Advent Windows of Memory, December 13

The Sixth Window:  Scottsdale, Arizona, December 13, 2011When my mother died in 2010, my sister and I did a cursory cleaning out of her things.  We went through the dresser and closet and donated boxes of her clothes and shoes to charity.  The next year, however, was harder.  Her house was up for sale and we had to go through everything that remained.I was sorting through the back of the closet in her bedroom when I discovered an old garment bag.  “Oh! Mom’s mink stole,” I said to my sist … [Read More...]

Advent Windows of Memory, December 7

The Fifth Window: Christmas Morning 1972 or 1973The picture has lightened with time, fading like the memory attached to the scene.  There is no date stamped on the photograph, nor year scribbled on the back.  But the subject is still clear: a girl, thirteen or fourteen, in front of a Christmas tree holding a doll on her lap.  The girl is wearing a yellow t-shirt and plaid bell-bottoms, a smart and stylish teen-age outfit of those days.  She is looking neither at the doll nor the camera.  She … [Read More...]

Advent: Windows of Memory, December 5

The Fourth Window:  Scottsdale, Arizona Christmas 1972Christmas 1972 is the lost Christmas.  As hard as I try, I can’t remember anything about the holidays that particular year.In November, my family moved from Maryland to Arizona.  The highway voyage across the United States in the yellow Ford station wagon, dad and mom, the three of us children, and Old English sheepdog in tow endures in my memory—all the hotels, the changing landscape from east to west, the rest stops and restaurants, … [Read More...]

Advent: Windows of Memory, December 3

The Third Window:  Early December 1968A few weeks before Christmas, my mother pulled out a book.  Not just any book, this was the Sears holiday catalog called the Wish Book.  Every year, mom asked me, my brother and sister to go through the Wish Book and circle all the gifts and toys we wanted Santa to bring to our house.  For whatever reason, it never seemed odd to me that Santa shopped at Sears—everyone in our working-class neighborhood shopped at Sears—or that Santa needed a catalog when h … [Read More...]

Advent: Windows of Memory, December 2

This year, I’m going to do something different for Advent.  Here, on my blog, I plan to open up a seasonal memory each day to reflect upon my own story, the people I’ve known and loved, many of who are no longer here.  I have no idea where this Advent journey will take me; nor do I know what this series of blogs will look like by the time I reach Christmas.  Whatever happens on the way, I invite you to consider your own memories as windows into a deeper understanding of God’s presence in and thro … [Read More...]

Advent: Windows of Memory, December 1

This year, I’m going to do something different for Advent.  Here, on my blog, I plan to open up a seasonal memory each day to reflect upon my own story, the people I’ve known and loved, many of who are no longer here.  I have no idea where this Advent journey will take me; nor do I know what this series of blogs will look like by the time I reach Christmas.  Whatever happens on the way, I invite you to consider your own memories as windows into a deeper understanding of God’s presence in and thro … [Read More...]

Awakening or Bad Religion?

In the three months since my new book, Christianity After Religion, released many people have wanted to talk with me about "the end of church."  But readers and interviewers seem more reluctant to talk about the other theme of my book: the possibility of awakening.  Not Welton Gaddy of Interfaith Alliance and State of Belief radio.  He goes to the heart of the matter.  Is there an awakening happening in faith and politics?  I argue that there is a new sort of faith "beyond conventional boun … [Read More...]

Good Friday: Being With Jesus at the Cross

The following is my Good Friday sermon for St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Alexandria, Virginia, a town across the river from Washington, D.C., the seat of politics and power.* * * * *In the name of the Great God, the One who creates, redeems, and sustains the world.Around Good Friday 1373, an English woman laid a-bed, stricken by the plague, and facing what she thought would be her own death.  Much of her life is a mystery.  We know not if she was single or married, but if she had been … [Read More...]

Great Awakening?

These are difficult days for faith in America.  On one hand, we are experiencing a Great Religious Recession, an end of conventional church; on the other, it seems that nostalgic, fundamentalist, and authoritarian forms of religion are on the rise.If those are the only options, we are all in trouble.  But, as I explore in my new book, Christianity After Religion, the hints of a new spiritual awakening are all around us.  This awakening, however, is rather different than those in the past.  N … [Read More...]

Ashes to ashes….

Today is Ash Wednesday, the day that we remember we come from the earth and shall return to the earth.  Everything is connected.  We live as part of creation, not above or separate from it.A blue grass song to help you embrace the day--and perhaps think about Ash Wednesday differently than you have in the past.  It isn't just about personal sin and death, but a reminder that our lives are linked in love as part of God's joyful ecology of beginnings and endings.  "Ashes" from the album Sound T … [Read More...]

Does the Church Have a Future?

Not long ago, a producer at Day1 asked about my brand new book, Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening. "Does the Church have a future?" he asked.  And the Day1 folks pointed a camera at me and caught this impromptu reflection.I hope you find it encouraging.  And I hope you'll pick up my new book and explore the ending of conventional religion and the possibilities for a new Great Awakening. … [Read More...]

War on Religion? President Obama, Catholics, and Everybody Else

It’s war.At least according to some, President Obama has declared a war on religion.  This is the latest attack designed to make the President look like an infidel. In the last four years, the President’s opponents have branded him: 1) a liberal Christian; 2) a follower of liberation theology; 3) a secret Muslim; and now, 4) an anti-Christian bigot determined to destroy churches and freedom of religion.The “war on religion” is interwoven, somewhat subtly in most cases, with an implicit ch … [Read More...]

Black Friday: A Morality Tale

This Black Friday, I expect that some religion commentators will write their yearly screed on the immorality of consumerism decrying the shopping frenzy gripping the nation on the day after Thanksgiving.But I am not going to join that chorus. Don’t get me wrong—I don’t love consumerism or the outburst of materialism that accompanies American Christmas celebrations. It is, however, tediously easy for people who write columns, ministers who preach sermons, or those who are generally comfo … [Read More...]

Putting the Protest Back in Protestant

This weekend, as many celebrate Halloween, some Christians will remember another holiday—one that marks the Protestant Reformation.  On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther challenged the Roman Catholic Church’s theology of salvation and sacraments, thus initiating the religious movement that became known as Protestantism.  On the Sunday before October 31, Lutherans (and some Presbyterians and Congregationalists) recall these events in worship.Although the United States was a solid majority Prote … [Read More...]

Death Penalty and the American Soul

From the "Christian Nation?" Department:The death penalty has been abolished by 106 nations, 30 countries since 1990. Amnesty International reports that over 1/2 world's nations have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice. The United States, China, the Congo and Iran are the most prolific executioners in the world.I do not understand how the United States, especially given that so many of our fellow citizens continue to insist that this is a "Christian" country, can be so … [Read More...]


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