Showing posts from April, 2017

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…

A Modest Proposal In Response to a Modest Proposal

As long-time readers know, I often engage with the work of Ross Douthat, New York Times columnist.  And, often, I disagree with what Douthat has to say, especially when he talks about religion (I mostly disagree with his politics takes as well, but I rarely find them worth talking about).  Sometimes I have a laugh with/at the expense of Mr. Douthat.  But this Sunday's column was the first time I really got mad reading a Douthat column.  But, the key was I wasn't sure why I was mad--it just rubbed me the wrong way.  And, upon reading it again, while I understand what about it rubbed me the wrong way, I think Douthat is basically right.  And so, in the spirit of the column, I would like to offer a Modest Proposal of my own to go in tandem with Ross's Modest Proposal.

Douthat's premise for the column is that the kinds of educated, "coastal elites" that in the main read the New York Times really should start going to the more progressive Protestant churches, gene…

Quick Hitter: Some More Thoughts on Context and Carl's Comment

On the recent post on contextual theology, reader "Carl" left a good comment that I started to address as a response comment, but it began to get very long so I decided to split it off into a separate short post.  Carl's concern, in the main, was that embracing the idea of contextual theology leaves you in a position where you have no basis for ruling out bad or destructive theologies, since everything has contextual value.

My first response is to say that affirming the contextual reality of theological positions and systems doesn't mean that there is no content to the theological systems that you have.  Theology may come from a place, but the place that it comes from is not the sum and substance of the theology.  Black theology and feminist theology make very specific and concrete claims about the nature of Christian truth that go far beyond "African-Americans and women have a place in theological discourse and in the church."  Even in the narrow world of …

The Shape of Progressive Theology, Part 3--Rejecting the Salvation Industrial Complex

I am going to vary up the order a little bit, since we find ourselves in Holy Week, making this topic especially relevant.  And, I am going to approach this topic from something of a round-about direction.

In the March 30th episode of the Inglorious Pasterds podcast, Michael, Brad, and Matt had a long and excellent conversation about "manliness" and the overwrought and toxic versions of manliness that is endemic in both our secular culture and in much of our Christian religious culture.  It is an outstanding conversation that covers a wide range of issues--parenting, Trump, psychology, gender roles--and I would highly encourage everyone to check it out.

At one point in the conversation, the guys were talking about listening to another dude complain that his wife wasn't having sex with him as much as this guy would have liked.  "I don't get it," the no-sex dude recounted, "I do these things for her, and she still won't put out."  "Maybe t…

The Shape of Progressive Theology, Part 2--Context

All theology is contextual. Don't let anyone tell you that yours is contextual just because you're a minority. — Broderick L Greer (@BroderickGreer) April 2, 2017
Rev. Greer, in a short and pithy tweet, sums up the substance of the second big idea in progressive theology—all theology is contextual theology.  Upon further reflection, I have come to believe that this principle represents the biggest departure from the theology that has come before, and the biggest challenge to our more conservative brothers and sisters.  The fighting that we see between “conservative” or “liberal” has its origin and draws its strength from this divide.

To begin, we have to talk about what contextual theology is.  In general use, and this is the thing Greer is challenging, contextual theology is used as a catch-all category for theological projects that come out of, and are explicitly done in reference to, some particular group of people who are coming out of some particular experience.  So, for…

The Shape of Progressive Theology, Part 1--Experience

I've been thinking about the last post discussing Tim Keller and the importance of progressive Christian theology (thanks to Bill for his kind words about the post).  One of the biggest problems, I think, is that many people don't really believe there is such a thing as progressive Christian theology.  Certainly, conservatives take it as an article of faith that there is no such thing as a rigorous progressive Christian theology.  But as I pointed out in the last post, I think many people who consider themselves progressive Christians don't really believe that there is a progressive theology--they are progressive in spite of theology, not because of it.

What is ironic and unfortunate about that is how untrue it is.  One of the things that has really shocked me in my faith journey over the course of the last six or seven years or so is how many people are working on these questions, doing work that is really grappling with the issues of the modern world in an honest and pro…