I’m not sure what your definition of “family” is, but I have a hard time imagining familial ties requiring acknowledgment or affirmation to be validated. Family is family, right? I’m not sure what particular theology Governor Bentley subscribes to (yes, yes, some brand of conservative Baptist), but parents don’t need their children to call them mommy and daddy to love them.
I don’t need my sisters and brothers to do or say anything for them to deserve my love. I want to sit at the same Thanksgiving table…
(CNN)– Alabama Republican Gov. Robert Bentley is kicking off his first term in office with a bit of controversy, telling a church audience Monday that he only considers Christians to be his “brothers and sisters.”
“Now I will have to say that, if we don’t have the same daddy, we’re not brothers and sisters,” he told parishioners at a Baptist church in Montgomery Monday shortly after being sworn in. “So anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister, and I want to be your brother.” “There may be some people here today who do not have living within them the Holy Spirit,” Bentley also said, according to the Birmingham News. “But if you have been adopted in God’s family like I have, and like you have if you’re a Christian and if you’re saved, and the Holy Spirit lives within you just like the Holy Spirit lives within me, then you know what that makes? It makes you and me brothers. And it makes you and me brother and sister.”
Rebekah Caldwell Mason, Bentley’s communications director, was not immediately available for comment but told the Birmingham News that Bentley “is the governor of all the people, Christians, non-Christians alike.”
Bentley also celebrated the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. in his speech and said he will govern in accordance with King’s teachings.
‘I was elected as a Republican candidate. But once I became governor … I became the governor of all the people. I intend to live up to that. I am color blind,” Bentley also said.
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But I must confess, again, because it bears repeating, that I have made demands of loved ones and strangers. I have required conversion before I called neighbors “brother” and “sister.” I cannot criticize Governor Bentley for his exclusivism and arrogance without first owning my own past. I have committed these sins. I am sorry for it. I can still do better. All of us can. Thanks be to God that there is grace for me and for Governor Bentley and for Sarah Palin and Jeremiah Wright.
My sisters and brothers are Muslims and Hindus and Southern Baptists and Atheists.
Something is coming! And someone has come! And all this will continue…
This month’s Synchroblogis about the journey of advent, as we enter this season once again.
ADVENT – THE JOURNEY - Advent is the dawn of a journey that leads us not only to Bethlehem but potentially to a new understanding of our relationship to God and his beloved creation. Share your thoughts about the journey of advent during this inspirational season.
Growing up in non-liturgical churches, for me the advent season manifested as a calendar with chocolates hidden behind each day’s door.
Over the last few years, I have participated through the United Methodist Book of Worship. This season, I look forward to experiencing Episcopal liturgies.
What has struck me more in recent years is how we cyclically repeat the anticipation of the one who has already come. We enter into a time and space that is no longer linear – participating in the angst and hardship and sorrow of the world before the advent of Christ.
But Christ did not begin in Nazareth, two thousand years ago. Christ has been, from the beginning.
Today, creation still groans, experiencing the tragedy of ongoing sorrow. Jesus didn’t bring an end to suffering. But with his birth, birthed hope. The one who came has come, and continues to come, and through us, may be manifested in our broken, beautiful world.
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I heard a Russian Orthodox priest explain icons last year: worshipping in the presence of these images reminds us that we are literally in communion with all of the saints who have come before us. As we pray, we pray with them. As we fellowship, we fellowship with them.
In a similar way, British author and InklingCharles Williams used the term coinherence to describe a number of spiritual phenomena, including ways in which human beings are connected spiritually, across geographic distances, and time (including beyond the boundaries of death).
As we participate in various advent liturgies (from attending services at our churches, to opening the Starbucks Advent Calendar) I suggest we explore ways of spiritually connecting with the saints who have come before us, with St. Mary, Mother of God, with St. Anthony, St. John Chrysostom, St. Theresa Avila and countless others… then let us look forward, praying for (and with) all of the saints yet to be born.
Don’t let my use of the word “saint” limit you to an exclusively Christian endeavor. May we share communion with all of humanity, where God is at work everywhere – among us and in us – through all of time.
Don’t miss the other participants in this month’s Synchroblog!
This is hardly intellectual fare, but it’s been forever since I’ve shared an actual webcast video here. Lots of weird little XtraNormal.com animals.
I talk a lot about advocacy, and I believe that the best place to start changing the world is with the people around us.
If we want to be changed, ourselves, the best place to start is by listening to the people we know and love, and by choosing to love and pay attention to more and more people, from more and more vantages. This has been my story; this has been my change; and it’s still happening.
Meanwhile, you might also enjoy the antics of Karl the cat.
