Posts Tagged ‘Theology



03
Jul
09

Scapegoating & Spiritual Abuse in Churches – Scattering the flock (Part 1)

While a church administrator, I had the unfortunate experience of witnessing profoundly disturbing spiritual abuse – not just once, but twice. In one instance, the abuser was a thirty-something-year pastor intent on maintaining control of what had become his church. In the other, the pastor was the victim of two elders who happened to be related to the former long-term pastor. In both cases, while there were the primary targets of the abuse, there was a system wide fallout upon many other victims. Both churches are recovering, but remain shadows of their former selves. As a result, and after much research, I am offering this paper. Continue reading ‘Scapegoating & Spiritual Abuse in Churches – Scattering the flock (Part 1)’

03
Jul
09

Idolizing Wealth – Luke 12:12-21

Jesus is asked to intervene in an inheritance dispute, and responds by telling a parable about greed. Obviously, Jesus has decided that greed is the underlying motivation of the person who asks for their share of the inheritance … and that this is a good time for a lesson about greed in general.

Quite simple, really. Hardly much point in preaching about it, since it’s just so obvious, eh?

There is more here than is initially apparent, however. To find it we have to delve a little deeper into the text. And my job is to do that without turning this sermon into a geek fest of language and theological study that leaves you groping for the exit door in a bored stupor. We’ll see how I do.

There are many patterns in Luke, but one in particular is how Jesus answers questions. Rarely does Jesus give direct answers to direct questions. Jesus generally answers a question with either another question or a parable, and many times with both… and it strikes me that Jesus does this so people can learn to discern their own answers. Continue reading ‘Idolizing Wealth – Luke 12:12-21’

30
Jun
09

Liberation Theology and Globalization (Part 1)

Economic theology, or the place where economics and theology collide, is a favorite topic of mine. It is sometimes cumbersome, as it is an odd mix of subjects. This is an essay from 2005 that seems like it fits the times in so many ways. I may edit it as time permits, but offer it up for your thoughts.

GLOBALIZATION – THE THREAT

One of the primary characteristics of liberation theology is contextuality – the manner in which each specifically incorporates or combats the traditions, experiences, myths, histories and, of course, resulting worldviews of the populations for whom it is developed. Without the specificity of each theology to its beneficiaries, it would remain as foreign as the colonial or imperial theology whose cultural impact it is generally seeking to mitigate. The point of liberation theology is not simply to provide a theological framework within which each population could find its own liberating thought and belief, although undoubtedly a critical first step, but also to free them from the rampant marginalization, oppression and poverty under which they continue to live. Continue reading ‘Liberation Theology and Globalization (Part 1)’

29
Jun
09

God as Mother – More traditional than you might think

As a preface to this series, I would like to be open about my journey with feminist interpretation and theology. Because of my terrible relationship with my father, I could not grasp nor find comfort in the image of Father God, which is the language I grew up with. “Father” and “God” were not words that could go together, since “father” was the equivalent of abuser, torturer and imprisoner – concepts I could not reconcile with my concept of God. As a result, I spent a long time away from church. As I was being pulled back into church by God, I had to somehow deal with my cognitive dissonance. What helped me immensely were materials normally reserved for women who have experienced sexual abuse by a father or father-figure. I then began an amateur study of feminist and womanist theologies. Several years later, when I started seminary, I met the woman who is now my wife, Rev Jenna Zirbel. She was two years ahead of me in seminary and lightyears in thinking. 

ORTHODOXY – GOD THE FATHER, FATHER GOD, FATHER

Modern orthodoxy views God as male – basically through the various characteristics of Father-hood.  I don’t know about you, but my childhood recollections of God were as an old, white man with a flowing pure white beard, long white hair and distinctly European features. I always thought this must be the way the Bible describes God. Imagine my surprise when I found out that nowhere in scripture is God ever described like that. Continue reading ‘God as Mother – More traditional than you might think’

27
Jun
09

Jesus Save Me From Religiosity

Lately, I’ve developed a renewed appreciation for Jethro Tull – a band hailing back to my drug-crazed youth. Back then, I never actually heard the words, just loved the music. While some lyrics are certainly cynical, two songs in particular call out to me right now – My God and Hymn 43. Below are the transcribed words and video of each. In the case of the live performance of My God, the differences between the recorded version and live version are in italics and brackets. The live version of Hymn 43 is a remarkable (in my opinion) remake of the original by Tull and I hope you like it as well.

