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Brian's Blog

  • May 23, 2015

    A turning point in Catholicism

    The beatification of Oscar Romero.
    Titanic battles were waged over liberation theology in the 1980s and 1990s, which, today, are largely over. A moderate consensus has taken hold, which goes like this: If “liberation theology” means fighting poverty and struggling for justice, the answer is yes; if it means armed Marxist rebellion and class struggle, it’s no.

    And quotable:
    the beatification ratifies a new standard for what counts as “martyrdom” in Catholicism. It’s no longer necessary to die explicitly in odium fidei, at the hands of those who hate the faith, which was the traditional test. One can also be recognized as a martyr for dying in odium caritatis, as a victim of those motivated by a hatred of charity.

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  • May 22, 2015

    Phyllis Tickle: You are loved!


    The news became public today: Phyllis Tickle is writing her final chapter. You can read about it in this poignant and pitch-perfect RNS piece:

    For all of us who know and love Phyllis, this is an emotional time. She's become a kind of patron saint and elder for all of us associated with "Emergence Christianity" (which Phyllis christened) and a whole array of inter-connected communities like the Wild Goose Festival. She has (in Diana Butler Bass's unforgettable terms) provided a needed alternative to "ignorance on fire" and "intelligence on ice." "Intelligence on fire" captures her spirit pretty darn well. If I could summarize her message in a single sentence, it would be, "The Christian faith is pregnant."

    She's been given a prognosis of several months … and my hope is that every minute of these months will be enriched with the knowledge of how beloved and appreciated and cherished and honored she is for so many of us. The good people of the Wild Goose Festival have put up a tribute page where messages of gratitude and love can be shared. You can add your celebrations of a beautiful, fruitful, joyful, generous life here: https://www.facebook.com/PhyllisTickleTribute?fref=ts

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  • May 19, 2015

    Jonathan Merritt gets it right … on Evangelical supremacy


    … evangelicals’ greatest weakness is what they’ve championed as their greatest strength: the marrying of political and theological ideology. The rise of the religiously unaffiliated—the “nones,” as in “none of the above”—dates back to 1990 when the Christian right was in full-on combat mode. As conservative bodies became more partisan, members who couldn’t stomach the political agenda waved goodbye.

    “Among those who disaffiliated during this period, most were raised in evangelical denominations but were centrist to leftist politically,” Hout says.

    - See more at: http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2015/05/13/evangelicals-claims-of-conservative-supremacy-are-overstated-and-misread-americas-religious-landscape/#sthash.EzuGafKO.dpuf

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  • May 18, 2015

    A reader writes … the most influential undergraduate book

    A reader writes

    I attended a celebration banquet last night for the graduates in our College of Christian Studies (undergrad). As we honored the students, we asked each one to name one of the most influential books they read during their educational journey [here].

    You will be pleased to know that several students identified A New Kind of Christian as the most influential book they read in their undergraduate program.

    I thought you'd appreciate that! :)

    That's encouraging! Undergraduates (and faculty) will be pleased to know about this new initiative I'm involved in …

    A Common Table … bring together college-aged Christians devoted to people, the planet, poverty, and peace.

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  • May 17, 2015

    Political wisdom - not just for the UK

    From Adam Dyer, here.

    ‘I hope that our leaders across the United Kingdom realise the disastrous consequences for our way of life and the integrity of our United Kingdom if they continue to appeal to grievance rather than generosity and fear rather than hope’

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  • May 16, 2015

  • May 14, 2015

    Q & R: Church futures?

    Here's the Q:

    from your perspective professionally and your position (of great privilege!) as a grandparent, will the followers of Jesus meet in a place called "church" when your grandchildren are grown?

    I'm sitting with how much time and effort is focused on (to) "keep" in the church....families, young people...and I really think it's from an orientation towards self-preservation.

    I feel pretty solidly there is a need to prepare them to go! ‎I don't know what that looks like to those of us who are still in the building.

    Here's the R:
    Thanks for your question. It's especially encouraging to me because a key chapter in my upcoming book is devoted to this question.

    When I speak of Christian futures, I usually talk about 3 primary options:

    A. Continuing decline - current trendlines continue
    B. Conservative resurgence - a warrior fundamentalism predominates
    C. Pregnancy - Christianity-as-it-is giving birth to Christianity-the-next-generation.

    Then I say our job is not to predict which is most likely and prepare to adapt to it, but rather to determine which is most needed and dedicate our energies to making it so.

    In that spirit, I think the pregnancy option will both celebrate and affirm the value of our existing structures (buildings, denominations, agencies, etc.) and welcome innovative new structures. I think we will take your implied question - "How can we prepare people to go and live a regenerative life of love in our world in the Spirit of Christ?" - and make that the primary question … not "how can we keep people coming to our buildings or contributing to our budgets," and not "how can we preserve the religious industrial complex we have created."