Family relationships are complicated, messy, and often painful. While I consider myself pretty well-adjusted, no household is without it’s pain and drama/trauma. Probably because of my personality more than my actual environment, I have spent a lot of my young adulthood wrestling through wounds, hurt feelings, and what was probably an excessive amount of bitterness. Bits and pieces of that carried through to recent years – I suppose no one ever really “gets over” big injuries caused by loved ones. But I’m hardly blameless – I know I’ve hurt them too…
Yesterday we spent Thanksgiving with my parents for the first time in a couple of years. Just a year ago, we spent a lot of time deliberately processing through a lot of emotional shit. Painful, face-to-face, venting, explaining, apologizing, reconciling, sharing responsibility… and finally, commitment: not to let our relationships disintegrate to that point, again. We said out loud (something to the effect of…) “I know we’re going to hurt each other again, and some of us are going to get offended, and we’re going to misspeak and misunderstand and disappoint each other…” (all of this, in fragments spoken by different people) “but we are going to remind ourselves, and each other, to believe in the better intentions of each of us. We’re going to fight the urge to presume the worst. We’re going to choose to love each other for who we are, not for the way we wish they were.” And there were lots of tears, and after a few weeks of that, we drove to the Portland Grotto to look at the Christmas lights (www.thegrotto.org/christmas), and we all felt lighter and closer than we had in a long time.
The Grotto Lights
The year following hasn’t been perfect, but it’s been better. We haven’t spent as much time together as I hoped, but it was more than previously. It was better.
Around the Thanksgiving table last night, we took turns saying what we were thankful for. Sort of cheesy, like a Hallmark commercial, or Folgers Coffee: a bunch of white people in sweaters, the Chihuahua sitting at the table in my mother’s lap. But it was sweet, and reminded me again that I’m thankful for the way my family communicates out loud, even when it’s really akward. For better AND for worse, feelings get shared, and at times like these it’s a gift.
These feelings don’t undercut my ideological struggle with the history and meaning of Thanksgiving. Some of my friends have been frustrated with observations I made here and on Facebook. I get that. It’s easy to be an armchair ref (or judge) in the blogosphere. But I’m not speaking from some dualistic vantage in this area, ignoring one perspective on the holiday – and on this country – while I feed the other perspective. Life is complicated, just like family. We love and mourn at the same time. Morality is complicated too. We do our best, day-to-day, while people suffer, and we hope to make the world better in our spheres of influence, but we prioritize the people in front of us, and there’s always more we could have done. It’s a cruel reality, but somehow, life can be lovely. Maybe that’s where dualism is unavoidable.
A visitor recently e-mailed me about my blog and my beliefs. He was respectful, articulate, and had a very different worldview from my own. One of our clearest dissimilarities had to do with truth. He viewed it as something to be “reached.” An “end,” if you will.
I have no problem with that. I think it’s a very understandable – and probably orthodox – vantage to practice Christianity from: Scripture is Truth; Jesus Christ is Truth. Getting to that confessional point is THE point.
And from a personal standpoint, I don’t even have much to argue with. I’ve affirmed my own belief in Jesus Christ as embodied truth, before. I think I’d be more comfortable saying that Scripture is truthful, because I don’t have faith that it is inherently “correct.” There is truth in Scripture, as there is also context, opinion, poetry, emotion, love, hate, atrocity, misunderstanding, redaction, deception, and a great story at the end about robots and computers and bar codes and atomic war and a UN Chairman who can bend time… Just kidding about that last part, none of that is in Revelation.
There was a point, several years ago, when I would spend a lot of time arguing my “case” over e-mail. Some of it made for pretty fruitful posts (in my opinion) but that’s all already on the blog. At this point, I don’t feel a strong need to defend myself, although I certainly spend lots of time advocating for ideas. And most of these posts are nothing more than my own working out and wrestling. Sometimes I get e-mails from folks who genuinely think it’s just a matter of me NOT KNOWING the CORRECT doctrine or interpretation. Their thinking seems to be: “if he can simply be made AWARE of his erroneous theological conclusions, he will then right his spiritual and theological course (and save his soul).” I’m not a scholar or a theologian. I’m not really academically-minded. I’m a lowly M.Div student and a lifelong Evangelical. I don’t presume to carry much depth of knowledge in any particular theological subset. But having been in the church for 31 years, and attended seminary for the last five years, I’m not wholly ignorant either, and it’s been several years since I’ve been “surprised” by a theological concept I was previously unaware of. You’re certainly welcome to prove me wrong and I don’t feel arrogant or proud saying any of that.
