January 15, 2005

Time for Schism in the ELCA?

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 9:20 pm

As I consider the ELCA Sexuality Task Force report, I keep returning to their first recommendation, which I have paraphrased here:

Since what we agree on (the Gospel of Christ) is more essential than what we disagree on (the blessing of homosexual unions and the ordination of gays in committed relationships), the ELCA should figure out how to avoid schism.

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ELCA Sexuality Task Force Delivers Report

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 11:20 am

The ELCA Sexuality Task Force delivered their report on Thursday. Here are some links on the topic:

  • The ELCA press release is here, the task force report itself is here, and a recording of the press conference Thursday is here.
  • Progressive Protestant has a post with his reaction to the report.
  • For the conservative reaction to the report, the Free Republic has some posts on the topic here, here, and here. (I couldn’t disagree more with these posts.)
  • For my previous posts, see here and here.

My initial reaction to the recommendations of the report is that this is an attempt to keep the ELCA family together, despite the fact that some of those on each side will not tolerate anything but complete victory. I see this less as a moral stand by the task force, than as a pastoral attempt to allow disagreement within the ELCA while maintaining unity on what we all hold dear: the gospel of justification by grace through faith.

January 14, 2005

Christians and Political Power

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 11:44 pm

Several comments on my recent Wallis post have raised good questions regarding the pursuit and exercise of political power by religious movements. To respond, here is further explanation of my comments.

First, to do justice to Jim Wallis’ arguments in God’s Politics, I need to quote from him at length. He mentions a book, Blinded by Might, written by two conservative Christians intimately involved in the successful effort to elect President Reagan in 1980. He says this book describes how, following the election: (more…)

January 12, 2005

First Impressions: God's Politics

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 8:58 pm

I am well into Jim Wallis’ book, God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It. If I were prudent, I’d wait until I’ve read the whole book before posting on it. But I’m not, so I will. Here are some of Wallis’ key points, and my thoughts thereupon.

Wallis opposes the seizing and exercising of political power to achieve religious goals in the public arena, and strongly criticizes the right for doing so. Instead, Wallis puts forth the image of politicians walking around Washington D.C. with a wet finger in the air, trying to determine which way the wind is blowing. Rather than trying to gain influence over the politicians, a better and more moral tactic is for progressive Christians to change the way the wind blows. (more…)

January 11, 2005

Why Science Can’t Prove (or Disprove) God

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 10:12 pm

I have spent a good amount of time on this blog disagreeing with the Christian right, so I thought it only fair that I also disagree with their arch-enemies, the professional religion-debunkers such as Richard Dawkins, Michael Shermer and Daniel Dennett. They are part of the “brights” movement that attempted to coin that word as a noun to describe themselves and other unbelievers. While I agree completely with what they have to say about science and pseudoscience, I obviously disagree with them about religion, and specifically about their view that “intelligent Christian” is an oxymoron.

Not to let the conservatives off the hook entirely in this post, the religious right makes it much too easy for Dawkins et al. to dismiss Christians as simply in denial regarding scientific fact, and therefore “ignorant, stupid or insane.” To a large extent, the success of rationalist arguments against religion reflect the success of fundamentalist Christians (and failure of progressive Christians) in getting their beliefs perceived as the norm for Christianity.

So the question is: can an intelligent person be a Christian? Is belief in Jesus Christ as divine savior compatible with rational thought and logic? (more…)

January 7, 2005

A Taxonomy of Progressive Christianity

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 11:31 pm

Lee at verbum ipsum has a post from a few days ago that articulates my reservations about the progressive Christian label. I recommend a full read, but here’s a taste:

Stuck in the Middle (or Maybe on the Margin)
One of the unforseen consequences of President Bush’s re-election has been the new attention suddenly given to liberal or progressive Christians. Because Bush’s victory has widely (if perhaps erroneously) been attributed to religious “moral values” voters, some secular liberals have recognized the need to reach out to religious people, and left-of-center Christians have made new efforts to distinguish themselves from their conservative brethren. (more…)

January 6, 2005

Progressive Christian Bloggers Network

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 2:18 pm

Icthus has proposed a progressive Christian Bloggers network, which is a great idea. Since November 2nd, I have felt that we “unright” (to use Richard Hall’s term) Christians need to organize better. Unlike the Christian Right, whose objective for political organization has been power, the Christian unRight should organize to make ourselves heard as an alternative Christian voice. Where the right seeks to rule, we should seek to minister, to evangelize and to serve. And this requires that we work together to make ourselves and our faith better known.

In Brain Shavings’ post about getting your blog noticed, he recommends blog alliances, and has links to several. Richard’s unRight Aggregator may be a basis for a Progressive Christian Bloggers Network, as well as any Christian bloggers spinning off from the Progressive Blog Alliance.

Update: The Progressive Christian Bloggers Network has been created.

Jim Wallis' God's Politics

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 12:24 am

Slate has a review of Jim Wallis’ new book, God’s Politics : Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It. Jim Wallis is a founder of Sojourners Magazine, and a progressive Christian leader. The review is written by Elizabeth Castelli, a professor of Religion at Barnard College and an author. She gives an intriguing overview of the book:

Wallis also passionately reminds his readers that not only is “Christian” not coterminous with “right-wing Christian fundamentalist,” but more important, the Bible’s overarching justice claims demand that social and economic life be organized around the needs of the community’s weakest members. (His own lifelong commitment to living in service to and solidarity with the poor and powerless gives Wallis enormous moral authority on this topic.) Wallis challenges American Christians to examine how it is that they have managed to overlook the clear directives on poverty of their Scriptures and to embrace instead a “prosperity gospel.”

This sounds like a great book. Castelli offers some criticisms however; the one that struck me was that “[h]e calls nonreligious people ‘secular fundamentalists’ with ‘absolutist’ views on the separation of church and state…” I am a fan of the Establishment Clause not only because it is good for government, but because it is good for religion. I’m interested in exploring his views on this topic further.

I have ordered the book and am waiting eagerly for it to arrive. I’m sure I’ll have something to post about it when I’m finished.

January 5, 2005

Real Moral Values

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 12:51 pm

Here are two items from christianleft describing the angst we all felt having the recent election described as a victory for “moral values”. The first is a transcript of a speech given by Dr. Robin Meyers, a UCC pastor and author at a peace rally at Oklahoma University on November 14, 2004.

When you start a war on false pretenses, and then act as if your deceptions are justified because you are doing God’s will, and that your critics are either unpatriotic or lacking in faith, there are some of us who have given our lives to teaching and preaching the faith who believe that this is not only not moral, but immoral. (more…)

January 4, 2005

What Kind of Christian Am I, Anyway?

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 2:35 pm

In the Agora has a post about this blog (thanks very much, Paul Musgrave.) The title of the post is “Liberal Christian Blog”, which got me thinking: am I a liberal Christian?

I don’t particularly object to the label itself, but in some respects I’m religiously conservative. I believe the New Testament (minus Revelation) pretty much describes events as they happened. I don’t believe in a “historical” Jesus that is different from the “religious” Jesus. I like the Apostles and Nicene Creeds. I don’t believe that all non-Christians are going to hell, but I do think that Christianity has something unique, a gospel of grace, that everyone should experience. I like liturgy. (more…)

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