Conservative Christianity’s Descent Into Cultural Irrelevancy

Any group or movement loses credibility when its most basic claims and assumptions prove false or unreliable. Psychics, for example, are ridiculed when they purport to discern the future for paying clients but cannot predict winning lottery numbers or positive stock market trends for themselves. Similarly, faith healers are derided when they exercise their “gift” only in glitzy auditoriums–where they collect large offerings from gullible followers–and never in pediatric cancer hospitals. Continue reading

A Little Farther Down the Path: The Road to Someplace Beautiful

Everybody faces tough times and difficult circumstances in life. For some, the pain seems deeper and more severe than for others, the episodes more frequent. But discouragement, disappointment, and pain—whether physical, financial, or emotional—visit us all at one time or another. Bad things happen to good people as well as to bad, the rain falls on both the just and the unjust, and the only constant in all of this is that nobody is immune.

After a lifetime relatively free of trauma, apart from periodic bouts of near-debilitating depression, things changed for me in 2007-08. The bottom fell out, and it was my turn to walk through some dark valleys. They were horrible, awful, painful years filled with one bit of bad news after another. Continue reading

A Little Farther Down the Path: The Day the Revolution Began

On Wednesday, March 1 (Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent) I published a blog post that outlined the plan for my Lenten discipline this year. That plan called for a series of fourteen blog posts, each one dealing with a separate title from my shelf of new books to be read (or, in a couple of cases, to be finished). If you haven’t read that introductory post, which includes a list of all fourteen titles, you can find it here.

Fourteen books in seven weeks, and I almost made it. I published posts on the first twelve. Regarding the last two, here is the text of my Facebook post for Monday, April 17, the day after Easter Sunday and the end of Lent.

I finished the reading I had committed to completing during Lent, but I still have a blog post to publish on each of the final two titles. My grandson was under the weather a few days last week, and grandpop duties (and privileges) took precedence over blog post writing. I will publish those two posts (and maybe another one to survey, summarize, and wrap up the series of fourteen books), and then I’m going to go dark for a month. I need some time to think about some stuff and maybe make some fairly major decisions. I only wanted those of you who read my blog to know that I will finish the series a few days late. Peace.

Well, it’s more than a few days late, but I have not forgotten my public pledge to write two more posts referencing the final two of those fourteen titles. In fact, I privately determined that I would publish nothing else on my blog until I had made good on my Lenten pledge. Continue reading

A Little Farther Down the Path: Healing Spiritual Wounds

I am not a medical professional, but I assume that, if an individual shows up at the emergency room in excruciating pain from some sort of injury, the first order of business is to ease the pain so that the injured party can assist the attending physician in determining the cause and extent of the injury, thereby abetting treatment and eventual healing. The same procedure applies to pain inflicted through psychological and spiritual injury as well. Continue reading

A Little Farther Down the Path: The Great Spiritual Migration

I am not the same person I was twenty, fifteen, or even ten years ago. Neither are you, although for some of us, the differences are more stark, more startling, especially when they involve, as they do in my case, changes in fundamental beliefs arising from a change in many of the presuppositions that underlie my worldview. As I’ve written so often that it almost sounds cliché (at least to me), if you change your underlying presuppositions about life and reality, your belief structure is bound to change, and you will draw significantly different conclusions about priorities, meaning, and how you should live your life. Continue reading

Lent 2017: A Little Farther Down the Path

As someone wisely said, regarding the potential benefits from observing the season of Lent, “It’s not the deprivation, it’s the discipline.” (Oh wait, I think it was me, so it can’t be all that wise. Still, it is true.) The benefits of Lent don’t come from what we give up but, rather, from what we learn—about ourselves, about the world around us, about God and ultimate reality—through some sort of focused, intentional experience.

On the church-year calendar, Lent (from the Old English word for springtime) is the 40-day period, excluding Sundays, leading up to Easter. It represents the forty days Jesus spent alone in the wilderness, following his baptism, during which he was “tempted by the devil” as part of his preparation for the ministry that lay ahead of him. Since Jesus fasted from food for the duration, his followers have traditionally deprived themselves of some commodity or activity as a way of identifying with Jesus and preparing for the observance of Passion Week and the celebration of Easter. Continue reading

From A Distance

It would be hard to find someone more predisposed to the Christian religion than I am. I grew up going to church every Sunday, and I didn’t hate it. In fact, by the time I was in my late teens, I was certain God had “called” me to devote my life to the service of the church and the gospel. That is what I have done. I have been ordained in three different denominations, and I have friends in virtually every major tradition of the church from the fundamentalist right to the progressive left.

I have looked at the church from almost every imaginable perspective. I’ve seen the best and the worst, things that make me proud and things that make me ashamed, things that make me smile broadly and things that make me weep uncontrollably. I’ve seen the church be a place where people experience joy and delight, and I’ve seen it cause intense pain and do grievous harm. Continue reading