"You can have your Bible back..."

I just started reading Marxist Christian and social activist Ched Meyers' Who Will Roll Away the Stone? So far, it's fabulous, and very challenging.

Meyers shares a story in the introduction that points to the devastating impact empire has had on Christianity.

Worst of all, we Christians have confused our Stories with the narrative of empire, thus allowing scripture to be expropriated into the service of oppression. Pablo Richard, a Latin American theologian, underscores this betrayal by citing an open letter sent by a delegation of indigenous peoples organizations to the pope on a recent visit to Peru:

John-Paul II, we, Andean and American Indians, have decided to take advantage of your visit to return you your Bible, since in five centuries it has not given us love, peace or justice. Please, take back your Bible and give it back to our oppressors, because they need its moral teachings more than we do... The Bible came to us as part of the imposed colonial transformation. It was the ideological weapon of this colonialist assault. The Spanish sword which attacked and murdered the bodies of Indians by day at night became the cross which attacked the Indian soul.

This is the judgment of history: When the church allows the narrative of the cross to be destroyed by the narrative of the sword, we become defenseless against the spirituality of empire and consequently complicit with its mighty evils.
(Meyers, xxi)

Whew. Gives me chills...

Christianity is Greatest When...

St. Ignatius wrote: "Christianity is greatest when it is hated by the world."

I'd like to affirm that immediately, but there are all sorts of things Christianity is hated for - with good reason.

In class last week, my friend Bo said something to the effect of: "we have to give up every bit of power" to be authentic followers of Jesus.

I think therein lies much of the necessary tension for St. Ignatius' words to remain true: if Christianity happens to carry the baggage of worldly power, then hatred of it cannot be an accurate measure of its greatness.

It is when we are weak that we are strong. When we are least that we are greatest.

And I'm not entirely convinced that "the world" hates what is good. There is evil in the world (yes, I still believe there is genuine evil) and the world may still be largely under it's oppression. But the world is a creation of God, so I find it unhelpful to cherry-pick "the world" scriptures from the New Testament to prove there is something inherently evil about this world.

Ah, but I'm sort of rambling.

St. Ignatius wrote: "Christianity is greatest when it is hated by the world." I think he was mostly right, when we are weak and humble, clinging to the Way of Jesus.

Zeitgeist: Comparing Jesus...

We watched this video clip in my Church History class last night. Many of you have probably already seen some of this. What do we do with it? I think it really goes to the heart of some of what we've been talking about lately: that there are good arguments against the validity - particularly the supernatural validity - of Christianity. Not to mention all sorts of challenges that arise from many of Christianity's myths shared in common with contemporary pagan religions.

This video series has wrecked all sorts of people's faith, just like the Da Vinci Code, before it. Should it be that easy to destroy a worldview? Perhaps, if it's wrong. But what if we (as Christians) have merely built our house on the wrong foundation. It was suggested in class that Christianity was never meant to be a presentation on absolute, propositional truth. It was meant to be a supernatural engagement with Jesus of Nazareth.


George Fox Seminary: History of the Church...

I'm really enjoying a new class I just started at George Fox Seminary: "History of the Church and Theology." There are so many things we get so worked up over today, that have little or no relevance to the broader arc of church history. That doesn't ALWAYS mean that those things are irrelevant, but it often (in my experience) indicates misplaced priorities and a lack of awareness about context and - of course - history itself. Moreover, there are so many petty squabbles we're still engaged in today that have been already discussed (and in some cases, settled) by far more brilliant minds than those much of our contemporary pop-theology produces. I'm humbled in those rare occasions I manage to get my head out of the Emergent echo-chamber...

Looking forward to this semester - will share more soon. Meanwhile, you may enjoy this text we're beginning with...

Sue said: Picking and choosing what to believe?

My dear friend Sue commented last night:

I'm very curious about you're talking about choosing to believe in the virgin birth. You choose to believe something because it's personally useful? How does that work? Isn't that overwhelmingly arbitrary?

I'm not trying to pick on you Peter, but I guess I'd like to believe things based on reality. I fear I'm delusional enough the way it is! Maybe I haven't read you correctly.

I said:

...I guess I think of it in the same way that I think of LOVE as a choice. It's not that I'm faking it or that it's arbitrary. It's that I don't always "FEEL" it, "EVERY DAY!" You know? Some days are rough. Sometimes I'm pissy or selfish...

