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Brian's Blog

  • October 29, 2014

  • October 28, 2014

    A reader writes: Energizing my curacy

    Just wanted to say thank you for your writing and insights God has given you. Your book, Generous Orthodoxy, was a breath of fresh air and articulated much of how I had seeing the Christian faith since my teenage years, but could not find in the Churches I attended or could understand why not. This book was instrumental in drawing me back to church and on to ordained ministry in the Church of England.

    I am currently reading your book, A New Kind of Christianity, and all I can say is yes, yes , yes. Having grown up within a conservative evangelical household and church, you have said everything I have know within for years. Having just completed theology in Cambridge, UK, the number of heated discussions I have go had with both my conservative, liberal and Anglo-catholic brothers and sisters (including my learned tutors) on precisely these issues has worn me out. We are so invested in what you call the six lines. It is so wonderful to know that I am not on my own in seeking the non dualistic understanding of the Christian faith. This book is helping me to articulate this within my relationships with those of Christian faith and those not. It's a great help in energising my curacy.

    Sorry for all the gushing, but thank you. Never allow your critics to get you down!

    Thanks for these encouraging words. God bless you in your ministry!

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  • October 27, 2014

    This is a big deal: a key Evangelical leader switches sides on the LGBT issue

    Jonathan Merritt writes:

    It is difficult to overstate the potential impact of Gushee’s defection. His Christian ethics textbook, “Kingdom Ethics,” co-authored with the late Glen Stassen, is widely respected and was named a 2004 Christianity Today book of the year. He serves as theologian-in-residence for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a coalition of 15 theological schools, 150 ministries, and 1,800 Baptist churches nationwide.
    (more here)
    I have grown to respect David Gushee deeply in recent years. Even before he took a stand on LGBT issues, he stood boldly against torture and for environmental protection. Now he has taken an additional step that some will condemn, but I applaud. I was honored to be invited to write a foreword to David's new book, which you can purchase here.

    If you are one of the many good Evangelical, Mainline Protestant, or Catholic leaders who has secretly thought, "I'm probably going to change on this issue someday," I would say the time is probably sooner than you thought. David's new book could really help.

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  • October 24, 2014

    A reader writes: as I am weeping

    I just wanted to write ( as I am weeping) as I start reading your new book. I just read the first couple of pages and the emotions started.

    I have had a really challenging spiritual awakening over the past seven years. Long story. It has been difficult following how the Holy Spirit led me and living within a community of conservative, evangelicals, including my spouse. Challenging on every level of my being.

    Having a devotion to Christ … I have been struggling to find a way to be authentic, and reconcile my walk in faith within my community and family. I think I have found a way with your book, I hope. I asked my husband to look at it with me, hopefully he will be open to it. We had an intense discussion about it last night, and today I found your book.

    Being a yoga teacher, I am excited to see body prayer on your website! So excited about that.

    Thanks for the work you do and your vision. Together we can be Christ's hands and feet to create God's King/ Queendom here as is meant to be.

    I'm so glad you found the book, and I hope it can be of help to you in many ways. Thanks for writing!

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  • October 23, 2014

    Christianity, Islam, and Hate

    John Esposito's responses to Michael Coren are a model of clarity, wisdom, and civility in the context of profound disagreement … worth reading both for content and style.

    "Esposito, founding director of the Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, thinks Coren is correct to speak of Jesus as a man of peace, "but he conveniently overlooks the practice of some popes, and other Christian leaders in terms of religious persecution, violence and wars," he says.

    "Moreover, I presume Coren accepts the Old Testament as part of the Bible and the Christian tradition. If so, then he must be aware of Old Testament passages and the instances of not only violence but even passages calling for genocide.

    "Similarly when he writes of Muhammad he has surely not forgotten the military role of prophets like Joshua, Samuel and David."

    Esposito says Coren should also take note of the "anti-Muslim racism" of hardline Christian leaders like Pat Robertson, Franklin Graham and John Hagee.

    "I (and others) as both a scholar and a Christian would disagree with the brush-stroking and collective guilt associated with that kind of reductionism."

