Showing posts from 2017

The Two Kinds of Pro-Lifers

Something of a recurring theme on this blog is my war stories from Catholic middle school and high school, as seen hereand hereand here and also here.  In doing so, I know I am presenting that experience in the worst possible light.  I got a very solid education during those six years, and I know I would not be where I am, and who I am, without the middle school and especially high school experience I had.  So, when I tell negative stories about that experience, there should be an unspoken caveat that, on balance, my experience was very positive.

With that necessary caveat out of the way, I have another high school story, one that relates to a story in the news.  Maddi Runkles is an 18 year old senior at Heritage Academy in Hagerstown, Maryland.  Runkles is also pregnant, and as a result of her pregnancy, she was not allowed (or will not be allowed--it's not clear from the story when graduation will be) to participate in graduation ceremonies.  I have seen some commentary suggesti…

The Intervention that Failed

I have a friend who is going through a tough time.  Her sister is an alcoholic, and she and the rest of the family are trying to get the sister into treatment.  I am very fortunate that I have never experienced alcoholism or addiction in my family or friends, so I have no direct experience of what my friend is going through.  But in listening to my friend talk about the difficulties she and her family were having, I was struck by the parallels with something that I have experience with--mental illness.

The biggest difficulty in talking with people who are in the grip of mental illness is that you can't rationally convince them that what they are doing is illogical or self-destructive.  That's because, as I have said before, the nature of mental illness is that it creates a filter through which everything is seen and experienced.  You can't convince people that what they are doing is illogical, because as seen through their distorted lens, everything they are doing is perfe…

The Exodus

I found this poem this morning, in the Twitter feed of Rev. Jordan Haynie Ware, an Episcopal priest in the diocese of Fort Worth, Texas (who, as an aside, wrote a really cool book, The Ultimate Quest, which explains the Liturgy and theology of the Episcopal Church in terms of Star Wars and Dungeons & Dragons, which could not possibly be more in my wheel-house).  The poem is by Dave Barnhart, a United Methodist Church pastor in Birmingham, Alabama.

The poem has haunted me all day--I can't get it out of my mind.  It says in the clearest possible way the things I was trying to say in my post from last week about how things have changed.  Rev. Barnhart zeroes in on something that I think many of us haven't really had the courage to say, but we need to say in these days--as he says in the poem "I have seen your christ, and he is my antichrist."  There is a fear, a reasonable fear, of becoming every bit as judgmental and narrow and performatively-apocalyptic as the po…

Remembering a Story

It's funny how you remember stories from your past.  You can forget something for years and years, and all of the sudden it comes back to you.  I am not a neuroscientist or cognitive researcher, but I have a theory as to why that is.  The stories are all there in the enormous filing system that is your brain, but you can't really access it because there is no context or significance attached to the story.  But then something happens that puts a significance onto that story, and the story gets flagged and comes to the surface.  The story becomes prominent in your memory because you understand it to be important to the story of your life, and how you see the world.

Here's an example of a story like that, one that I hadn't thought about in a long time.

My 8th grade year was really, really lousy.  I get that Middle School is tough for most people--maybe everyone--but my 8th grade year was one weird and dislocating event after another.  In September, my youngest sister was …

The Shape of Progressive Theology, Epilogue

I hope the Holy Spirit descends on you like fire. I hope it for all of us. Come, Lord Jesus. — Preston Yancey (@prestonyancey) May 4, 2017
Something has changed in the last six months.  Can you feel it?  Because I can.

See, here's how it worked prior to the coming of Trump.  There were people that called themselves progressive Christians, who voted for more or less progressive parties in political elections (which, in the United States, means the Democratic Party).  They often shook their heads at some of their co-religionists, at some of the political and social positions they took, and tried to do what they could to limit or mitigate the damage they saw those positions causing.  But, at the end of the day, these progressive Christian folks believed in a "big tent," and in the slow and steady approach to getting their co-religionist to come around.

