I spoke at the 10th Anniversary Conference of the Christian Universalist Association, in Dallas, Texas on October 22, 2017. Learn more about the roots and impact of Universalism and the historical fallacy of the Doctrine of Hell. I welcome any comments or questions. Thanks goes to Rich Koster, Mary Keller, and Charles Slagle for welcoming me into the CUA and opening a door for me to speak at this year’s conference.
Ever feel religious alienation? There’s a better way.
I’m honored to be invited to be a speaker at this year’s Wild Goose Festival – the intersection of spirituality, art, music, and social justice. The open-minded, celebratory atmosphere of speakers, storytellers, musicians, artists, and wayfarers who embody the grand themes of inclusive love, welcome honesty, social equality, and responsible theology is infectious. The craft beer tent doesn’t hurt either.
I’ll have a talk on “Jesus, Justice, and Spirituality Outside Organized Religion,” where I’ll share how traditional modern religion, historically speaking, barks up the wrong tree. And how God’s dream of love, equality, justice, and peace transcends all religions and works outside all religion.
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When someone studies the history of Christianity from its inception and really tries to be objective about it, he or she will inevitably discover how screwed up and tainted the Jesus Story has become over the centuries.
One way is how his teachings have been misconstrued as a formula for salvation. In the grocery store recently, a little girl, whose parents were standing close by, handed me a small card and said, “Would you like a Gospel tract?” I obliged and read it over. On it was a very brief explanation (with “proof” text Bible verses) of the major problem in life and its solution: Life is short, death and judgment is sure, sin is the cause, and Christ is the cure. The call to action was to pray a 17-word prayer to receive Jesus as one’s personal Savior. The Jesus epic had been boiled down to a “Get out of hell free” card in the game of life.
The source of this type of mentality cannot be traced to one fundamentalist church but rather to a long line of historical events that caused Jesus’ original message to evolve into our modern Western view of Christianity.
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When we hold a worldview that people are inherently bad and need law and order to suppress that badness, we will tend to react to hostility with either judgmental retaliation or defense. But if we believe people are not inherently bad; that they are only lost when they go down an evil path, our reaction to hostility might be dramatically different.
When Christ calls humanity to “love your enemies,” it is not merely a command to do the right thing but a strategy to diffuse evil and transform “bad” people into good–in other words a method to help them find their way home and back to their true self.
This NPR story demonstrates the power of love (what a psychologist would call non-complementary behavior) over hostility, when a woman offers a glass of wine to a man threatening murder and mayhem. Moreover, it is an example of the new spirituality we need in a world full of theologies of depravity and threats of terrorism. I would love to hear your thoughts.
How History We Never Knew Taps a Spirituality We Really Need
My next book is in the hands of the publisher! Wipf and Stock Publishing in Eugene, Oregon is publishing it in April or May 2016. Besides the craft beer theme (just as small, independent craft breweries using historical recipes have rethought corporate-brewed beer, pub or cafe theologians outside the church are rethinking “corporate” religion), here are the book’s three big ideas:
1) The Modern American Church Has Failed Christian History 101 – With some notable exceptions, American Christianity does not understand the rich, fascinating, and complex-but-illuminating history of the early Jesus saga and how it later morphed into a warped man-made religion.
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Regrettably, in the aftermath of ISIS’s inexcusable attacks on innocent people in Paris, amidst admirable calls for support and assistance for victims and their families and the people of France, conservative policymakers are also calling for a response that plays right into the hands of radical Jihadists. Twenty-six U.S. governors don’t want Syrian refugees in their states for fear of terrorist attacks. Much of the rhetoric on the Right further polarizes the West and Muslims. Most policymakers are only concentrating on a military solution to the problem and are ignoring the ideological war that needs to be won.
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I often talk about the dangers of black-and-white thinking I encountered in my evangelical past. American conservative religion puts things in nice, neat boxes, with defined boundaries. The Bible is inerrant, they claim. If it wasn’t, it couldn’t be trusted at all (a strange concept considering no one claims that about any historical document). People are “sinners” steeped in original sin and totally depraved unless they are regenerated by conversion to Christ. One is either saved or under God’s wrath; on the way to heaven or destined for hell. Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee thinks the case of county clerk Kim Davis (refusing to give out marriage licenses to gay couples in Kentucky) is proof that there’s a movement toward the criminalization of Christianity, based on the belief that anyone who allows or tolerates gay marriage just can’t be Christian. There’s a line drawn in the sand and heaven forbid if you cross it and try to create a gray area, between these stark spiritual “realities.”
Yes, there are pressing problems in the world this very day: A refugee crisis in Europe, a war-torn Syria, and grinding global poverty, to name a few. But according to Global Health expert and statistician, Hans Rosling, focusing on all the bad news in the media masks the real gains our world has achieved. I’m an advocate for taking every world problem we have seriously and focusing on finding real solutions. But let’s do so from a worldview with hope for the future and not one of gloom and doom. Here are 5 facts that many people don’t know: READ MORE >>
To most people, the title of this blog seems contradictory. Aren’t atheists rebelling against God and leading people astray? Well, for the most part, no. One of our discoveries in our group’s research is that most atheists (or their cousins, agnostics) are good for people of faith because their honesty keeps us honest. They can help us learn to think for ourselves. READ MORE >>
Amy, a younger, energetic woman sat across from me during a speech at our local Rotary Club. Dave Brooker, known as “That Gratitude Guy,” was speaking on the power of gratitude to change one’s life. He gave us an exercise to drive home a point. Amy and I partnered up.
“On the card, write as many adjectives you can think of about the other person that would finish the sentence, ‘I see you as…’“, he instructed. READ MORE >>