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  • October 22, 2014

    Need some good music?

    If you haven't been enjoying the music of Steve Bell for years and years as I have, you can catch up (kind of like watching a few seasons of a great TV series on Netflix) with his new 25-year retrospective, Pilgrmage.
    You can listen to clips and order the CD here:
    It's beautiful.

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  • A reader writes: violence is all we know because it is all we see

    A reader writes:

    While I know this framing story doesn’t have a chance in the world. Hell, we can’t even get the poor out to vote on election day, and we are hoping someday they will stop thinking of themselves and start living for the sake of the community? I live in a condo complex and serve on the HOA board, and we can’t get enough people to serve to make a full board. It certainly isn’t the framing story I would choose, except I love God and this is the story I believe God chooses and I feel God chooses me to learn it and live it. I found your book Everything Must Change in the library and am about 2/3rds the way through, but I skimmed ahead to see if you touch on the Greatest commandment. While you dance around it and almost refer to it, it isn’t the foundation the framing story is built on. My favorite story is found in Mark 12: 28 where Jesus tells the teacher of the law that for believing the 2 commandments are the prime directive that he is not far from the kingdom of God (yeah my own words there), but the message is clear that Loving God and neighbor is to enter the kingdom of God. While you say in your book that “kingdom” is a kind of old fashioned word that may not have any use in today’s world, I believe it is perfect and can be re-engineered to mean a whole new type of society, one that is not capitalism and one that is not a dictatorship.
    Another idea I think you dance around that I would like to comment on is your encouraging to us to try to picture what living in the kingdom of God would be like. Wonderful idea! I wish I was a better writer and had the foresight to write a screen play titled “The kingdom of God” . First scene: year 33CE, Just outside the Temple, and Mark 12:28 through 34 plays out and maybe we could throw in some more teachings about what justice would look like in the kingdom of God. Scene two: jump ahead 1800 years and the world is living the kingdom of God. The movie shows how the community works together to solve problems, work through disagreements, shows what the economy could look like, where there is no unemployment because the government has a right to work law and if you need a job you go to the employment office and you have a right to a job, one that pays well enough to live, and how those in the community work towards the good of the community, and it is that mindset that keeps those who would attempt to oppress or cheat the community from making the attempt. Perhaps the movie would show our community what it would look like and get them on the road toward the kingdom of God. The movie would reinforce acts of loving kindness, a very rare thing, if you would look at what is in the theaters year after year. Violence is all we know because it is all we see.
    Thank you again for your wonderful book, I am very much enjoying the lessons you teach in it.

    Thanks for the encouraging words. I think you are so right … the stories we ingest via movies teach us ways of seeing the world … My friend Gareth Higgins and I, along with the good people of the Raven Foundation, have been talking about how to get more screenplay writers to take the use of violence more seriously. That, by the way, is a major theme of my newest book, We Make the Road by Walking … grappling with violence in the Bible.

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  • October 21, 2014

    A reader writes: theological musings ...

    A reader writes:

    Brian, my wife and I just returned from a trip (my first) to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. Spectacular doesn’t even begin to describe these places. To be sure, we weren’t in Kansas anymore.

    I just wanted to share some thoughts with you.

    While we were there, one of the places we went was to the Episcopal Chapel of the Transfiguration. While I sat in the darkness looking at that view, I thought “We have something all wrong”. When someone asks us to “prove” the existence of “God”, we trot out the old “watch and watchmaker” schpiel. I think this misses the mark by infinity.

    Several weeks ago I heard a comment by singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier in which she said that artists were people who attempted to make sense out of chaos.

    If you recall, in the opening verses of Genesis, that’s precisely what God does.

    Maybe we need to start thinking of God not as a mere watchmaker, but as a great Artist. Maybe being made in the image and likeness of God means we can see creation through the eyes of the Artist.

    I thought, If I were to bring my weeniedog Daphne to that place and asked her to comprehend the wonder of it all, she would probably be wondering if it involved food or chasing a squirrel!