Then you had the conservatives.  Often, perhaps regularly, they would say that the progressive Christians were not really …

The Shape of Progressive Theology, Part 6--Christian Realism

After going through five previous ideas ("Experiental Priority," "Contextual Theology,""Rejecting the Salvation Industrial Complex,""Franciscan Hermaneutics," and "Christ versus Empire") we come to the last one, "Christian Realism."  "Christian Realism" is, to the best of my knowledge, a term that I made up.  But it reflects an idea that is fundamental, if often unspoken, to the way you approach everything you might encounter when talking about religion, and in particular the way that theology interacts with the rest of the world (which, basically, is everything).  In its simplest terms, makes the claim that the physical world is (1) intelligible; (2) real [as opposed to the product of our imaginations]; and (3) ultimately the creation of God.  The theological touchstone for Christian Realism is a well-known quote by the great medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas--"all that is true, by whomsoever it has been said…

A Reflection on "Right Bodies"

We have discussed this before: Some people actually mean "right body" when they say "orthodox". — Broderick Greer (@BroderickGreer) April 27, 2017
Yesterday in the Twitterverse, or at least in the portion of the Twitterverse I interact with, there was a long discussion of an article by Rev. Tish Harrison Warren, a priest of the Anglican Church of North America (which is relevant to this discussion, but more on that later).  The claim of the article is that the Christian blogosphere (which, I suppose I should disclose in case it wasn't obvious, includes me, I guess) is run a muck because all sorts of people are writing things without being subject to proper authority.  And the person offered as the poster-child for this problem was Jen Hatmaker.  I will confess to not being familiar with her work prior to yesterday, but evidently Hatmaker recently come out in support of LGBT relationships in a Christian context, provoking the now-predictable backlash.

The teno…

Quick Hitter: Extreme Make-Over Home Edition

I stumbled across a post by Peter Enns, which basically uses more or less the same analogy I tried to use when I talked about Bob Villa.  Great minds think alike, I suppose, which would put me in very good company.  In the comments section to the post, a number of people took the analogy offered by Enns for a spin and tried to tell their faith stories in terms of home renovation projects.  In that spirit, I figured I would tell my own story of my old house and my new house.

I had a very old family house.  Despite its age, it had been lovingly taken care of, so that it didn't have nearly as many structural problems as some of the houses that Enns mentions.  In particular, the internal structure of the house--the foundation, the walls, the floors, etc.--was very solid, or at least that was what the home inspectors who came in told me, and they seemed thorough, so I believe them.  And the house had enormous charm, things you couldn't find any more in any new house.  I loved that…

The Shape of Progressive Theology, Part 5--Christ versus Empire

Christianity came into existence in a very specific historical context--in the midst of a people who were part of the Roman Empire.  Rome in the early 30s A.D. was not at the absolute peak of its power (that would come about one hundred years later), but Rome was certainly in its ascendancy, and it was the most powerful empire in the history of the Mediterranean region up to that point.  Like all empires before and since, Roman power ultimately was grounded in overwhelming military might--its legions were everywhere, its naval power made the Mediterranean a "Roman lake."  But it wasn't just military power--Rome was also the masters of what we would now call "soft power," in the form of political power and influence, cultural power, economic power.  These forms of power were interrelated and mutually reinforcing--economic power facilitated and funded military power, while military power kept the peace that prevented economic disruptions; the power of Rome made i…

The Shape of Progressive Theology, Part 4--St. Francis and the Incarnation

The Rule and life of these brothers is this: namely, to live in obedience and chastity, and without property, and to follow the doctrine and footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ, who says: "If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come, follow Me." And: "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me;" in like manner: "If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple."  "And everyone that hath left father or mother, brothers or sisters, or wife, or children or lands, for My sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting."

--First Rule of the Friars Minor, Paragraph 1 (~1212 A.D.)

To outside observers, the notion that Christianity should have a focus on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ would se…