A link in honor of Martin Luther King Day

At Women in Theology, Amaryah Armstrong has a post critiquing the idea of “racial reconciliation”:

I want to be clear here that conflict resolution at an interpersonal level is important for life together, but the framework of reconciliation, even when it attempts to speak about justice, values the confession and the future to come above the present. Reconciliation displaces structural analysis for narratives of various experiences that end with a unity in Christ and a theological vision that is white. These narratives are used to imbue hope for the possibility of reconciliation but they actually prevent the possibility of ending white supremacy, anti-blackness, and racism because it is the supercessionist framework itself that is the problem. Reconciliation thus becomes a way of displacing structural dominance and oppression to the level of inter-personal conflict and confessions of privilege, moving our focus away from the ways Christianity itself structures racial domination and racial formation. Because reconciliation is never able to call Christianity itself into question as a problematic framework, only white people. Reconciliation continues to reproduce an inability to recognize itself as that which produces the division in the first place through its narration of identity as things to be superceded. Rather than clarifying relations of power, reconciliation mystifies them.

In addition to its intrinsic interest, her post includes many helpful links.

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Sermon: Duck Dynasty and the Separation of Church and Hate

I preached this sermon this morning, the readings are the lectionary for Christmastide 2, Jeremiah 31:1-14 and John 1:1-18.  The sermon led into a celebration of communion.

The prophet Jeremiah’s words characterizes the captors of the Jewish people, the Babylonians, as bullies, and celebrates that God keeps his promises, but only after God’s people recognize that they just can’t pay lip service to God, but that following God requires a real sacrifice.

This is perhaps the most important message of prophesy the church needs to hear today, as it was one of the most pervasive themes of the Old Testament prophets to the Jewish people.  The message remains the same, but the circumstances are very different.

I will return to this, but I want to talk about some things happening in the past month, during the season of Advent, as we continue through these twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany.

The philosopher Mary Daly’s most famous teaching is from her book, Beyond God the Father, written in the early 1970s, that “As long as God is male, the male is God.”  Her point is that the attributes we ascribe to God are often reflections of our own identities.  Read the rest of this entry »

Progressive Youth Ministry Conference: March, 2014, in Chicago

Two summers ago, at the Children, Youth, and a New Kind of Christianity conference in Washington, DC, our U of Chicago Div school delegation–Thomas Bowen, John Vest, and myself–gathered for barbeque after Tony Campolo’s entirely disappointing presentation, asking, what if practitioners and scholars really gathered to talk about religious education that didn’t pander to evangelicals and their publishing sponsors, and was blatantly unapologetically progressive in their approach to teaching Christianity in the 21st century? Read the rest of this entry »

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Leaving the Evangelical Borg Collective: Seven of Nine and Me

The Girlfriend and I continue to obey some obscure drive to watch all of Star Trek, and currently we’re in the sixth season of Voyager. One of the most controversial characters in that series was Seven of Nine, a liberated Borg drone who was added to the cast in the fourth season and dominated the storyline for most of the fourth and fifth seasons. (Shorter version: some people think it’s a shame she displaced established characters and believe that her physical appearance was an attempt to pander to the adolescent audience; on the other hand, though, she’s a great character performed by a great actress and, my God, it’s a Borg crew member and the Borg are cool.) I’ve noticed that I have a seemingly disproportionate investment in this ancient controversy — I will defend Seven of Nine to the death as a major improvement to the show. I’m starting to realize that part of the reason is that I identify closely with her struggle to define herself in relation to her Borg past and her uncertain future. She was assimilated at such a young age that she hadn’t yet developed an identity of her own and will never not be Borg (the implants are required for her survival now, and she still retains the vast knowledge she gained as a member of the Borg Collective), but she can also never go back.

The revelation came when the Voyager crew met a trader who offered to sell Seven some components that belonged to her old Borg unit — I turned to The Girlfriend and said, “If it was me, they’d be offering DC Talk albums from my old youth group.” Read the rest of this entry »

Methodist Church Trial This Week! Or: Nihilism, Homosexuality, Pennsylvania, Oath-taking, and Satan

In Sophocles’ Antigone our tragic heroine demonstrates to us what is regarded as one of the greatest moral principles of the Western world:  when the laws of the state require one to do something against one’s own religion, or when following one’s own religious beliefs become categorized as against the law, the right thing to do is to follow your religious practices above the laws of the state.  The legends of Socrates and Jesus, and their traditions, confirm and validate this virtue in the ancient world.

But what to do when religion causes one to break religious laws?  Christianity has always worked through the tensions of what happens when doctrine become dogma, and when either become enforced—sometimes enforced despite of or in spite of contradictory doctrine or flying in the face of tradition.

