thirteen pioneers for social justice who engaged in peaceful protest and gave voice to the marginalized, working courageously out of their religious convictions to transform American culture. Their prophetic witness still speaks today.

Comprising a variety of voices—Catholic and Protestant, gay and straight, men and women of different racial backgrounds—these activist witnesses represent the best of the church’s peacemakers, community builders, and inside agitators. Written by select authors, Can I Get a Witness? showcases vibrant storytelling and research-enriched narrative to bring these significant “peculiar people” to life.


Daniel P. Rhodes on Cesar Chavez
Donyelle McCray on Howard Thurman
Grace Y. Kao on Yuri Kochiyama
Peter Slade on Howard Kester
Nichole M. Flores on Ella Baker
Carlene Bauer on Dorothy Day
Heather A. Warren on John A. Ryan
Becca Stevens on William Stringfellow
W. Ralph Eubanks on Mahalia Jackson
Susan M. Glisson and Charles H. Tucker on Lucy Randolph Mason
Soong-Chan Rah on Richard Twiss
David Dark on Daniel Berrigan
M. Therese Lysaught on Mary Stella Simpson

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In the summer of 1964, the turmoil of the civil rights movement reached its peak in Mississippi, with activists across the political spectrum claiming that God was on their side in the struggle over racial justice. This was the summer when violence against blacks increased at an alarming rate and when the murder of three civil rights workers in Mississippi resulted in national media attention. Charles Marsh takes us back to this place and time, when the lives of activists on all sides of the civil rights issue converged and their images of God clashed. He weaves their voices into a gripping narrative: a Ku Klux Klansman, for example, borrows fiery language from the Bible to link attacks on blacks to his "priestly calling"; a middle-aged woman describes how the Gospel inspired her to rally other African Americans to fight peacefully for their dignity; a SNCC worker tells of harrowing encounters with angry white mobs and his pilgrimage toward a new racial spirituality called Black Power. Through these emotionally charged stories, Marsh invites us to consider the civil rights movement anew, in terms of religion as a powerful yet protean force driving social action.

The book's central figures are Fannie Lou Hamer, who "worked for Jesus" in civil rights activism; Sam Bowers, the Imperial Wizard of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan of Mississippi; William Douglas Hudgins, an influential white Baptist pastor and unofficial theologian of the "closed society"; Ed King, a white Methodist minister and Mississippi native who campaigned to integrate Protestant congregations; and Cleveland Sellers, a SNCC staff member turned black militant.

Marsh focuses on the events and religious convictions that led each person into the political upheaval of 1964. He presents an unforgettable American social landscape, one that is by turns shameful and inspiring. In conclusion, Marsh suggests that it may be possible to sift among these narratives and lay the groundwork for a new thinking about racial reconciliation and the beloved community. He maintains that the person who embraces faith's life-affirming energies will leave behind a most powerful legacy of social activism and compassion.

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Lived Theology contains the work of an emerging generation of theologians and scholars who pursue research, teaching, and writing as a form of public responsibility motivated by the conviction that theological ideas aspire in their inner logic toward social expression. Written as a two-year collaboration of the Project on Lived Theology at the University of Virginia, this volume offers a series of illustrations and styles that distinguish Lived Theology in the broader conversation with other major approaches to the religious interpretation of embodied life. The book begins with a modest query: How might theological writing, research, and teaching be expanded to engage lived experience with the same care and precision given by scholars to books and articles? Behind this question lies the claim that theological engagements and interpretations of lived experience offer rich and often surprising insights into God's presence and activity in the world. Answers to, and explorations of, this question form the narrative framework of this groundbreaking volume. Lived theology is shown to be an exceedingly curious enterprise, transgressing disciplinary boundaries as a matter of course, examining circumstance, context, and motivation, and marshalling every available resource for the sake of discerning the theological shape of enacted and embodied faith. Understanding the social consequences of theological ideas is a task with wide ranging significance, inside the academy and in the broader forums of civic discussion.

