9/11 – Time to Get Along

In my most recent posts about Sri Lanka, and in an OpEd in Saturday’s StarTribune, I’ve been reflecting on how Christians, when we’re in the minority, seem to act better. Now, it was just one experience in one country, but it was striking.

Today, the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the U.S., is a good day to reflect on how we deal with those of other religions. Was 9/11 a religious attack? At least in part it was. Religious extremists, to be sure, but religious nonetheless. (And there are extremists in Christianity, too.)

On the occasion of this anniversary, there is a new book that I think will help many Christians think through how they maintain their Christian identity — even uniqueness — in an increasingly pluralistic world.

This is not a book about interfaith dialogue. This is a book about Christian identity. It’s Brian McLaren’s new book, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World.

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If a Liberal Falls in the Forest, Does Anyone Hear?

Fred Clark brings our attention to a statement released by liberal Christian leaders:

So yesterday, more than 60 Christian leaders released a statement “expressing their strong opposition to any legislative proposal that fails to extend the 2009 improvements made to refundable tax credits such as the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit.”

I’m quoting there from Nick Sementelli of the progressive Christian group Faith in Public Life. Pretty much have to quote from a group like that because statements like this are mostly otherwise ignored by cable news and the rest of the media — the same media who eagerly report and repeat every utterance from the religious right.

I’ve searched Google News for an article about this statement, or for a photo. Nothing. Nada. There is the video above, with a grand total of 38 views, posted by the group itself.

Fred expresses consternation that the mainstream media is ignoring this statement, noting that these leaders (including several of my friends, like Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren), represent 45 million Americans.

He ends by asking, “Why isn’t this ‘newsworthy’?”

Well, Fred, it’s not newsworthy because it’s not interesting. It’s boring. I mean, seriously, just watch the video.

That doesn’t mean it’s not important. But importance doesn’t translate to newsworthy. Just ask Neil Postman.

And not that there’s anything wrong with boring. Lots of things that we do every day are boring, and un-newsworthy. But this was meant to be newsworthy, and it wasn’t.

If a few dozen evangelicals meet on a Texas ranch to decide whether Mitt Romney is a real Christian, you can bet there’ll be news choppers circling overhead.

Liberals are boring because they’re predictable, and predictable isn’t newsworthy. Also, liberals tend to be more nice, civil, and genteel. Those qualities, also, don’t work well on the nightly news.

So, fellow progressives, I ask you to be interesting, then you’ll be newsworthy.

Why Liberal Christianity (Too Often) Sucks

Photo by Courtney Perry (All rights reserved)

Among the most interesting memes floating around the blogosphere this summer is the will-liberal-christianity-survive-or-will-it-die-or-is-there-a-great-liberal-awakening-happening? meme. For those keeping score at home, Ross Douthat published a book and then wrote a much ballyhooed column for the NYTimes.

Then Diana Butler Bass, who also has a new book out, pushed back at HuffPo.

Then Douthat responded.

Now Scot McKnight has weighed in.

For those keeping score at home, Douthat is an avowed conservative and religious (Catholic) traditionalist. Butler Bass is a liberal Anglican who has, until her latest book, been a cheerleader for the sustainability of mainline denominations. McKnight is a left-leaning evangelical who has no truck with nor commitment to any denomination.

Here’s where I think they each score points:

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What Seminary Education Ought To Be [Part Two]

Tony, Brian, and Albert consult the map. (Photo by Courtney Perry)

I was fishing last evening with one of my friends/DMin students, and he said something interesting: “There seems to be no rivalry between you and Brian McLaren.”

We have talked some about rivalry this week, especially about Rene Girard’s view of rivalry, and of Jesus’ undermining of male-on-male rivalries. (More on that another time.)

“It’s true,” I responded, “I feel no rivalry with Brian. And I feel that he’s genuinely happy for any success I have.”

Academic institutions are notoriously rife with rivalries. As I reach my mid-forties, I have friends across academia who are vying for deanships and vice presidencies. Bloody battles are waged over such things.

I don’t mean to imply that all professors hope for the downfall of their colleagues. But academic departments do seem to exacerbate feelings of rivalry, in spite of their attempts at collegiality.

Teaching a class from a canoe and a campsite instill a dramatically different vibe, as you can imagine. Most days end with Brian and me — the two instructors — sharing a cup of coffee and some fishing. The environment of being in the wild and out of a classroom inculcates a fellowship that I just don’t think could be replicated inside a classroom.

What is your experience with academic rivalries? How have you seen them exacerbated and/or mitigated?

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