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  • May 13, 2015

    Q & R: What Should I Read Next?

    Here's the Q:

    Brian, I am currently taking a class on spiritual direction and my class leaders suggested, probably based on the questions I was asking, that I read your book "why did JMBM cross the road" . Having read this, and still having questions I then moved on to read your book "a new kind of Christianity" which, studying daily during lent and utilizing the bible extensively in my research I will complete my reading by Easter Sunday.
    With all this reading and after attending your homily at St Pauls in Richmond a couple of weeks ago I am convinced you are on the right track and look forward to learning more.
    My question therefore is which book do you recommend my reading next in my continuing journey with you?
    I realize you are very busy, and just a one liner telling me which book you would recommend would be most helpful.

    Here's the R:
    First, I'm sorry for the delay in responding! Here's a one sentence response:

    You should read We Make the Road by Walking.

    It will show how ideas you've encountered in the previous two books are rooted in the Scriptures. Some other suggestions -
    If your primary interest is …

    Spirituality: Naked Spirituality of Finding Our Way Again
    Faith and Contemporary Issues: Everything Must Change
    Jesus: The Secret Message of Jesus
    Faith and Postmodernity: A New Kind of Christian
    Hell: The Last Word and the Word After That
    The Biblical Story: We Make the Road by Walking or The Story We Find Ourselves In
    Evangelism/Christian Witness: More Ready Than You Realize

    You can find more information plus links to purchase these books here.

    I hope that helps! Thanks for your interest.

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  • May 12, 2015

    The most important thing in American politics ...

    As a political scientist, I think the change, the position Pope Francis has adopted repeatedly on issues of social justice and poverty and youth poverty especially could turn out to be the most important thing in American politics, because the pope matters. I don’t mean just that he’ll say “jump” and people in the United States will say, “How high?” I mean he’s changed the whole tenor of the discussion and not just among Catholics. - Robert Putnam

    More here:

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  • Wise words from a wise Christian leader

    Thanks, Thomas Oord!

    Mature Christians are humble and courageous enough to allow diverse opinions on how best to answer life’s most challenging questions. Smart and loving Christians can responsibly disagree. We must learn to live well amidst our different Christian perspectives. Bookmark and Share rss-icon.jpg
  • May 11, 2015

    Q & R: What form of Christianity?

    Here's the Q:
    Does Brian belong to a particular form of Christianity. If so, which one?

    Here's the R:
    I was brought up in a small fundamentalist group called Plymouth Brethren - wonderful people with many wonderful gifts. (Sadly, one of their founders was also a founder of dispensationalism, one of the most unhelpful theological inventions in recent history.)

    I was a pastor for 24 years of a nondenominational progressive Evangelical congregation. There weren't many of those back then, but there are more and more these days.

    Now, my wife and I attend an Episcopal church that we love.

    I speak to groups across the spectrum of "forms of Christianity" - and I see goodness and beauty, along with challenges and struggles, everywhere I go.

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  • May 10, 2015

  • May 8, 2015

    Maternal Images for God ...

    With Mother's Day coming Sunday … this beautiful meditation from Mustard Seed Associates is a treasure:

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  • May 7, 2015

    An important piece not just about Burundi ...


    The similarities between Burundi and Baltimore that I wrote about recently are more stark than ever.


    The concern is that the international community might rush in to solve a political problem - a president hungry for an unconstitutional third term. The advocates for peace might come to stem the growing possibility of ethnic violence that circles back to genocide, as seen in Burundi and Rwanda not too many years ago. Then, once the president is dealt with, once the crisis is averted, everyone will leave thinking they've solved the matter and brokered a peace. But there will be no lasting peace until the root issue is addressed, and that's the economy, stupid.

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  • May 6, 2015

    Your chance to make a difference today ...

    You can do something today to help people who make less than $1.25 a day. Better than a handout, you can give folks help in a new kind of business that employs them and lets them share in the profits.

    This project, called "Dignity," is based in The Philippines. It makes coconut products like Virgin Coconut Oil. The business is designed not only for profitable sales, but also to dramatically transform the poor communities in which it is creating jobs.

    This new business model sees beyond the single bottom line of profit for a few, but rather seeks economic benefit for many, along with environmental sustainability and social enrichment.

    I really like what this company is doing. That's why I'm asking you to take a minute and look at the Kickstarter - and if you like it too, to pledge something toward their campaign. Beyond pledging - which I hope you will do - I am also asking you if you will share this e mail with as many friends as you can. Let's do some good!! www.idigcoconuts.com

    And you can contribute here:

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