Archive for June, 2011

Hatred, or Disbelief?

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011 by JEL

Perhaps you’ve seen the firestorm of coverage regarding U.S. Congressman Todd Akin’s (Missouri-R) comments on a Family Research Council radio show. In case you missed it, Akin said:

“at the heart of liberalism, really, is a hatred for God and a belief that government should replace God.”

The use of the word “hatred” seems kind of silly. Those liberals who are atheists don’t hate God; they simply don’t believe in Him/Her/It. It’s illogical to hate something you don’t think exists. And those liberals who do believe feel much the same way as believing Christians. Just another example of trying to get people all riled up over nothing.

Others agree. Rabbi Jim Bennett of Congregation Shaare Emeth in St. Louis was “deeply disturbed” by Akin’s “grotesque politicized attack.” The Rev. Krista Taves of Emerson Unitarian Universalist Chapel in Ellisville, Missouri, said that Akin’s comment:

“shows how very little he knows about liberals, and how very little he knows about God. I’m a liberal because I love God and all God’s creation. I value equality, fairness and compassionate justice because my faith informs my politics.”

How’d It Go?

Monday, June 27th, 2011 by JEL

After posting about the Wild Goose Festival last week, I was wondering how it went. It was really hot in North Carolina over the weekend, I know that, but I was curious about the turnout, reaction to the speakers, and thoughts about another Festival next year.

The National Catholic Reporter has a nice story online about Day 3. The opening of the story sets the tone:

After their interfaith panel discussion Saturday afternoon, Rabbi Or Rose and Muslim chaplain Abdullah Antepli walked side-by-side talking quietly. It was quite a site in the South — long known as the “Bible Belt.” The pair, Rose wearing a yarmulke, had just spent an hour together in a tent with former Catholic priest and scholar Paul Knitter discussing interreligious dialogue, and what it is they admire — even love — about each other’s faith traditions.

So it went on Day 3 of The Wild Goose Festival at Shakori Hills Farm, a rural section of Chatham County, not far from the bigger places — Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh. While Wild Goose is predominantly Christian, ecumenism and interfaith dialogue have been major themes of the four-day festival that may be the first of its kind in the U.S.

Smiling, sharing, babies in bathtubs, “Love Your Enemies” t-shirts, even “light and humorous” discussions on death. Sounds like some new connections were made.


Friday, June 24th, 2011 by JEL

If you’re a music fan, you probably have heard by now that Clarence Clemons is no longer with us. He died last Saturday following a stroke, and the world has felt a bit greyer and more listless since. And if you’re wondering why this post is even included in the What He Said blog, then you need to experience the revival-meeting nature of The Big Man’s sound.

This is from the legendary 12/15/78 Winterland show in San Francisco:

The NYT’s obituary can be found here.

Take the Christianity Quiz

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011 by JEL

There’s a new group called Changing the Face of Christianity with a mission to “reverse Christian intolerance, hypocrisy, homophobia, judgmentalism, and other negative Christian stereotypes, by helping Christians to be more like Jesus Christ.” Sounds like our kind of group! And one where What He Said should help play a role.

They’ve developed a “How Christian Are You?” quiz that is pretty illuminating. Try to be honest with your answers; it’s pretty obvious which response is the most Jesus-like. Go on, take the quiz ! >>

If you’re interested in more information about the group, check out the video below.

One Wild Goose

Monday, June 20th, 2011 by JEL

If you’re in the North Carolina neighborhood this week, you might want to stop in and check out the Wild Goose Festival. Festival organizers describe it thusly:

The Wild Goose is a Celtic metaphor for the Holy Spirit. We are followers of Jesus creating a festival of justice, spirituality, music and the arts. The festival is rooted in the Christian tradition and therefore open to all regardless of belief, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, denomination or religious affiliation.

Michelle Shocked, David Wilcox, and T-Bone Burnett are among the musicians to perform, and speakers include many highlighted in this very blog: Brian McLaren, Jim Wallis, and Shane Claiborne. The festival is a whopping ten years in the making.

I’ll leave you with two quotes from today’s USA Today story. The first is from festival organizer Gareth Higgins:

“We gather to learn what Jesus came to teach us, which is not how to be a Christian, but how to be human.”

The second is from Ken Silva, a Southern Baptist blogger of New Hampshire-based Apprising Ministries:

“The wise Christian will have nothing to do with these neo-Gnostic fools who’ve unbuckled themselves from the Word of God and have embarked upon their Wild Goose Chase of subjective experience.”

What About the Animals?

Friday, June 17th, 2011 by JEL

I became a vegetarian 11 years ago after reading a book and realizing I could no longer hide behind ignorance. Going off in the woods and shooting your own turkey is one thing (still not for me); buying a package at the grocery store that results from a brief, miserable life of suffering is something else entirely.

As I’ve worked on this blog over the past year and a half, I’ve wanted to see more on how Christianity sees the plight of animals. Today I found Laura Hobgood-Oster’s piece:

Yes, once we open our eyes to see them, animals are everywhere in the history of Christianity. But at least in recent memory, animals have been ignored and even demeaned by Christians and Christianity. Humans became the sole focus of most forms of Christianity and, as a result, cultures influenced by Christianity have not been kind places for most animals.