The reason I advocate for ongoing deconstruction, even as I attempt to construct something new and workable for myself, is that I don’t trust my own constructs any more than I trust your constructs or Paul’s or Irenaeus’. Kierkegaard wrote, “Concepts, like individuals, have their histories and are just as incapable of withstanding the ravages of time as are individuals.” The truth changes as we change and the world changes. As I said recently, whatever we can articulate as “the thing” stops being “the thing” at that moment. As the Tao Te Ching eloquently puts it, “The Way that can be experienced is not true; the world that can be constructed is not real.” I think we have a tendency, as soon as something becomes true for us, or real for us, to grab it and hold it fast – preventing it from changing, growing, or living! Static things are not alive, and I believe truth must be a living thing. That’s why Scripture, doctrine and theological systems (however helpful they may be) can be unhelpful when they place restraints or limitations on God.
All that said, my readers and online friends have had an IMMENSE impact on my personal faith and beliefs. I have certainly changed because of feedback, comments and questions, so keep them coming!
(just don’t expect a quick “conversion” on my part… I’m dense and stubborn and far too convinced of Divine Grace to feel a lot of urgency to sort this stuff out in a timely manner)
I’ve been writing here since late 2004. Back then, I was unmarried, not enrolled in seminary, and I had JUST changed party affiliation on my voter registration.
I wrote pretty sporadically back then – only a few posts each month. Everything was so ambiguous to me at that time that I felt I was stumbling through the dark. Or whistling (except that I can’t whistle). I still remember laying on my bed, staring up at the ceiling, wondering if my questions would end in apostasy or atheism. I cried about that, scared to lose the thing that was so precious to me – faith – but also just as scared to lose the semblance of comfort and belonging I still felt so strongly in the Evangelical world. There was a part of me fighting to ignore the doubts and questions and disillusion, if only to retain that comfort.
Eventually, I lost that comfort, but I never lost my faith.
It wasn’t until 2008 that I got really serious about blogging here. I had a painful experience with a would-be mentor that woke me up to cold reality, but up till then I thought getting a book deal was going to be relatively easy. Naive, to be sure, but until then momentum had been going in my favor. That “momentum” ended almost as quickly as it had begun, and I was left with a bad taste in my mouth. I was bored and tired of my manuscript, but I didn’t want to give up on writing…
For the last couple of weeks, EmergingChristian.com has maintained an average daily visitor count that I’m quite excited about – it’s taken several years, but I have loved the conversations and friendships I have found along the way.
A lot of people tell me, “I read your blog, but I never have anything to add to the conversation, so I don’t comment.” That’s fine, but I always encourage them (and YOU) that conversations are what this blog is about. Conversations are what started my own spiritual evolution (or devolution, depending on your vantage) and there’s a layer of richness and depth that’s added here when YOU speak up.
Either way, the fact that you visit here – that you read my sometimes nonsensical rants – means a lot to me, and your participation in these conversations deeply affects my own faith journey. Thank you.
Becky Garrison just published a great little piece on her interview with Portland’s Ken Loyd, of HomePDX. I had the pleasure of meeting Ken, with Becky, several weeks ago on a visit to the HomePDX community.
The transparency demonstrated in this article is the sort of “authenticity” that Emergent-type Christians talk about all the time, but seem to have no real interest in embodying. Too much personal sacrifice, too raw, too unsafe and uncomfortable… And worst of all: you can’t sell books if people know your spiritual answers haven’t led to “your best life.”
When we first started HomePDX in Portland in 2007, people used to say three things to us: “you listen,” “you care” and “you’re authentic.” My story is that as of today (October 21, 2010), I’m two years and 11 day sober and I’m struggling to stay sober. I’ve failed more than I’ve succeeded. Currently, I’m failing in many areas of my life. My connection is not on what I have but on my commonality with others in my broken humanity. If you go to the evangelical church, it’s all about how God will make you a success. I got saved and then this happened. That’s a testi-phony. God’s not going to make you a success. You’re going to be a loved failure. You’re going to succeed in some areas in your life, and you’re going to fail in some areas of your life. Most of us are going to be brokenhearted, clumsy and missing the evangelical goal of perfection. There are millions upon millions of people who have quietly put their head down and walked away from the church because they couldn’t live up to the standard they thought everybody else had attained.
Most of us in the Evangelical world would literally have to go through some kind of intensive, invasive deprogramming program to really manage genuine transparency. Easier to say, “I’m a mess… and here’s my book, only $22.95, where I explain how to get beyond the mess!” Hello speaker circuit!
I got a great email from an online friend. We’ve been talking about various issues – evolving faith and worldview, similar backgrounds, etc… I thought you would enjoy this:
Hi Peter, just a note to say I’ve just witnessed something pretty life-changing today. It makes me wish I was at a point of writing more publicly about these kinds of things or at least discussing them with my friends and family on the right, but this kind of experience is moving me rapidly in that direction.
My Methodist church came together for a special vote today, after months of reflection, on whether to conduct same-sex marriages, despite all the risks under UMC governance. I was inspired by the attitude shown by the time of worship leading up to the vote with so many older, conservative-looking members singing their hearts out, and hearing the arguments in favor from a diverse cross-section of the congregation. The vote for marriage equality passed overwhelmingly, and I’ve never heard a little old church lady whoop for joy like the one sitting next to me.