    Amen! In the modern era, where the machine was the pinnacle of human achievement, I can see why people were enamored with the watchmaker analogy. But it indeed falls short in so many ways. Creativity is the first action in the Bible - and it's one of the last too ("Behold, I create all things new!") That's one of the themes I trace from Genesis to Revelation in my new book, btw.

    It's interesting to ponder what the human versions of chasing a squirrel would be!

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  • October 20, 2014

    A reader writes: using your book in Northern Ireland

    A reader writes:

    I just thought I would let you know we have a group reading We Make the Road by Walking in Whitehead, Northern Ireland. Do hope you can visit Ireland soon!!

    So glad to know you're using the book. I will be in Ireland, co-leading a private retreat, next June. We will probably have one public event while I'm there (not yet scheduled, details TBA). More information here.

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  • October 19, 2014

  • October 18, 2014

    A listener writes: overwhelming, underwhelming

    A listener writes:

    I was recently spiritually prompted to one of your interviews, on Premier Christian Radio, and just wanted to follow that up with an introduction.

    My name is ccc; I am a [middle aged] Christian of 17 years, and I live in East London, England. I have been a Christian all of my life, but consciously reaffirmed my faith in 1997. Since then I have enjoyed (and endured) the most amazing relationship and walk with God.

    I had little taught expectations (or limitations) on God, I believed he would respond to me much as he did to our Biblical forefathers - and he did, and then some. I had always assumed this was how ever Christian experienced God, in a very real and present way, guiding the big and small, trivial and significant decisions. From where to live – to what to eat, more importantly how he desires to see me grow in spiritual maturity.

    Conversely, whilst my knowledge and experience of God has been extraordinary, my experience of life in the church has been underwhelming. Even this experience God used to teach and mature me – though I don’t pretend to be spiritually matured just yet.

    Eventually I determined that God allowed me to experience him in such a real way because he knew I would not be able to keep it to myself. I believe my story might help and encourage other Christians struggling with faith and church life, so I wrote about it.

    Essentially I try to encourage and challenge us all (as individuals and bodies) to go back to basics, to re-examine our commitment to God and our relationship with him. To take a long, hard and honest look at whether the Christians we are today reflect, honour and glorify God. Are we growing in spiritual maturity and if not, why not.

    The most important lesson I learned, and it took the best part of ten years, is that I’m not in control, I can’t change me, I can’t make myself Christ like no matter how committed I am to God and how hard I try. After ten years God stopped me, showed me that he hadn’t asked for my plethora of well intended good deeds, he had only asked that I be honest and sincere with him and those around me, even if that meant confessing some very ugly truths.

    That was a key turning point in my spiritual journey, try less – pray more, allowing God to lead on your transformation is the only way to ensure that change is sincere and lasting.

    I had spent ten years trying to make myself better and all God really wanted was for me to get real with him, surrender to him and let him transform me into whatever he created me to become.

    After hearing your interview I felt a deep resonance with your story, but also a small spiritual butt kicking to finish the book.

    If I’m entirely honest I’m not sure why I’m contacting you, perhaps the encouragement to finish the book was all God intended. But it can’t hurt to say hello and let you know that I have been encouraged by your story. And, if there is any guidance you can offer to a first time author that will of course be greatly appreciated.

    May God bless you and keep you.

    Thanks for your encouragement. As for advice for first-time writers, here are a few things I've posted in the past:


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  • October 17, 2014

    Q & R: Reaching across the cultural & religious divide

    Here's the Q:

    Brian, I have a thought about your blog response
    You emphasize, rightly, that progress toward peace with Islam or any
    other group must include making the effort to better understand them
    and why they take the positions that they take. But that's difficult
    with Islam in ways not shared by other groups of "other". As you
    doubtless know, there are no translations of the Quran into any
    language. There are some sort-of translations that Muslims allow to be
    used as a crutch by people who want to learn Arabic. But they take it
    as a cardinal principle that the words of the Prophet cannot be
    translated and yet remain the words of the Prophet. While nearly
    anybody, anywhere, can pick up a Bible in a familiar language, only
    Arabic speakers can read the Quran.