This is what is being played out in the church trial of a United Methodist pastor from Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, Rev. Frank Schaefer.  Read the rest of this entry »

Schedule for “Living Theology: Reclaiming the Pastor as Theologian,” 9/13/13

LIVING THEOLOGY:

reclaiming the pastor as theologian

the theological summit of the UCC 2030 Clergy Network

September 13, 2013, York County, PA

Schedule and Details

8:30 AM – Coffee

9 AM – Opening remarks; greetings

9:15 AM – Is Theology the Handmaiden of our Polity?:  Nihilism and the Return of the Public Theologian

Rev. Dr. Christopher Rodkey, St. Paul’s UCC, Dallastown, PA

10:15 AM – Theological and Ethical Considerations for Utilizing Psalms in Christian Worship

LauraBeth Jones Armstrong, St. Luke’s UCC, Trappe, PA

11:30 – Lunch

1 PM – Finding a Place in Church for the Unchurched: Is there Room for Doubt, Agnosticism, and Sincere Pursuit?

Rev. Courtney Stange-Tregear, Zion UCC, Nottingham, MD

2 PM – Narrative Practice in Interim Ministry: The Past is Still Speaking

Rev. Liddy Barlow, St. John’s UCC, Larimer, PA

3 PM – The New Knowledge and the Old Faith

Jared Ruark, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN

4 PM – Group discussion and future plans; closing

Guest Facilitator: Dr. Jeffrey Robbins, Chair of Religion & Philosophy, Lebanon Valley College, Annville, PA Read the rest of this entry »

Updated details of the UCC 2030 Theological Summit

LIVING THEOLOGY:

reclaiming the pastor as theologian

the theological summit of the UCC 2030 Clergy Network

September 13, 2013, York County, PA

Presenters:      LauraBeth Jones Armstrong, St. Luke’s UCC, Trappe, PA

Rev. Liddy Barlow, St. John’s UCC, Larimer, PA

Rev. Dr. Christopher Rodkey, St. Paul’s UCC, Dallastown, PA

Jared Ruark, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN

Rev. Courtney Stange-Tregear, Zion UCC, Nottingham, MD

Guest Facilitator: Dr. Jeffrey Robbins, Chair of Religion & Philosophy, Lebanon Valley College, Annville, PA Read the rest of this entry »

Coming in late 2013…

Proposal deadline extended: “Reclaiming the Pastor as Theologian”

Partially because of the United Church of Christ’s General Synod gearing up, we’re extending the deadline to submit proposals to JULY 20 for the UCC theological summit, with special guest facilitator Jeffrey Robbins.  Here’s the updated CFP:

LIVING THEOLOGY:

reclaiming the pastor as theologian

the theological summit of the UCC 2030 Clergy Network

September 13, 2013, York County, PA

PROPOSAL EXTENSION

Description / Rationale:  Theologian Thomas Altizer asks the progressive church, “Is a Jonathan Edwards possible in the church today?” This question is especially stunning, provocative, and condemning for mainline churches, especially the United Church of Christ, who claims Edwards as one of our own.  In the UCC, we may ask:  Where are our theological voices today?  Who validates or invalidates them?  Who promotes them?  Who is their audience?  Do they reflect the “ground” of the church? Read the rest of this entry »

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The New Atheism, the Emergent Church, and other things I disagree with: An analysis

This post is dedicated to @EmergentDudeBro.

I have been known to mock the New Atheism, for example by suggesting that reading Marx will “blow their minds.” My reason for saying this, of course, is that Marx responded to his generation’s equivalent to the New Atheists by pointing out that critiquing religion on the level of “false beliefs” is necessary but not sufficient — indeed, it completely neglects the material conditions that lead people to embrace religion. I have taken Marx’s basic idea in a somewhat different direction, insofar as I have long believed that the real problem with the evangelical Christian communities in which I lived for the first two-thirds of my life was not the opinions they held on various metaphysical issues, but the concrete material strategies that they used to maintain people’s group loyalty. Teenagers, for instance, are subject to intensive emotional manipulation at the time of their life when they are most vulnerable to it. On the one hand, they are made to feel ashamed of their spontaneous bodily urges, and then church participation is put forward as the way to unburden themselves. On the other hand, they are provided with a full range of social activities so that the church will become their primary group of friends — a strategy that is strongly reinforced insofar as the church is presented as the one safe space in an implacably hostile world. (I remember being viscerally afraid to start middle school after all the propaganda I’d been subjected to, half-expecting that I would be shot when someone took a break from openly having sex and doing drugs in the hallway between classes, etc.)

Though I am far from an expert in the Emergent Church movement, from my interactions with them, they seem like a kind of variation on the theme. Read the rest of this entry »

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