I have experienced a very real and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, and that relationship was introduced to me in a conservative Evangelical context. Though the context has changed, I have changed, and the way I view the world has changed, I choose to keep loving the personality of the God I have known most of my life.

It's not blind love. I know there are things about Christianity I might not like. Or might not even know about. I may have doubts, at times. I may wonder "what if things had turned out differently..." I may find Sufism or Buddhism attractive from time to time... I start to visit philosophically "suggestive" websites... but I come back to my first love. My first love is Jesus.

I don't mean to be caddy, disrespectful, or arbitrary. I don't want to pick and choose based on convenience and my own selfish personal needs (though, inevitably I do from time to time). I don't know if that's a great answer, but it is absolutely the attitude I take though, Sue.

Sometimes choosing to believe is like choosing to love. It's no fairytale romance, but it's real and true and still beautiful and life-changing.

Sabio Says: "Quit Playing With Yourself!"

Just Jerking Around With Liberalism?

My friend Sabio recently asked what I meant by saying I was a liberal, and I answered with a link to this old post: www.emergingchristian.com/2008/11/on-liberalism.html

Sabio wasn't buying it, and wrote:

Though you may want to consider yourself "liberal", you fail by your own words. Here are your 5 characterizations of Liberals:

1. No absolute Truth
2. Pluralism
3. Errancy
4. Non-Virginity
5. No Resurrection
You may want to play both sides by saying "I don't necessarily believe..." but the truth is, you ABSOLUTELY don't adhere to liberal theological positions, as I illustrate each below:

Failed: You believe in Absolute Truth
I believe that God, through Jesus Christ, is Absolute Truth.
Whatever the heck that means? Sounds beautiful (to a Christian), but bizarre to nonbelievers. Here, imagine someone saying, "I believe that Shiva, through Ganesh, is Absolute Truth." Doesn't that seem a bit nonsensical, unless you have been raised with the myths of Shiva and Ganesh?

Sure, you understand the subjectivity of knowledge but you desire an anchor, but gee, what a bizarre anchor.

Failed: Looks I guess you are an inclusivist, not a pluralist.

Failed: Seems you hold a "Well, sure, there may SEEM to be problems but God will clear that all up if we pray. Meanwhile, lets just realize the Bible is "precious" [arghhhh !]

Failed: I want my cake and eat it too. OK, the virgin-birth does not make sense, but I won't reject it. [Read: I still want to stay buddy-buddy with all you who buy this stuff and keep my bible "precious".]

Failed: You believe!

Unfortunately you fail miserably at being a Liberal Christian. (yes, my bias is that I prefer true liberal Christians), You may want to sound liberal and talk cool and make friends with us non-believing type, but you still sing from the same Hymnbook, it seems. Or am I missing something.

Sure, your 10/31/2008 post explains that all you mean by liberal is:
a) some abortions are OK
b) women can have a role in the church
c) war should not be justified by religion
d) it is OK for Christians to be Democrats

Yeah, to conservative fundamentalists, these 4 apples may be gateway beliefs to full blown liberalism. To me you sound like a conservative democrat Christian who wants to flirt with the word "liberal" in a rebellious adolescent way but doesn't really mean it accept in the political sense. But then I guess you confess that you are politically liberal but theologically liberal.

So, I thought my pagan insights might assist in organizing your new treatise on the new Peter Walker... I was in a playful writing mood, nothing meant offensive -- instead, I write knowing your strong confidence and flexibility and look forward to your reply.

Taken in fun Sabio, thanks for the pushback. I'm considering how to respond - you're posing meaningful arguments and I don't take them lightly. I don't want to take an "easy way out," either - which so-called "postmodernism" often does... as in: "if there are no absolutes, I don't have to give you an absolute answer." Which is sort of cowardly at the very least.

But I do think there is a difference being between the definition of "classic" (or perhaps more fairly, stereotypical) liberalism, and my own. What I'm hoping to do is identify a kind of socially AND theologically liberal Christianity that retains fidelity to the historical Christian Church (while cognizant and repentant of that history) AND maintains an optimistically-faithful Evangelical ethos. I haven't yet found what I'm looking for, but I hope I recognize it when I see it. If I do.