Enjoy – I certainly do. Continue reading ‘Jesus Save Me From Religiosity’

21
Jun
09

The Bread of Life IV

I am having difficulty settling on a sermon for the third section of John 6, so I have decided to move into the fourth segment of John’s continuing Bread of Life discourse. The text for this is John 6:51-58. The sermon for John 6:1-21 can be found here and John 6:22-36 here.

If we read Chapter 6 superficially, it sounds like many, many words saying the same thing. It sounds repetitious and redundant. “I am the bread of life.” Five weeks of sermons saying the same thing.

There are two ways to read virtually any written work, however – literally and figuratively. Most of us don’t stop at the literal wording of John’s gospel – even literal fundamentalists. This gospel defies a literal reading. Jesus is not actually a light, a word or a loaf of bread. We are not literally sheep. The figurative reading, however, can be just as shallow and repetitious – leading many to think that all God expects is to accept Jesus as savior and put him into your pocket as a free “get out of hell” card. Continue reading ‘The Bread of Life IV’

11
Jun
09

Feminist Perspectives on Biblical Authority & Gen 1:26-28

THE CREATION STORY – well, sort of

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1, KJV)” In the beginning of biblical interpretation it meant just that – God made heaven and earth, and then all things in it, in six days. Eight creative processes in six days, with seven declarations of “and it was good.” The exception was the sky, which evidently didn’t deserve a nod of pleasure. Hmm. God made Adam, planted a garden for Adam to tend, made all the creatures so Adam could be entertained naming them, and then fashioned woman from Adam’s rib to be his helper. Of course, we all know how Eve sent all creation on the slippery slope to h… – well, we won’t belabor that point. Besides, it may have had something to do with getting story lines mixed up. Continue reading ‘Feminist Perspectives on Biblical Authority & Gen 1:26-28’

08
Jun
09

The Economy of God

BUMP – Just because I like this one.

Having accepted the challenge to discuss economic theology with a Presbyterian session of a large metropolitan church, and having overheard in conversation the “ideal” minister being described as a “CEO” type, I began with a simple exercise – one I had presented several times before to different audiences. The exercise takes advantage of the preponderance of business language and processes being used by sessions and boards of religious institutions.

Continue reading ‘The Economy of God’

03
Jun
09

Comments on Abortion and Murder from Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Abortion is one of the most decidedly divisive issues in society and religion. Following the murder of Dr George Tiller, Rabbi Waskow issued the following opinion piece – one that is lucid and pleading. I commend Rabbit Waskow’s courage and his thoughts, while acknowledging that there are many who believe abortion to be heinous. I, myself, battle internally with this issue. I believe that abortion is rarely a good option or a good thing, but also agree that unwanted pregnancy can ruin lives and lead to poverty. The solution, in my mind, is to make abortion irrevelant as we tackle the causes of unwanted pregnancies. In the meantime I lean towards allowing, as moral agents, women to exercise discretion with respect to their own bodies. I know many disagree, but encourage them to read Rabbi Waskow’s comments anyway.

Dear friends,

So another physician has been murdered for making it possible for women to actually use their constitutional right to choose an abortion. Continue reading ‘Comments on Abortion and Murder from Rabbi Arthur Waskow’

03
Jun
09

Faith-Based Homophobia: ‘An Appalling Christian Moral Failure’

Lawrence from First Light provided the following article with brief commentary preceding it. At usual, there is no need to add commentary at this point.

You might expect such an evaluation from people in our own community, or from parents, family, friends and allies. But the conclusion comes from an unexpected source.

I’ve spoken about the organization “Faith in America” before, a group that, like Soulforce, attempts to communicate the harm done by faith-based bigotry against TLGB people. And I think I’ve also mentioned “Crisis,” the book compiled by FIA founder Mitchell Gold in support of that effort, which was published earlier this year. Gold has just sent an email alert to friends and members of FIA regarding a review of the book which has appeared — to his surprise — in the publication The Christian Century. The surprise isn’t that this progressive periodical printed the review; it’s that the review was written by a relatively conservative Baptist minister who teaches Christian ethics at Mercer University. Continue reading ‘Faith-Based Homophobia: ‘An Appalling Christian Moral Failure’’

27
May
09

A Personal Journey in Leadership

The attitudes about leadership that I brought into my first church assignment as an administrator were saturated with bias, largely because I equated leading with managing. In retrospect, I had witnessed very few examples of leadership, as I now understand it. I had, however, been privy to and used many management styles, most of which were based on the manipulation of people and situations to satisfy corporate and/or self-interest.