    The result is that anything an American may "know" about Islam has
    been filtered through a great many layers of interpretation,
    misinterpretation, bias, hatred, tradition, unrecognized cultural
    references, etc.

    I like languages, but I have little inclination to learn Arabic. Yet
    we must come to a better understanding of Muslims. For that, we need a
    strategy. A number of things you've written suggest that your strategy
    for better understanding Muslims has been to meet as many as possible
    and have long talks, taking a nonjudgmental attitude so that neither
    party gets mad and storms out. Great. But that strategy doesn't work
    for many Americans.

    Any suggestions?

    Here's the R:
    Thanks for this question. The fact is, you could also say that to some degree, 'anything an American may "know" about Christianity or Juadism has also been filtered through a great many layers of interpretation, misinterpretation, bias, hatred, tradition, unrecognized cultural references, etc.' Fortunately, there are many translation of the Quran into English and other languages. Since avid readers of the Bible will already know that there is always an element of interpretation in any translation, people sensitive to the issues and complexities of biblical translation and interpretation are well placed to read the Quran responsibly in translation … not in a way that would satisfy all Muslim scholars, but in a way that will replace complete ignorance with a responsible knowledge base.

    In addition, there are excellent introductions to Islam, written by both Muslims and Christians. Here are three resources I would especially recommend:
    1. John Esposito's works, beginning with Islam: The Straight Path.

    2. Who Speaks for Islam summarizes a monumental demographic study and dispels many myths. It's short, readable, and research based.

    3. Reza Aslan's No God but God is also highly readable and helpful.

    As for building relationships between Christian and Muslim congregations, people like my friend Jeff Burns and organizations like Peace Catalyst are going important and needed work, among many others.

    And here's another great resource:

    Excerpts from "The Jesus Fatwah" by Living the Questions from Living the Questions on Vimeo.

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  • October 16, 2014

    Really. You should know this ...

    Theories/understandings of the sun change … as do theories and understandings of everything, including God. That's a theme of my book We Make the Road by Walking, and John Stonecypher captures it amazingly in his weekly multi-media commentary. Check it out here.
    And here:

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  • October 15, 2014

    Making Plans for 2015?

    Here are a few special events I'll be involved in - you might want to come along!

    June: Ireland Tour with Gareth Higgins

    August: Ring Lake Ranch

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  • October 14, 2014

    A reader writes … "I'm the classic kid who grew up Evangelical"

    A reader writes ...

    Dear Brian,
    I know you are very busy and maybe won't even read this but thank you so much for your brave writing, I'm sure you get quite a lot of grief over it but I wanted to encourage and thank you. I am the classic 'kid who grew up in the evangelical church'. My dad was a pastor and my whole life was church and the evangelical bubble ( including being a missionary) until my late 20's when all my understandings of God started to fall apart. At the risk of making this too long let's just say that huge career disappointment, long term unemployment after coming out of full time christian ministry, having a disabled child and university study that raised many questions made my 30s the time of getting rid of all the paradigms and christian culture I had grown up with. I just read Rachel Held Evans memoir and we could be spiritual twins in many ways.

    I read 'Generous orthodoxy' this year and it was so good. So good to hear I was not the only one with big questions about the evangelical way of church. So good to hear a bit about how other Christian traditions view such things as the cross and the kingdom of God. This has led me to reading writers from Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox streams, which has basically saved my Christianity because I can now see that it is possible to experience God organically without having to 'know'a whole lot about him, it's been awesome. I am starting my Masters degree in Anthropology next year and my thesis topic is the new trend in evangelical Christian missions of moving from 'soul saving' to justice based 'incarnational service work, and if this is a result of emerging theology, I quote you and N T Wright in my thesis proposal. My university is secular, but they find the topic fascinating. Keep writing, looking forward to reading your new book.

    Thanks for writing … and thanks for your encouragement. It's an exciting time to study anthropology, and especially the intersection of anthropology and religion. In your studies, be sure to explore Rene Girard. You'll find amazing insights there.

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