Classic theological liberalism is modern and concrete, and in many ways defines itself in reaction to the conservative evangelical metanarrative. What I think is still out there in the wild, waiting to be discovered, is postmodern, fluid and without all of the established-absolutes inferred in existing arguments. But ah, I've gone and romanticized it, which is naive.

And shame on me for using ambiguous language, but I really DO want to distance myself from - as you say - the characterization of "a conservative Democrat Christian who wants to flirt with the word 'liberal' in a rebellious adolescent way but doesn't really mean it except in the political sense."

I've jerked around with that attitude myself, too scared for a long time to really come out of the closet. Most of the folks in the Emerging Church crowd who experiment (behind closed-doors) with liberalism aren't really using the word, though. It's still demonized, indicative of something ominous and even malevolent.

To your specific arguments:

1. Stereotypical Liberal Assumption: There is no absolute truth.
I believe there MUST be absolute truth because I'm an inevitable Western product of ongoing centuries of Hellenism. So I believe in reality. And perhaps there are realities that coincide, intersect, converge and diverge, but even they must (in my assumptive brain) exist within a shared reality of existence. I have not-yet read a liberal theologian who did not believe in an absolute truth - only one different from the conservative Evangelical mold. And usually, that belief is carried with more humility and open-handedness than its opposite counterparts. If you've found a liberal theologian who doesn't believe in some form of absolute truth, please recommend! But I'd suspect they're some form of existentialists, not true liberalisms (as A.D. Hunt rightly observes, liberalism is quite a Modernist structure).

2. Christianity is equal to, not greater than, all other world religions. Salvation can be found through faithful adherence to any of the world’s religions, philosophies, or through merely being “a good human being.”
You're probably right, I am probably more of an inclusivist than a pluralist. Or, maybe more accurately, a Christian Universalist - although I don't know enough to claim that title. And I reserve the right to believe in some sort of annihilation or separation for pure, sane, intentional evil - that may not necessarily entail an entire life or personality, however - but as a liberal Christian, I believe in justice.

3. The Bible is not “Inerrant,” or (more extremely) the Bible is flawed and without value.
Regarding Scripture, I think Scripture is precious for the context, history and perspective it offers. Saying something is valuable is not the same as saying something is totally authoritative. Few Liberal Theologians - not even Bishop Spong in The Sins of Scripture - throw Scripture out. Rather, they keep it in a much more moderated place, along side reason, experience, tradition, culture, history, spirit, intuition, conscience, intellect, relationships, community and countless other gauges and tools we have at our disposal to help us navigate life and spirituality. I don't fail the test simply because I won't throw away my Bible, and even continue to hold it in high regard.
4. Jesus was not born of a virgin.
Virgin birth. Maybe I do fail that one. But to me, liberalism isn't just about what I believe, but about how I believe. I willfully CHOOSE to believe in the Virgin Birth, not because I think it is pertinent to salvation, or because I need others around me to believe it, or even because I think it isn't historically and biblically problematic, but because it serves a spiritual dimension in me. The concept feeds me and my relationship to God, in some way. Like icons, that give us perspectives and views of God and the Saints in ways that stimulate us visually and - it often follows - spiritually, so the Virgin Birth illustrates God's penetration into temporal reality that I find invigorating, enlightening, meaningful and TRUE... whether it's historically/literally true or not. I choose to believe it because, if someone could prove to me that it wasn't, it wouldn't shatter my faith, but only lead me to reimagine what Jesus' conception means to me on a personal level.

5. Jesus was not literally (physically) resurrected from the dead.
The resurrection. Yes, you get that one. I believe it. I still hold that if someone could prove to me it didn't happen physically/literally, I would maintain my faith and recontextualize - as with the virgin birth. But the resurrection means more to me for personal reasons - for the ways in which my life has been infiltrated by the love and grace of God - that only resonates at the level of a good-old-fashioned Personal Testimony. I'm still, in many ways, an Evangelical at heart, because the God I've encountered has been so very personal. And maybe it doesn't make me a pluralist to say I don't begrudge Buddhists and Star Trek fans their personal revelations - maybe I'm just inclusive - but I absolutely believe the God who touches me is the God who reaches through every culture, creed and language.

But I still say "Jesus" when I pray. And I still think the God of Ishmael and Isaac is big enough to pull a dead body out of the ground... I know a lot of folks more liberal than me who believe in the supernatural.

