How do we know God is real? Questions children ask

“How do we know God is real? How do we know he’s not someone that because we are little you tell us he’s real but then when we’re older we find out he’s fake?” Children ask the darndest questions! I confess: my child-rearing philosophy was along the lines of “benign neglect.”  I sought to resource my three sons with all they needed for life and health and mental, physical and spiritual stimulation, but then pretty well got out of the… Read more

Could Diverse and Especially Female Clergy Be What Is Killing the UMC?

A third reason the UMC is dying may be because of a thorny issue we don’t want to acknowledge: the decision to be more inclusive with ordination and especially bring female clergy to positions of highest leadership.  After a one-year stint as a professional Mystery Worshiper, I would say that the LDS (Mormon) web presence is possibly the least visitor-friendly site I’ve seen. LDS services are lackluster, noisy and unprofessional without much music and no technological bells and whistles. The messages are… Read more

Wild dogs, babies and betrayed trust: why the UMC is disintegrating

Trust serves as the glue that holds any society together. We trust that others will obey the traffic laws, will pay their fair share of taxes, will be faithful to their spouses, will respect one another’s property, will contribute a proportionate amount to the common good. When that trust is betrayed, the wounds go deep and heal poorly, if at all. In 2015, I was in Costa Rica for a Pacific Coast sunset wedding at a small, remote place called… Read more

Unanswered prayer, lies and more lies

I left Evangelicalism mostly because of lies about how God answers prayer and keeps all faithful Christians safe. Those lies clear God of all responsibility for human horrors but still insist He (always “he”) stays in total control of everything. Dear Thoughtful Pastor: What good is prayer, in a practical sense?  When I try to pray for the nation these days, I remember the many people who prayed for their lives during WWII.  What use is prayer, at the doors… Read more

The Megachurch Infection

The megachurch infection may lead to the eventual death of Christian connection, also known as the church. Let me explain. In 2014/2015, I did a series of “Mystery Worships” where I visited a different church each week and wrote a newspaper column about it. After noting a “meh” response to one church we attended, I thought I’d better analyze what happened. In truth, the worship itself was quite well done. A varying team accompanied me on those visits. Age range: pre-teen to… Read more

Do we want tight doctrinal standards or do we want to follow Jesus?

After spending much of 2014 and 2015 visiting churches, I have become increasingly aware that people flock to church groups with tight doctrinal standards. As many note, these still show growth both in the US and overseas. The more theologically progressive mainline denominations with looser doctrinal boundaries show declining numbers. The more rapidly growing churches rarely ordain women and, as a rule, exclude females from top-level decision-making bodies. Many are almost viciously anti-gay; others offer a limited welcome to the gay/lesbian population, making… Read more

Help! Did Jesus ever laugh?

The audience, weary of burdens and regulations laid upon them by pompous Pharisees, would have tears of laughter at the “swallowing-the-camel” image. Dear Thoughtful Pastor: My son laughed in church when he heard the New Testament reading of Jesus chiding Peter about his lack of faith after he was the only one with enough faith to trust Jesus’s invitation to walk on water to reach him and started to sink when he was within arm’s reach of Jesus. A concordance… Read more

Hypocrisy, shame, politics and religion

Hypocrisy is the ultimate death blow, whether it be politics or religion. And in the US, the two are inextricably linked together. Shame on us both. From the full article reprinted below, this comment leaped off the page: One Republican bundler who has worked closely with the Republican National Committee in the past was incensed, saying that Trump had actually done the very things that conservatives had fretted Hillary Clinton might hypothetically do — intentionally or not — when it… Read more

The village idiot and the nature of greed: reflections on Donald Trump

Trump serves as the village idiot, speaking the truth while he masks it in his web of unending lies and mental craziness. We need that truth-teller. Even the “We love everything Trump and think the GOP can do no wrong” Wall Street Journal had this as its front page headline: “Trump Shared Secrets With Russians.” The article is behind a paywall, but the first paragraph reads: President Donald Trump shared sensitive intelligence obtained from a close U.S. ally with Russia’s foreign… Read more

Right-handers=Good; Left-handers=Evil

The dominant world enriches itself endlessly when it makes room for the less-dominant to have a voice. Those on the margins: left-handed, minority, poor, mentally and physically challenged, non-cis-gendered—anything that is different from the dominant, mainstream culture—have voices that must be heard and embraced. Right-handers comprise 85-90% of human population. Many tools—table saws, scissors, manual can openers, for example—are nearly impossible for left handers to use properly. Don’t believe me? All you right-handers out there: pick up a pair of… Read more

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