This doesn’t diminish the sorrow I feel for the divisions in our denominations, or how so many people (like me until recently) feel threatened by change. But seeing a congregation unify to take on these challenges with joy and faith gives me a lot of hope that dissent in the church can be an act of purposeful love rather than power politics.
Beautifully said. ”Dissent in the church can be an act of purposeful love, rather than power politics.” I hope we can better learn the purposeful power of dissenting love.
There was a big online media push for “National Back to Church Sunday” several weeks ago, which culminated on Sunday, September 12th. The day after September 11th – a coincidence? A play on people’s anti-Muslim sentiment as a ploy to help aid dying churches across America?
“National Back to Church Sunday is a special day set aside each year on the second Sunday of September. On that day, thousands of churches will open their doors and welcome anyone who would like to rediscover church.
National surveys indicate that there are many reasons people stop attending church. In fact, the top two reasons people stop coming to church are that they feel that they are “too busy” and others feel the burden of family & home responsibilities. We understand that. Those are very real reasons, but those are probably the top two reasons why you need to be in church. Wherever you’re at, a local church community is there to support you. Maybe this is the invitation you have been waiting for. Get connected with a group of people who are making a difference. Grow in your faith; give your children a Christian foundation; learn to be a better parent; get marriage help; and reconnect with your community and with a God who loves you.”
I’m not so sure that “too busy” is the chief reason folks aren’t going to church. I think it might be that what the church in America is offering just isn’t very attractive.
I haven’t invited a friend to church in a long time, and that’s not just because I’ve jumped to and from several churches over the last 5 years. It’s because as much as I want my friends to discover what I have found in Jesus Christ, I have no idea where to send them that will help them follow Jesus in a meaningful way. A lot of my friends that don’t go to church aren’t interested in the mess we’ve made, the arguments we’re having, or the cheapened subculture we’ve created.
I grew up bringing friends to church. I even did it in my early twenties, and remember feeling deeply embarrassed at that point by what was coming from the pulpit, and the pews. It wasn’t arrogance that made me want to differentiate myself from the altar calls, salvation prayers, tithe-pushes and culture-attacks. It was the look on my friends’ faces. Fish out of water? More like civilians ducking artillery fire. I don’t want to put them through that, and whatever I have to offer in the Way of Jesus, I still don’t have a great way to direct them after they’ve met Jesus.
I recently found out that an old friend had become a “Born Again Christian.” For the first time in my life, I realized I was internally cringing at the subject of salvation. Because I know what kind of church she’s now going to. And I know what that means…
In celebration of National Back to Church Sunday, I didn’t go to church. Or maybe it was because I was just tired.
Look, I don’t think church is bad. I still love THE Church. But church can’t save America (if, indeed, American needs to be saved). Church attendance isn’t the problem, but it certainly isn’t the solution. I pray instead that we can discover a solution to saving the entire world. I believe that inevitably must involve the Body of Christ, but I’m not convinced we’ve properly made a distinction between being a member of that Body, and simply getting “back to church” – back into pews to consume (weakly) a weekly message…
I’m a lifelong Oregonian, and there’s a cool dude in Central Oregon named Bill Dahl, who has been running www.ThePorpoiseDivingLife.com since I-don’t-know-when. His site has been on my radar since I first started scanning www.EmergentVillage.com back in the early-to-mid-2000s, so it’s at least that old. I’d guess Bill has been causing online mischief for longer than that.
Several months ago Cheryl Ensom approached me, asking me to contribute to the latest e-issue of The Porpoise Diving Life. I was thrilled, since Bill had given her my name. Anyway, it’s been a pleasure getting to know Cheryl, the current editor of Porpoise Diving.
For decades, Evangelicals were my family. I grew up with them. They helped form me into the person I am today. They taught me about kindness, hospitality, and the joy of the Lord! I found Jesus Christ with Evangelicals, through Evangelicals, and among Evangelicals. They were my siblings, friends, my social circle and my creative outlet. They took care of me when I was lonely in college, comforted me when I was crushed and brokenhearted, prayed for me when I was sick, and rejoiced with me when I married my wife.
Somehow, after all those years of fidelity and love, like a civil divorce based on mutual agreement, we politely parted ways citing “irreconcilable differences.”
I’m an M.Div student at George Fox Seminary, and a contributing writer in Spencer Burke’s Out of theOOZE (NavPress), Leonard Sweet’s Church of the Perfect Storm (Abingdon Press) and Christian Piatt’s Banned Questions About Jesus (Chalice Press).
I’m a liberal, an egalitarian, a deconstructionist, an Outlaw Preacher, and a loudmouth. I want to be your friend...