Contributors consider Lived Theology from a diverse array of experiences and locations, including towns in Mississippi struggling with histories of racist violence and murder; a homeless shelter in Atlanta; churches in the Democratic Republic of Congo; faith based volunteer organizations in Columbus, Ohio; and a college classroom in the Midwest.

This innovative work offers a fresh and exciting model for scholars, teachers, practitioners, and students seeking to reconnect the lived experience of faith communities with academic study and reflection.

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Seeking to come to terms with the haunting memories of his childhood in the deep South-Charles Marsh has crafted a memoir of small-town Southern life caught up in the whirlwind of the Civil Rights movement. As minister of the First Baptist Church in Laurel, Mississippi, Charles Marsh's father Bob Marsh, was a prominent man who was beloved by the community. But Laurel was also home to Sam Bowers, the Imperial Wizard of the White Knights of the Mississippi KKK and the director of their daily, unchallenged installments of terror and misery. Bowers was known and tolerated by the entire white community of Laurel. This included Bob Marsh, who struggled to do the right thing while reeling between righteous indignation and moral torpor, only slowly awakening to fear, suffering, and guilt over his unwillingness to take a public stand against Bowers. At the same time, The Last Days examines the collision of worlds once divided-white Protestant conservatism, the African American struggle for civil rights, and late 1960s counter culture-that propelled the dramatic changes in everyday life in a small Southern town.

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In this book, Marsh offers a new way of reading the theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Christian theologian who was executed for his role in the resistance against Hitler and the Nazis. Focusing on Bonhoeffer's substantial philosophical interests, Marsh examines his work in the context of the German philosophical tradition, from Kant through Hegel to Heidegger. Marsh argues that Bonhoeffer's description of human identity offers a compelling alternative to post-Kantian conceptions of selfhood. In addition, he shows that Bonhoeffer, while working within the boundaries of Barth's theology, provides both a critique and redescription of the tradition of transcendental subjectivity. This fresh look at Bonhoeffer's thought will provoke much discussion in the theological academy and the church, as well as in broader forums of intellectual life.

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by Charles Marsh, Karin Schreiber, Sonderausgabe zum 75. Todestag

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, das ist der große, anständige Theologe im Widerstand gegen Hitler, einer der Heiligen des 20. Jahrhunderts! 75 Jahre nach seinem Tod scheint seine Geschichte erzählt, sein Leben begriffen zu sein. Aber: Stimmt das auch? Charles Marsh blickt hinter die Verklärung Bonhoeffers und bringt in seiner kritischen Biografie dessen Fremdheit neu zur Geltung. Ein intimes und überraschendes Porträt von einem verletzlichen und witzigen, erfolgsverwöhnten und zweifelnden, entschlossenen und doch immer wieder zaudernden Mann auf dem Weg zu sich selbst. Fesselnd und unterhaltsam erzählt.

Die erfolgreiche Biografie endlich als Sonderausgabe
Der etwas andere Blick auf den Menschen Bonhoeffer
Überraschend, fesselnd und unterhaltsam erzählt

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Born into a sharecropping family in New Hebron, Mississippi, in 1930, and only receiving a third-grade education, John M. Perkins has been a pioneering prophetic African American voice for reconciliation and social justice to America's white evangelical churches. Often an unwelcome voice and always a passionate, provocative clarion, Perkins persisted for forty years in bringing about the formation of the Christian Community Development Association--a large network of evangelical churches and community organizations working in America's poorest communities--and inspired the emerging generation of young evangelicals concerned with releasing the Church from its cultural captivity and oppressive materialism.

John M. Perkins has received surprisingly little attention from historians of modern American religious history and theologians. Mobilizing for the Common Good is an exploration of the theological significance of John M. Perkins. With contributions from theologians, historians, and activists, this book contends that Perkins ushered in a paradigm shift in twentieth-century evangelical theology that continues to influence Christian community development projects and social justice activists today.