January 2, 2023

People often either love or hate the Bible.  Those who love it sometimes love it with a rather simple kind of love. They swallow it whole—or at least they swallow whole what their pastors and other respected spiritual authority figures tell them about it. And those who hate it—well, they see the (very real and valid) problems with it, and with how it has been used. And they want nothing to do with it.  Of course, not everyone falls in... Read more

December 28, 2022

Recently I’ve been exploring the question: When we read the Bible, what are we looking for? One angle is that we’re looking for guidance. Another is that—at our best, at least—we’re looking to avoid authoritarianism. So if we are looking for guidance, in some form, but we are looking to avoid authoritarianism—what, then, are we really looking for? What kind of guidance? What kind of non-authoritarian values, beliefs, and practices? I would like to suggest this: When we read the... Read more

December 20, 2022

Looking to the Bible for guidance, as I wrote about last week, is a little more complex than it might seem.  One part of the complexity is this: The idea of looking to the Bible for guidance can easily get twisted. In particular, it can get twisted into authoritarianism.  Or, authoritarian leaders can twist it to uphold their own oversized authority. This is a problem. How, then, do we read the Bible for guidance but avoid authoritarianism? Biblical: A Magical... Read more

December 16, 2022

These days, to me, the Bible is both holy and confusing. It’s inspired, and it’s complex—and taking it seriously means something much more complicated (but also much more hopeful and interesting) than reading it as literal instructions straight from God to us. In this world of ambiguity, some questions arise. If the Bible can mean so many different things to different people—and to different churches and denominations, not to mention different racial groups, ethnic groups, socioeconomic classes, genders, sexualities, and... Read more

December 12, 2022

As 2022 comes to a close, many people start thinking about New Year’s resolutions for 2023. What does it look like to do so as a person of faith? How do we connect our religious or spiritual traditions with our hopes and dreams for a new year? How do we make religious New Year’s resolutions? Connect to Your Purpose Religion, at its best, connects us with our deepest sense of purpose in our world. As we consider what New Year’s... Read more

December 9, 2022

I was in a church class, and we were discussing a controversial issue. Part of the conversation involved some of the relevant Bible passages and the different ways people understand these passages. For some, the interpretive questions were too much. One person in the class—an older man, and an elder at the church—threw up his hands and said, “It’s inspired!” As if this were a statement to end all conversation.  As in: It’s inspired; therefore it must be taken at... Read more

December 7, 2022

“The Bible is our middle name,” I told the group of college students seated around a table. I smiled as they got it.  It was a literal reference to the name of the church where I was working in college ministry in my twenties. Let’s call it “Faith Bible Church.” “Bible” solidly in the middle. “We really take scripture seriously,” I said. “It centers everything we do.” The students nodded along.  Taking the Bible Seriously Can Mean a Million Different... Read more

December 1, 2022

Crises of authority can come in many different forms. But most people who seriously reexamine their faith and beliefs encounter some sort of crisis of authority at some point in their journey.  What does spiritual authority look like? What do I want it to look like? Who do I listen to? Who do I believe? How are my views on all of this changing—and is that okay? This can be difficult territory. When we experience a crisis of authority, it... Read more

November 29, 2022

This is a companion post to last week’s reflections on faith as more of a practice than a set of beliefs. So, feel free to go there first if you haven’t had a chance yet. I want to add something to those reflections. I want to say that there are times when clarity of belief is important. So important.  Exclusion and Inclusion When I wrote last week about belief statements that bother me, I was thinking primarily of statements I’d... Read more

November 22, 2022

I often find religious organizations’ statements of belief alienating. How does a living, breathing, growing faith relate to a rigid, overly-specific belief statement? Are these the best terms to frame it in? What if faith is more of a practice—an ever-evolving faithful way of life—than a delineation of doctrine? Belief Statements and Belonging I’m especially irked when organizations require individuals to sign off on their belief statements. If I can sign a statement and become a member of a group,... Read more

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