July 22, 2017

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

July 16, 2017

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

July 11, 2017

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

July 6, 2017

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

June 20, 2017

Recent Anti-Shari’a demonstrations hosted by ACT for America have shown us once again that there is a highly mobilized and extremely ignorant and fearful group of Islamophobes. They are ever ready to sling their manhood over their shoulders, and come when their masters whistle and promise to feed them lies. So maybe some truth is in order. The term shari’a in Arabic has at least 5 meanings. If you visit Israel or Arabic speaking countries you will see street signs in... Read more

June 4, 2017

When the choices seem simple its probably because you’ve already stepped in it and just need to get out. Recently Jeff Greenway of the Wesleyan Covenant Association posted a short historical rational for their work. https://wesleyancovenant.org/the-bible-is-true/. In a recent blog Professor Steven Tuell sought to explain why the Wesleyan Covenant Association claims about the “clear meaning of the Bible” don’t hold water. http://um-insight.net/perspectives/pennsylvania-scholar-refutes-wca-statement/ That little exchange says a lot about the deepest problems in the UMC today. Let’s take Jeff Greenway’s... Read more

June 1, 2017

A recent Wall Street Journal editorial declared that civil discourse is in decline, with dire consequences.( https://www.wsj.com/articles/civil-discourse-in-decline-where-does-it-end-1496071276) I wonder what they are really mourning. In his book Airborne William Buckley tells a story of sailing in (I believe) the Bahamas when he comes into an anchorage where he sees the yacht of Dr. Benjamin Spock, one of his chief enemies in what he calls “the culture wars.” So of course he prepares a formal invitation to cocktails and has his son take... Read more

May 24, 2017

The “Dr.” on my calling card represents a PhD in history from the University of Malaya, focusing on Southeast Asia. When you are historian of non-Western cultures working in a non-Western university there are a couple of things you should recognize early. First that different cultures are really different. Reading primary sources, even in translation but certainly in the original languages, offers more than enough evidence that the ways in which different cultures frame the human experience lead not only... Read more

May 23, 2017

Who can object to an effort to affirm both faith and learning! We sang Praise the Source of Faith and Learning  in our graduation services at Perkins School of Theology. Perfect for university related theology school, right? (Complete lyrics below) Except. Except that last section of the third verse. “May our learning curb the error, which unthinking faith can breed, lest we justify some terror, with an antiquated creed.“ One can see where this hymn is coming from. The mind, engaged scientifically with discovering... Read more

May 15, 2017

Am I fearfully and wonderfully made? I learned at age 59 that I had possessed all those years a congenital defect in the aortic valve. My identical twin brother had a normal aortic valve. Why me? Don’t think this isn’t consequential. My special valve will inevitably fail faster than a normal valve, and in failing it affects how I live now and in the future. I’ll face decisions others don’t face and will face challenges and dangers others don’t face.... Read more

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