January 10, 2020

I had a powerful mystical encounter today while I was talking with a friend and later reflecting on our conversation as I walked the prayer labyrinth at Audubon Park. I want to try to relate what I think I received hopefully without too many careless heresies when my words fail to capture the strange wonder that I experienced. The basic realization is this: Christian discipleship is becoming the breath of God. It is living in the complete belovedness of our… Read more

January 6, 2020

[Mike Pompeo: U.S. Department of State, Public Domain] Donald Trump may not be an evangelical Christian, but his administration is filled with evangelicals who have weekly Bible studies together. One such evangelical Mike Pompeo, our Secretary of State, said about Iran that “force is the only language they respond to.” When I hear this statement, I don’t just hear crass political speak. Within it is a theological appraisal of human nature. It’s an application of a popular evangelical doctrine of… Read more

January 4, 2020

I first became a licensed local pastor in July 2010. Over the course of the past decade, I have tried a whole lot of things as a pastor, and very few of them turned out the way that I planned or hoped. Thus you could say it’s been a decade of failures. I don’t intend that to be negative or self-pitying. Sometimes I actually made mistakes which taught me specific lessons; most often the circumstances and decisions of other people… Read more

December 13, 2019

My buddy Jason Micheli recently wrote about the gap between the Christianities of conservative evangelical journalist David French and Episcopalian presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. He was quoting an article in which French was trying to explain the difference between his evangelical faith and Buttigieg’s mainline faith. The main point of distinction French saw was in their understanding of salvation. French quotes Buttigieg in a Rolling Stones interview saying, “My faith teaches me that salvation has to do with how I… Read more

December 5, 2019

We live in an age in which actual conservative principles have been buried by tribal political discourse. There is such a thing as a valid and valuable conservatism that exists apart from things like patriarchy, white nationalism, and social Darwinist capitalism. There is a way of thinking that insists on prioritizing values like integrity, honor, and discipline rather than thinking the end always justifies the means and it’s okay to fudge the numbers if your intentions are good. True conservative… Read more

November 13, 2019

As United Methodism approaches our denominational apocalypse at the May 2020 General Conference, I’ve come across a lot of hand-wringing about our theological identity, namely that we don’t have a clear identity and that’s the whole problem. I understand the angst; Methodism for the next several months will continue to be the largest remaining Protestant mainline denomination that hasn’t split between conservatives and progressives. But this past February, I went on a lay-led Cursillo retreat with a mostly conservative crowd… Read more

October 30, 2019

My therapist told me something last week that blew my mind. The Hebrew word rafa that gets translated as “Be still” in the famous Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God,” can also be translated to mean “Let it fall.” Those two phrases are so utterly different in their connotation. For a neurotic like me, “Be still” is the one thing that’s almost impossible for me to do, so it always feels shaming to hear it. But… Read more

October 9, 2019

A recent drama in Christian Twitter (several news cycles ago) involved the circulation of a ghastly-looking tweet put out by Calvinist pastor John Piper’s Desiring God website. It seems to expose the hideousness of the Calvinist God whose mandatory “joy” that he’s “serious about” is like the forced applause of a North Korean standing ovation for dear leader Kim Jong Un. And yet… having some sense of the intent of the theological point, I can shockingly almost get behind it… Read more

September 17, 2019

One of the most uncomfortable and least talked about parables of Jesus is his parable of the wineskins. Jesus says that new wine cannot be poured into old wineskins without bursting them; it requires new wineskins. The implications of this parable for the continuity of apostolic tradition are highly problematic. Which is why they are usually qualified, explained away, and bracketed. Otherwise Jesus’ parable might be held guilty of Marcionism, the heresy that says Christianity must throw away the old… Read more

August 20, 2019

I’m not the best person at parsing through details. Right now I’m in the thick of a new school year in a campus ministry building that is still a disaster after a summer flood and I’m hiring dozens of new student workers, so my mind is swirling with all that. I have noticed a lot of commentary about two proposals for what needs to happen in United Methodism’s future: a UMC Next proposal that is being championed by centrists and… Read more

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