Eventually, I resigned from the business arena because I couldn’t reconcile my role, or generally accepted management practices, with a newly developing worldview after becoming a Christian. After a semi-reclusive period spent building furniture and helping develop small group ministries at my church, I re-entered the public world as a church employee, only to encounter the same management attitudes that had repulsed me in the business environment. On the first night of a class on church leadership some years ago, we listed words describing leadership. If I remember correctly, my only contribution to that original list of words was ‘manipulative’.

Any description of my leadership style will be somewhat nebulous, as I am still processing the significance of concepts contained in various books and discussions and, most importantly, experiences from life in church. This will not be an exercise that ends with my last call.

Continue reading ‘A Personal Journey in Leadership’

24
May
09

Twin Sons of Different Mothers

It is hard to fathom, at least for me, how two people with similar conditions can be so very different. To coin a title from a Tim Weisberg album we are in many ways “twin sons of different mothers.”

Not including age (unfortunately I am the older son), we share interests such as cars and woodworking, similar levels of intelligence, senses of humor, music, recreational activities, introversion (even down to Myers-Briggs results). Heck, we even pack our excess weight in the same place. And, as mentioned in previous post, Karl and I are both bipolar.

The differences in our personalities, lives and how being bipolar plays out in our daily existence are somehow perfectly mirrored in the conditions of our garages and workshops. I am left wondering if every person’s personality could be understood and analyzed based on the condition of their garages. Forget the house, the furnishings, the kitchen and the yard! If archeologists a thousand years from now were to delicately uncover our perfectly preserved work spaces, they could peg our personalities down to a “t”. Continue reading ‘Twin Sons of Different Mothers’

22
May
09

Being Prodigal

The Prodigal Son becomes a new creation – reconciled with his loving father. Among other things, this story is a wonderful story that exhibits the flow of worshipful life perfectly.

All the elements are there – the son turns his back on his parent and heritage – takes his material wealth as if it were his own just reward – squanders it on the things that the worldly things that he knows his father would disapprove of – eventually recognizes his own poverty of spirit – reluctantly returns in contrition to his father, prepared to confess and accept his punishment – and encounters a loving parent, willing to accept the slings and arrows of his culture for forgiving his child, and running to him with arms wide open to accept him back into the household.

If that is not the flow of life, what is? It is a beautiful parable, is it not? It is a true work of art being told by Jesus to illustrate a point. But, sometimes, in appreciating the beauty and warmth of the story, we neglect to realize the real purpose Jesus told it. We gloss over the most important aspects. Continue reading ‘Being Prodigal’

18
May
09

Scarcity Trumps Abundance Almost Every Time

Jesus is asked to intervene in an inheritance dispute, and responds by telling a parable about greed. Obviously, Jesus has decided that greed is the underlying motivation of the person who asks for their share of the inheritance, and that this is a good time for a lesson about greed in general.

Quite simple, really. Hardly much point in preaching about it, since it’s just so obvious, eh?

There is more here than is initially apparent – to find it we have to delve a little deeper into the text. And my job is to do that without turning this into a geek fest of language and theological study that leaves you groping for the back button in a bored stupor. Continue reading ‘Scarcity Trumps Abundance Almost Every Time’

18
May
09

… to Each According to Need

While this exact phrasing is allocated to Marx, there is a biblical equivalent to “From each according to ability, to each according to need.”

The pericope from Acts 4:34 & 35 is:
“There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.”

While I have attended churches that lived fully into this concept, one has made it into the news. CNN reports in “Church gives fresh meaning to ‘offering’ plate” that a Texas church has opted to follow this example in its Sunday worship. As the plate goes around, people are asked to give what they can and take what they need. Continue reading ‘… to Each According to Need’




... or, preaching from both ends

WELL, HELLO! YOU’RE HERE.

That's too bad - I'm so sorry. Oh, well, just try to make the best of it. What you'll find here is a variety of essays and ramblings to do with things theological, social, whimsical and, sometimes, all three. I don't write to get famous - trust me, I've been told how futile that would be - but to express myself. I love to communicate and browbeat - ummm, I mean dialogue - about the things I find intriguing. Since you're here, and the door's locked, why don't you stay a while. There's a page bar under the header with links to information about us - I mean me. Don't forget to tell me what you think - in a nice way, I mean.

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