In the U.S., where approximately 75 percent of adults identify as Christian, the lives of many animals are miserable and short. According to statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2010 almost 10 billion animals were killed for food in the U.S. alone. That is the equivalent of almost thirty animals per person. Thirty animals per person! The vast majority of these animals live in cramped, filthy conditions. They are forcibly removed from their mothers, who are treated as breeding machines not as living, breathing beings. In the Bible God is compared to a mother hen who protects her young under her wings. In the U.S. a mother hen is kept in a battery breeding cage, she is never allowed to protect herself or her young.

Several years ago I was honored to be part of a documentary produced by the Humane Society of the United States entitled “Eating Mercifully.” We examined the history of Christianity and asked how beliefs intersect with practices of eating. Christianity, which not only focuses on justice for humans but also has a rich tradition of thoughtful eating, is no longer living up to its own calls for compassion. Numerous saints chose diets that caused the least amount of pain and suffering to others. Fridays were traditionally a day of fasting or, at the very least, of not eating meat. Christians seem to have forgotten that what we eat is a reflection of what we believe.

Not Him Again

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011 by JEL

Author Dan Brown has a new book out called “Karma” that weaves a tale of the second coming of Jesus.  Here’s the synopsis:

Jesus has returned and it’s Judgment Day for mankind. There’s only one problem for Jesus. He has been walking the earth for over 30 years completely unaware that He is the chosen one. Matthew 24:36 states “but of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.”

As compared to 2000 years ago, there were not three wise men waiting to announce His birth. Jesus was reincarnated quite unceremoniously in 1969 under a different name. His true identity and the nature of his past life were hidden from Him until the time was right. Early one particular morning, God speaks to his Son for the first time, catching His Son completely off guard. Through a series of spiritual coincidences, God proves His existence, and wakes His Son up to the destiny which is awaiting Him.

Sounds like a logical next book for the guy who wrote “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels & Demons,” among others, right? Well, yes, but…no. The Amazon listing shows that Dan Brown is the publisher and that the book is only available in a Kindle edition. Two very big clues.

Different Dan Brown. I wonder how many people will buy the book not knowing.

A Definition

Monday, June 13th, 2011 by JEL

I hear the term “progressive Christianity” bandied about a little more frequently these days. Maybe like me, you’re not exactly sure what the term means. I had a general idea, but Wikipedia helped out with a more formal definition:

Progressive Christianity is the name given to a movement within contemporary Christianity characterized by willingness to question tradition, acceptance of human diversity with a strong emphasis on social justice or care for the poor and the oppressed (see Minority groups) and environmental stewardship of the Earth. Progressive Christians have a deep belief in the centrality of the instruction to “love one another” (John 15:17) within the teaching of Jesus Christ. This leads to a focus on compassion, promoting justice and mercy, tolerance, and working towards solving the societal problems of poverty, discrimination, and environmental issues. They stress Collective Salvation as a requirement toward salvation of society.”

Other than the collective salvation bit, I always thought that’s what “plain old Christianity” was supposed to stand for. Reading the Gospels sure makes one think so.

Flexible Christianity

Friday, June 10th, 2011 by JEL

Quaker minister Philip Gulley has a new book out called “The Evolution of Faith: How God is Creating a Better Christianity.” The book description is right up my alley:

“For too long, American Christianity has been poisoned by a narrowness of mind and spirit, demanding we believe the implausible, affirm the absurd, and despise the different. For many, the concepts of original sin, a God who sends people to hell, and Jesus as the only path to God can no longer be stomached. Thus thoughtful people leave the church in droves, no longer willing to diminish their lives or the lives of others for the sake of faith.

But what if there were another way? What if God wanted us to grow and change, both in our theology and our beliefs? In The Evolution of Faith, Philip Gulley invites us to put aside slavish obedience to antiquated faith claims and worldviews that no longer ring true, and discover what we really believe, rather than what we’ve always been taught.”

Gulley’s last book, “If the Church Were Christian: Rediscovering the Values of Jesus,” has, as one might imagine, a wide range of comments over at Amazon.

Bible Phantoms

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011 by JEL

Actually, phantom passages, but plain old “phantoms” makes for a cheekier title. CNN posted a piece this past Saturday in their Belief Blog, called “Actually, that’s not in the Bible.” It’s got 6,220 comments (a tad more than our record), so you know it struck a chord.

What’s it about? All the sayings that people think are from the Bible, but, in fact, aren’t. Like:

  • This, too, shall pass.
  • God helps those who help themselves. (check your nearest $100 bill)
  • Spare the rod, spoil the child.
  • God works in mysterious ways.
  • Cleanliness is next to Godliness.
  • Satan tempted Eve to eat the forbidden apple in the Garden of Eden. (paraphrase)

There are lots more. Why do they keep getting passed on from generation to generation?

[...] people rarely challenge them because biblical ignorance is so pervasive that it even reaches groups of people who should know better, says Steve Bouma-Prediger, a religion professor at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.

“In my college religion classes, I sometimes quote 2 Hesitations 4:3 (‘There are no internal combustion engines in heaven’),” Bouma-Prediger says. “I wait to see if anyone realizes that there is no such book in the Bible and therefore no such verse.

“Only a few catch on.”

Few catch on because they don’t want to – people prefer knowing biblical passages that reinforce their pre-existing beliefs, a Bible professor says.

“Most people who profess a deep love of the Bible have never actually read the book,” says Rabbi Rami Shapiro, who once had to persuade a student in his Bible class at Middle Tennessee State University that the saying “this dog won’t hunt” doesn’t appear in the Book of Proverbs.

“They have memorized parts of texts that they can string together to prove the biblical basis for whatever it is they believe in,” he says, “but they ignore the vast majority of the text.”