I am sick of American Christianity. Not all of it, perhaps, but a great deal of it. I know that is an intemperate remark, but when it comes to the character of American Christianity in this election year, the last thing I am is temperate. I am sick to death of a religious system that is not worthy of the name it bears.
The most important stone in the foundation of Christian faith is the bedrock belief that the infinite and omnipotent God has come to us in Jesus Christ in order to make it possible for us humans to be reconciled to God. That is either the most magnificent reality which it has ever been the privilege of the human mind to contemplate or the biggest pile of rubbish ever foisted on a gullible public. Continue reading →
I hate Sundays. Wait, I should be a bit more temperate and not so indiscriminate with a term I tell my grandson not to use. So I’ll re-phrase. I really, really dislike Sundays with a visceral aversion akin to hatred. I approach this day with a combination of dread and loathing so intense I know it will generate a bile in my inward parts that I can almost taste. Several times today I will wonder why I am gritting my teeth so hard that my head hurts. Then I will remember. Oh yeah, it’s Sunday.
If it were possible to go to sleep on Saturday night and not wake up until Monday morning, I would happily take that option. Sundays are just too disheartening, frustrating, and painful. Continue reading →
Standing in line at his favorite downtown coffee shop, Arthur waited to order and pay for his overpriced beverage with the fancy name. At times he thought the use of foreign terms and phrases to describe the sizes and contents of the variations on the theme of coffee to be pretentious. Today, he was feeling a bit more mellow, however, and he had to admit that caffè latte, caffè mocha, and macchiato sounded a lot classier than simply coffee with different additives.
As he stood at the condiments bar, stirring milk into his caffè Americano (espresso with hot water added), his peripheral vision caught sight of a familiar figure. Ralph Gruben lived not far from Stauf’s Coffee House. Even though Arthur lived more than thirty miles away, for three years he had worked out of an office in a building just around the corner from Stauf’s. He spent a lot of time in that quirky coffee shop during those years, and as often as not, he would see Ralph at his favorite table in the corner, often reading but sometimes simply lost in his own thoughts. Continue reading →
Six years ago, on the Sunday before Thanksgiving 2008, while sitting at a corner table at Panera Bread in Dublin, OH, I wrote an essay, later posted as a note on my Facebook page, which I called “I Quit.” I remember the date because I was on my way to the hospital to spend time with my wife who was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Actually, she was in the hospital because the chemotherapy she had been undergoing for three months had made her so sick, she needed more care and attention than I was able to provide for her at home. Continue reading →
For sixty years, Christian faith of the conservative and evangelical variety was a foundational element and a formative influence in my life. More than that, and—practically speaking—more important than that, for nearly forty years, it was an essential factor in the way I made my living. As a pastor, a parachurch executive, and a Bible college instructor, one of my tasks was to defend and propagate a fairly specific set of beliefs and the system of biblical interpretation which produced them.
That is not to say that the character and content of that list of doctrines never varied over the years. It is only to say that I understood, if mainly subconsciously, that any significant variation could have consequences. Not least was the possibility that I could lose my job. Continue reading →
Regular readers of this blog are aware that The Relentless Pursuit is on an extended hiatus. I first announced that in a post which I published on June 24. In that post I indicated that I would not return to this medium, i. e. blogging, “until I reach a place in my ‘relentless pursuit’ where I can begin to see the purpose for the trek I have been taking.” I have not yet reached that place.
I further wrote that “if and when I return to this medium, it will signify that I have begun to emerge from the darkness which has characterized my pilgrimage for so long.” I’m not sure that I have made significant progress in that regard.
I have, however, returned to blogging, but in a new and different blog with a new and different purpose. This post is the one and only time I will use this blog to promote and publicize the new one. Continue reading →
I have decided to take a break from blogging for a while.
Until I reach a place in my “relentless pursuit” where I can begin to see the purpose for the trek I have been taking, I believe it is best for this blog and my online voice to fall silent. After all, I did write a post, not that long ago, in which I told the story of the abbot who noted that the monks in his monastery agreed they would not speak unless, by speaking, they could improve on the silence. At the moment, it seems that what I have to say is no improvement on silence. It is time for me to heed the abbot’s counsel.
If and when I return to this medium, it will signify that I have begun to emerge from the darkness which has characterized my pilgrimage for so long. I surrendered my life to the service of the Kingdom of God more than forty-five years ago. I have wanted to finish strong. My only hope of accomplishing that is to impose the discipline of silence upon myself for a time.
Thanks for reading what I have written over the past 20 months. I have enjoyed the experience, and I hope I have been somewhat helpful to at least some of you who have been my loyal readers.
Over the past couple of days, after I acknowledged how close I have come to being completely overwhelmed by my circumstances and called on my friends to voice a prayer in my behalf, many have responded with a brief word of assurance that they are doing just that. I am so grateful.
Some have offered words of counsel and a few have suggested a specific pattern of behavior designed, I assume, to encourage me to take proactive steps to extract myself from this “slough of despond.” I truly believe that all this counsel and all these suggestions emerge out of the purest of motives and are shared by people of integrity and compassion. Again, I am grateful. Continue reading →
I was twenty-eight, serving as pastor of a small, rural congregation in upstate New York, about 40 miles southeast of Buffalo. I had preached a dozen or more funerals by that time in my ministry, but I had never lost anyone really close to me. Then on a snowy Monday night in January, the phone rang, and I learned that one of the elders in my church, a man who, in less than a year, had become as dear to me as any member of my own family, had been killed in an automobile crash. It was the first time in my life I had ever felt the exquisite pain of grief so intense I could barely breathe. The anguish I felt was almost physical. My heart ached, but though my faith faltered, ultimately I did not lose hope. Continue reading →
Apart from a podcast and a sermon audio, I have published only one blogpost in almost four weeks. For the handful of readers who really care about things like that, today’s post will explain why.
To begin with, here are two stories, each making essentially the same point but from slightly different perspectives.
The first is one we’ve all heard in one form or another. Two friends meet and begin to chat. After a time, the first guy asks the second guy what he thinks of a man, to whom he was only recently introduced, but whom his friend has known well for years. Continue reading →