Jews, Muslims, and Christians Restoring American Ideals

Unity and political solidarity and action are the only way to overturn the ascending forces of bigotry and hate in US society. I just came back from a month in Southeast Asia; visiting Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. Some of you will know that I lived in that region for more than 12 years. Each of these countries has a distinctive social makeup, government, and understanding of religious diversity. What they common is an understanding that one cannot simply let the… Read more

Fire and Fury, Will Korean Christians Survive?

a war on the Korean Peninsula? I wonder. Dallas’ own Robert Jeffress has once again weighed in on foreign affairs. His exact words, as reported in the Washington Post. were: “God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary – including war – to stop evil.” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2017/08/08/god-has-given-trump-authority-to-take-out-kim-jong-un-evangelist-advisor-says.) This was his positive endorsement of the “fire and fury” comments of Trump a day earlier. Now when Jeffress says “take out Kim Jong Un” by any measures (including war) I wonder if… Read more

Romans 1 and Same-Sex Relations

The key to understanding any passage in the Bible is surely grasping the author’s intent. And that is why we need to look closely at Romans 1 if we’re going to grasp what the Bible says about same-sex marriage and homosexuality more generally. Because nowhere in the New Testament is there stronger or more direct language related to homosexuality and same-sex sexual relations. Romans 1:26,27: For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse… Read more

Marriage Isn’t a Matter of Doctrine

In a recent article in First Things Paul Stallsworth makes observations about the current structure of United Methodism, and its inability to manage the crisis over same-sex marriage. https://www.firstthings.com/…/…/a-disunited-methodist-church. He doesn’t believe that UM structures, conceived in the early part of US history, can cope with what he sees as a growing divide between popular culture and doctrine. He may be right. Yet . . . . In that article he makes (without remarking on it) two distinctions. One is… Read more

“Can the West Be Converted?”

I hope not. The great missionary theologian Lesslie Newbigen asked this question in 1987. For him, and many others the secular West had become, whatever its Christian inheritance, a realm that had lost touch with a full experience of God’s grace. It needed conversion. This theme has been repeated by any number of non-Western theologians. One, Gilliam Mary Bediako has written an excellent essay entitled “Christianity in Interaction with the Primal Religions of the World” (in Christianity and Religious Plurality,… Read more

Culture Eats Ideology for Lunch

The economist Peter Drucker nailed an important truth in this pithy saying. It is a truth that remains largely unrecognized in contemporary American Christianity. Perhaps the best way to visual the American Christian illusion is a Venn diagram. We know that there are many different cultures. But we assume that they all overlap with regard to their most important “core” values. And we assume that these core values are the same as our core values: personal freedom, economic advancement, security,… Read more

Telling Truth in Public is Civil, not War

PJames Ragland has suggested that the debate about Dallas’ civil war monuments has become an uncivil war. https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2017/07/21/talk-ofremoving-confederate-monuments-starts-uncivil-war-words-dallas. He quotes Dr. Michael Water’s Facebook posting stating that these are “monuments to treason and slavery” as an example. And he notes that John McCammon, 1st Lt. Commander of the Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, has “fired back” saying, “That is a false narrative. It is in no way celebrating slavery.” While I realize that neither statement by itself is part of a… Read more

Do We Believe in the Same God?

I get asked this question often when it comes to people of different religions. And the answer is, to put it bluntly, no. Indeed I tell the person asking. You don’t believe in God. No one believes in God. Because God by definition is that which is transcendent, limitless and can thus never be the object of belief by a finite human mind. None of us can believe in God because the word designates that which is beyond our capacity… Read more

We Need a Re-write

The story of United Methodism has gotten boring. We all have a story. Sometimes these stories are pretty mundane; a series of small crisis and achievements. But when a major crisis appears these stories take on greater urgency. They become the arc that helps us understand the present moment of crisis. They tell us how we got to decision point that will be the defining event in the life of the person, society, or nation. But while United Methodists are… Read more

Our Culture of Fear

No group can ever enjoy a semblance of true civil rights when its members are the object of civil fear. And one of the least talked about but most important functions of our culture is to teach us civil  fear.  Recently a policeman was acquitted of a murder charge related to his shooting of an African American man as the man sat in his car. (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/16/us/police-shooting-trial-philando-castile.html) The policeman’s defense was that he feared for his life. And the jury found that claim reasonable. Why?… Read more

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