So, Sabio, my friend, we're just not going to see eye-to-eye on this. But I'm glad you called me on some cheap-and-easy answers, and I'm thankful to be pushed beyond half-assed pseudo-liberal-masked-evangelical-schmaltz.

Click here for the back-story to which Sabio and I are referring...

E-mail RE: "Do you know what I hate?"

A friend of mine recently send me an e-mail with this heading: "Do you know what I hate?"

The body of the e-mail read:

Post-modern christians.

Hip christians.


People who use the word "indigenous."


Angst-ridden people dressed in black.

Cliche tattoos.

Shaved heads.

Sorry if you fall into any of these categories. Be assured I don't hate you.

But I do fall into some of these categories. Or I have. Or if I didn't, I wanted to. I want to be cool and smoke cigarettes and show people my tattoos. Emergents: we're too damn easily impressed. Hipster Christians. Too easy. I'm a whore to fads and kitsch. If you aren't, I admire you.

As I find myself becoming more overtly liberal, I find the hipster-fit fading fast. There's not much that's "hip" about the shrinking Liberal Mainline. And while that's sad, it's probably good for me.


God has given us a spirit, not of fear, but of love and action...

Every day in our congregations and communities, people of faith see the effects of our broken health insurance system. With Congress back in session, we have a new opportunity to get reform back on track.

Write your representatives today: let them know that as a person of faith, you support action on health reform NOW.


Obama Quotation Today...

"We did not come here to fear the future,
we came here to shape it."
Barack Obama, 09-09-09

Who Has The "AGENDA?" - Bob McDonnell's Mission

I used to hear all sorts of conspiracy theories about the "gay agenda" and the "liberal agenda" and how they wanted to destroy families and kill babies and sissify heterosexuality (make everyone gay) and pledge allegiance to Karl Marx and surrender to Vietnam and Russia and Iraq and Satan. Now a liberal myself, and one with several gay friends, I have yet to discover any political ambitions or motives in line with these fears.

On the other hand, Virginia gubernatorial candidate and Conservative Catholic Bob McDonnell seems to have a very clear agenda, as recent headlines have revealed all over the country:

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Eager to draw attention Bob McDonnell's conservative roots, campaign advisers to Democrat Creigh Deeds on Monday called McDonnell's newly-discovered 1989 graduate thesis a "devastating" revelation that threatens to sink the Republican's campaign for the Virginia governor's mansion.

The 93-page research paper — first revealed in Sunday's Washington Post — articulated a Christian conservative worldview that criticized "cohabitators, homosexuals and fornicators" and described working women and feminists "detrimental" to the family.

On a conference call with reporters, Deeds adviser Mo Elleithee called the thesis McDonnell's "road map" for conservative governance. The Deeds camp argued that McDonnell immediately sought to put his theories to work in state government when he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates three years after writing the paper, which McDonnell wrote as master's student at Regent University in Virginia Beach.

Regent was founded by Pat Robertson and was initially named "CBN University" after Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network. McDonnell wrote the paper when he was 34, twenty years before entering the Virginia governor's race.

"This paper laid out very explicity his vision for the role of government, his vision for the for a social agenda that should dominate governace, and it even went beyond just a personal political philosophy," Elleithee said. "It had a 15-point action plan for how to implement that philosophy."

The thesis was called "The Republican Party's Vision for the Family: The Compelling Issue of the Decade." In it, McDonnell wrote that working women are "detrimental" the the family; that feminism is among "the real enemies of the traditional family"; and that the "purging" of religious influence in public schools is damaging to healthy families.

The problem, in my opinion, is not that this old paper has been revealed and shows unexpected motives. Instead, these beliefs are the very ethos of far too many conservative Christian leaders and politicians in America. Recognizing the unpopularity of outright assertion of these beliefs, many find it convenient to gently muffle them and simply allow attitudes like chauvinism and homophobia to guide their political decision-making, without direct reference to them. The problem, then, is that American voters are allowing politicians to get away with pretending more palatable beliefs. When George W. Bush said he was a "moderate" and a "compassionate conservative," we believed him.

Bruce Logue: "Was it REALLY 'Meant to Be?'"

My friend, Pastor Bruce Logue, wrote this article recently, and I asked his permission to repost it. I think you'll enjoy...

