News broke a few months ago that the religiously unaffiliated now make up about a quarter of the US population. New Gallup research suggests that religious people with no congregational membership make up another quarter of the population. Put another way, nearly half of the American population lacks a congregational affiliation. Whether they identify with a faith tradition or not, they may as well be “Nones.” Continue reading “Decline and Resurrection”
Infuriating but not surprising. That’s my response to the latest news in the unfolding scandal in the #ChurchToo era.
The Houston Chronicle has broken the story that everyone knew was coming. At first, I felt numb, as though there was nothing else could shock me following the waves of accused clergy in the Roman Catholic Church — but then I read about just how close the abuse was to the top. Baptists may not have Bishops, but their conventions come damn close. And, just as on the other side of the Tiber, these false prophets have sacrificed children to demons, covering up criminal acts and sins.
Women impregnated by their abusers, forced to “confess” their trauma in a perverse display of church “discipline,” urged to get an abortion by leaders in a denomination that exiled moderates through a thin veneer of pro-life language.
And we know that this is only the tip of the iceberg. Hundreds of abusers — and it is only the start. Continue reading “#SBCToo”
For the past few days, my Facebook feed has been lighting up with shared posts cheering on the idea of biblical literacy laws. My Twitter feed, by comparison, has filled with posts amounting to “be careful what you wish for.” Several armchair pundits have pointed out that the same Christians who have been fighting against sex education, modern scientific cosmology, and evolutionary biology should be equally as suspicious of a government-sanctioned biblical studies curriculum.
I myself have weighed in on Twitter, but it’s difficult to mount a full review in only 280 characters — thus, this longer piece.
Rabbi Jeffery Salkin offers a nuanced take, writing about the importance of biblical literacy but the immense practical challenges that make such a curriculum impossible to introduce. Providing more nuance than the 280-character crowd, noting that “because of the atmosphere in America today, such classes would undoubtedly become part of the culture wars.”
Religion journalist (and Candler alum!) Jonathan Merritt expounds on the Twitterverse question. He asks, “If many evangelicals don’t trust public schools to teach their children about sex or science, why would they want those schools teaching scripture?” before going on to explore the legal and religious implications of the proposed curriculum. Like Salkin, Merritt believes any religion curriculum would reignite the culture wars. Continue reading “Biblical Literacy in the Public School System”
As we’ve seen throughout this series, Alisa Childers’ presentation of progressive Christianity falls short in numerous ways.
- She claims that progressives dismiss biblical authority.
- She claims that progressive Christians don’t have an answer to the problem of pain.
- She claims that progressive Christians reject traditional Christian ethics — by which she means a handful of particular sexual norms.
In each of these claims, Childers cherry-picks her evidence, bases her position on one narrow understanding of Calvinism, and ignores the wider Christian tradition. But her arguments are flawed at a deeper level. In each of her three theses, Childers hedges her language to paint all progressives with a broad brush and to find them guilty by association.
Hedging (or as snarky Wikipedia editors call it, using “weasel words”) is a way to soften a statement while also using it to mislead. Continue reading “Shared Belief: The Need for Nuance”
Today would have been the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s 90th birthday, and it marks an important holiday in the civic calendar of the United States (though, like other federal holidays, is observed on a Monday).
This time of year, many people post quotes from Rev. King: sometimes to simply mark the day, sometimes to call their fellow citizens to act for social justice. If you get on Facebook or Twitter over the next few days, expect to see quotes from the “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered during the March on Washington. Expect to see the famous line, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” excerpted from the “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Expect, on rare occasion, to see his final public address, in which he declared, “I’ve been to the mountaintop.” Continue reading “Rev. King and the Politics of Proclamation”
In the previous post, we examined Alisa Childers’ claim that progressive Christians ignore Scripture and instead focus on their own preferences to create an ethical framework. We examined the role of Scripture, reason, experience, and Church Tradition in shaping a distinctly Christian ethic. We further considered the distinction between a holistic approach to Christian behavior — that is, a concern for the impoverished, the oppressed, and the marginalized — over and against a narrow focus on what my colleague termed “pelvic issues,” or matters pertaining to human sexuality.
Let us turn now to the elephant in the room. Continue reading “Shared Belief: Ethics and Sexuality”
#3. “They May Affirm a Culture-Adapting Morality”
About three and a half years ago, Pope Francis promulgated the encyclical Laudato Si, calling for Christians to care for our common home (i.e., the earth). What followed was an uproar from politically conservative corners of the Church. Jeb Bush announced that he doesn’t take policy advice from the Pope, and Rick Santorum stated that the Church should stick to “what we’re good at, which is theology and morality.”
It just so happened that, I was heading for a two-night backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail with some older pastors during this same time. On our drive through the mountains of Georgia and Tennessee, we discussed the reaction to the Roman Pontiff’s document. How could it be, I wondered out loud, that care for the environment — with all that it means for the poor, for future generations, for our role as stewards — is not considered a point of “morality”? Continue reading “Shared Belief: Tradition and Ethics”
I was fortunate enough to have a break from the pulpit yesterday, a much needed rest between a chaotic end to Ordinary Time and the outset of Advent’s multiple-sermon weeks.
In place of the traditional homily, then, I offer this collection of articles for Advent: Continue reading “Advent: Resources for Waiting”
The storm continues to batter our ship of fools. Continue reading “#ChurchToo: Come, Lord Jesus”
#2: “They May Have an Unresolved Answer to the Problem of Evil”
To put it simply, the problem of pain is as follows:
A) Ominpotent (All-Powerful)
B) Omniscient (All-Knowing)
C) Omnibenevolent (All-Good or All-Loving)
But pain, evil, and suffering exist.
Therefore, at least one of the attributes to God must be false because:
A) An all-powerful God would have the ability to prevent pain.
B) An all-knowing God would know that pain exists and how to prevent it.
C) An all-good God would desire only what is good and pleasant for the world.
For many, as Childers points out, this problem is a major impediment to theistic belief. Alt-rock band Modest Mouse voices this doubt with agonizing beauty in their song “Bukowski” making the bold claim “If God takes life, he’s an indian giver,” before continuing:
If God controls the land and disease,
Keeps a watchful eye on me,
If he’s really so damn mighty,
My problem is I can’t see,
Well who would want to be?
Who would want to be such a control freak?
Well who would want to be?
Who would want to be such a control freak?
In theology, attempts to defend God from the apparent contradictions in the problem of pain are called theodicies. Continue reading “Shared Belief: The Problem of Pain”