Why moralistic meritocracy is incompatible with Christian teaching

"Bible with Cross Shadow," David Campbell, Flickr C.C.

There's a meme going around Facebook about a famous football player who boasts that he doesn't let his sons keep any sports trophies if they're just for participation and not for winning. He says, "I'm sorry I'm not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned." It seems like a manly, responsible thing to say because it promotes hard work and discipline. And it's also a statement that should never come out of the mouth of a Christian. Because our most basic theological conviction … [Read more...]

Disrupters, witnesses, and bridge-builders: three different tactics in the struggle for justice

Black Lives Matter protesters disrupt Bernie Sanders' speech in Seattle, Sat 8/8/15 (Photo by Alex Garland)

In case you missed it, there's been a huge debate about the Black Lives Matter protest the other week that disrupted presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' speech in Seattle. I've had a lot of push-back from Facebook friends for my support of the BLM protesters. So I thought I would share some of what I learned from a very helpful workshop at Gather By The River, the progressive, LGBT-affirming United Methodist gathering I attended in San Antonio a week ago. Our workshop was specific to the … [Read more...]

Please support Uganda’s Good Samaritan Initiative!!!

The family of Ziraba Hassan Ally

Over the past several years, I have become facebook friends with a number of Christian grassroots community organizers from Africa and Asia. Grassroots organizations in the Global South have a lot more trouble getting support for their work than top-down organizations that come from the US, because they aren't trusted and they often can't accept tax-deductible donations. They also don't speak English as a first language, so it is challenging for them to articulate their vision and their needs in … [Read more...]

The woman with the orthopedic shoes at my Monday mass

"Jack Purcell Sneakers," AMD5150, Flickr C.C.

For two and a half years, I spent my Mondays at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, where I would attend the 12:10 mass in the crypt. This Monday, because we're in town for a campus ministry conference, I had the distinct joy of coming back to mass after more than a year away. It may be bizarre for a Protestant to say this, but I felt like I was "back at home" to be attending a mass that was my centering spiritual practice of each week. I saw … [Read more...]

Six scriptures I would use to address Kevin DeYoung’s 40 questions for rainbow flag-waving Christians

"Bible with Cross Shadow," David Campbell, Flickr C.C.

Kevin DeYoung’s 40 questions for rainbow-flag waving Christians has been making rounds across the internet along with excellent responses from Alise Chaffins, Ben Irwin, AW Hooker, and Matthew Vines, among others. I often wonder if fundamentalists today ever stop to notice how much they resemble the first century Pharisees who were constantly pinging on Jesus to justify his loving acts with their scripture. To me, the most important tool the gospels give us for discerning Christian morality is t … [Read more...]

Radical hospitality in a small-town United Methodist church

Cover photo from www.facebook.com/firstumcsmithville

I must confess I’ve had some stereotypes in my head when it comes to small town churches. I’ve been terrified that they would run me out of the ministry if I ever got assigned to one. So one of the surprising blessings of my trip to Texas this Fourth of July weekend was attending worship at First United Methodist Church in Smithville this morning. They shared the gospel with me through some simple gestures of radical hospitality that I witnessed.It’s a decent sized congregation for a small to … [Read more...]

The tragic demise of the word “membership”

"3 Hands," NVJ, Flickr C.C.

This year's Virginia Annual Conference had the theme "From Members to Disciples." It's a common dichotomy in Christianese. A "church member" has come to mean someone who is little more than a name on a list, while a "disciple" indicates someone who has an active personal relationship with God. Throughout my career as a pastor, I have wracked my brain constantly trying to figure out how to help our "members" become "disciples." But somehow at annual conference this year, I found myself mourning … [Read more...]

Are you open to an LGBT-affirming Biblical perspective?

"Bible with Cross Shadow," David Campbell, Flickr C.C.

Today the Supreme Court declared that same-sex marriage is the law of the land. I know that many conservative Christians feel very troubled by this ruling. Since the issue for most conservatives is a genuine concern that our Bible's authority is being trampled by social pressures, I wanted to offer my own understanding of what the Bible teaches about human sexuality. I do not think that the Bible's authority has to be compromised in order to affirm that God has a vision for LGBT people to live … [Read more...]

Four covertly white supremacist concepts we should reconsider

"Mandatory Busing," John Malmin, LA Times, January 21, 1977

White supremacy. It's not just terrorists in white hoods who burn crosses and lynch black people. It's an ideology that has completely permeated the social consciousness of white people to the point that it's become invisible to us. It's not white peoples' fault that we've been born into this mess, but it's our responsibility to deconstruct and dismantle it so that we don't unwittingly pass the same harmful anxieties and presumptions onto our children. Since open racism became unfashionable, … [Read more...]

Why I can’t use euphemisms for anti-gay Christians

"LGBT Pride Parade San Francisco 2008," David Yu, Flickr C.C.

I have many anti-gay Christians in my life and I love them at least as much as they love the gay Christians in their lives. It's true that I disapprove of the idolatry of gender norms, but I wouldn't go so far as to say that you can't be both anti-gay and Christian. I just think they've thrown a big wet blanket over the gospel that is no less suffocating than the moralistic teachings of the circumcision party the apostle Paul railed against in his letter to the Galatians.It's politically … [Read more...]