The little antique clock is beautiful and sits ensconced on a friend’s desk. It is dome shaped, hand wound, and has a little moving bird to show the movement of seconds. She was so delighted to have found the little treasure, she said, “It was meant to be.”

I’ve heard “meant to be” used to describe a lot of things.

“I got the greatest parking spot today. Right across from my destination. It was meant to be.”

“You should see the great bargain I picked up today at the clothing store. It was meant to be.”

“We got our child enrolled in a great pre-school. It was meant to be.”

“Meant to be” is a nice thought. Someone cared about my well-being and arranged for me to get the thing I wanted. However, my mind goes nuts when I hear that. Inevitably I start thinking about all the events that had to be arranged in order for THAT event to happen.

In order to get the parking spot, the person before you had to park there and then leave at just the right time as you happened to be driving by looking for an empty parking spot.

Or the clothing you bought had to be designed by a designer, chosen by a clothing line, ordered by a department store employee, and overlooked by lots of shoppers just so that you could walk by and pick it up.

But “meant to be” gets really complicated when you start to think about all the other events, bad events, that occur in life. Are they “meant to be” as well? What about the drunken driver that killed a friend? Meant to be? Or the violent robbery? Or the stolen property? Or the spousal abuse?

“Meant to be” is not so comforting then. Especially if you think that Someone deliberately arranged for a bad thing to happen to you. In the case of my childless friend, he wondered why a crack addict could have a baby and he couldn’t. He would raise a loving responsible person. The crack addict would create another crack addict.

Did Someone reserve that little clock in a foreign country just for my friend? I doubt it. The logistics of that feat become outrageous.

Was my friend childless because of some universal plan? Doubt that too. There is no reason or justice in denying a godly person a child while giving a helpless infant to a person who will only destroy the innocent life.

Sometimes “meant to be” is just an expression. A way of saying “look at the great thing I just found.” At other times it is the cruelest thing you can say. Ask my friend about the pain of being told that his childlessness was “meant to be.”

Oh. My childless friend now has two children, born naturally to him and his wife. I learned to ignore people who think they can peer into the heavens and know what is “meant to be.”

Pastor Bruce Logue, LifeSpring Church
Merced California
Bruce contributes at
The Merced Sun-Star

Bruce, I really appreciated this piece. It's perilous business (if sometimes conveniently-cathartic) to give God active responsibility for every event and occurrence in our lives. It'd like to think the universe itself, for better AND for worse, has some modicum of free will... but I do pray for those rare exceptions. And in some ways, I pray that they truly are rare.


FINALLY: The NIV gets a makeover...

Try not to get too angry. Believe it or not, even a lot of conservative Evangelical scholars recognize and affirm that gender-specific language is not helpful or even accurately reflective of historical linguistic context.

The world's most-popular Bible will undergo its first revision in 25 years, modernizing the language in some sections and promising to reopen a contentious debate about changing gender terms in the sacred text.

The New International Version, the Bible of choice for conservative evangelicals, will be revised to reflect changes in English usage and advances in Biblical scholarship, it was announced Tuesday. The revision is scheduled to be completed late next year and published in 2011.

"We want to reach English speakers across the globe with a Bible that is accurate, accessible and that speaks to its readers in a language they can understand," said Keith Danby, global president and CEO of Biblica, a Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Christian ministry that holds the NIV copyright.


An effort earlier this decade to create a separate version of the NIV that used more gender-inclusive language in an attempt to reach a younger audience fell flat with groups that felt it crossed the line.

That edition, Today's New International Version, will cease publication once the new-look NIV is released, said Moe Girkins, president of Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Zondervan, its North American publisher.

"Whatever its strengths, the TNIV has become an emblem of division in the evangelical Christian world," Girkins said.

It was the TNIV that ushered in changes from "sons of God" to "children of God," or "brothers" to "brothers and sisters." In Genesis I, God created "human beings" in his own image instead of "man."

Many prominent pastors and scholars endorsed the changes. But critics said masculine terms in the original should not be tampered with. Some warned that changing singular gender references to plural ones alters what the Bible says about God's relationships with individuals.

The Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution saying the edition "has gone beyond acceptable translation standards."

I actually really like the TNIV. But oh well. Plenty of folks are pissed. Click here to read more...

Popular Posts