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Are you a True Belieber? Why we can't hide from reality and progress.

I awoke this morning to an email from Shazam.  If you live in a cave and don’t know what Shazam is (and don’t worry, I’m about to admit to living in a cave in another way) it’s the cool little phone app that identifies songs by listening to them through the phone mic.  So when a song you like but don’t know the name of comes on in a restaurant, you can abruptly interrupt your date in mid-sentence and say “hold on, I just need to Shazam this, I’ve been wondering who sings this song all week!”  

Somehow by downloading the app I must have agreed to their email spam policy buried deep within their terms of service that nobody reads.  This morning’s spam was a new installment of their “charts” which show the top song’s shazamed for that week.  The subject line of the email said “It’s Biebers world, we’re just living in it” and it showed Justin Bieber's new album that has broken all kinds of sales records.  As an aside, the charts also featured Selena Gomez’s new album, adorned with a nude picture of her on the cover.  Which was weird because all I know about Selena is from 10 years ago when my kids watched her as a teeny bopper on Barney & Friends.  Now she’s older, and nude.  She looks the same to me as when she did on the Disney shows, which makes it even weirder.  Suffice to say, this email made me wonder what the heck is going on in the world.  Apparently I live in a cave.

Interview with Defrocked Pastor Frank Schaefer about LGBTQ’s and the Church

Pastor Frank Schaefer
I recently had an opportunity to catch up with Frank Schaefer, who is the prolific United Methodist pastor who was very publicly defrocked (fired and stripped of his credentials) for officiating the wedding ceremony of his gay son.  He has since been “refrocked” and is serving at a UMC in Isla Vista, CA – and he is continuing to speak about what he learned through his experience.  I asked Frank four key questions about what the future might have in store for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters in the Church, and his wisdom and vision were palpable.  We won’t go much into Frank’s back-story here, but you can learn more from his book Defrocked or by watching this video which nicely recaps his experience in three minutes or so. 

Goats, Banks, Corporations, and Politicians

For the past few months I have been taking my kids to visit a new herd of goats at a nearby farm, which they have grown very fond of. The goats love carrots and apples - and if you know kids at all, you will know that kids love goats! Throughout the day in the life of this particular herd of goats, families with kids will show up to feed them, and over time these goats have taught me an important lesson about society and politics in watching them with the kids.  

Violence Is Not The Answer

Twisted Gun Non Violence
Like my recent post titled Why I Love ISIS and Osama bin Laden; the subject of loving enemies and non-violence tends to fall a bit flat when it goes against our mainstream angst. Sure, lot's of people talk about peace, but it's often very conditional.  So, because I'm not a very politically correct blogger, I am going to post this anyway. 

7 "At Some Points" of Progressive Christianity

A few years ago I took a shot at articulating my evolving and progressing reasons for remaining a Christian (without it being focused around what I no longer believed).  As part of that process I crafted 7 "At Some Points" of Progressive Christianity, and found it harder than I thought it would be.  

Sure, it’s easy for conservative Christians to do, as they can just go to the majority of Christian churches in America and copy their belief statements, which are often derived verbatim from ancient creeds that were developed by the councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon between the years 325 and 451 CE  –  or influenced by the fundamentalist movement of the 20th century. But most people reading this will know that much of the theology of those statements has become outdated or insufficient – which means that to the degree that keeping the label of Christianity is important (which I will address in Part 4 of this series) we need some new models of articulation. 

Hey Governor Pence, Let Em Eat Cake!

I don't for a minute think there's anything wrong with being gay.  But if you are a Christian who does think there's something wrong with being gay, or even if you believe that Jesus was anti-gay, here's why I think Indiana's Religious Freedom Reform Act is the exact opposite of how Jesus would have handled things.

"As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And Matthew got up and followed him.

The Problem of American Individualized Christian Society

repentant church
This is a post that was written by my friend Tim Hawks-Malczynski from All Saints Church in Pasadena 

(If you have never listened to any of All Saint's Rector Ed Bacon's progressive sermons I really encourage you to check them out)


by Tim Hawks-Malczynski

This Lent I've been thinking about mortality and the dark side not only in my personal life but also in our shared social, economic, and political lives. We Americans live in the most individualistic country in the world. The ideologies rooted in the soil of extreme American individualism permeate every aspect of our society - and that includes our religion. Maybe that's why we seem much more likely to confront our individual dark side and our individual mortality than our collective and social ones. 

Escaping the Fundamental Paradigm

As I sit this morning at 5am to have a bit of downtime before the day, I was pleased to find Bishop Spong's latest newsletter in my inbox.   In this letter there was a Q & A with a reader asking about how to make the Church relevant for modern day people (yes, the BIG question of the century indeed) and in his respose Bishop Spong wrote: "Most of our doctrinal explanations have long passed their “sell by” shelf life."  I really loved that quote.

Why I Love ISIS Members and Osama bin Laden

Osama bin Laden ISIS

Ok, first things first, this headline is not click-bait, it is real.  I grew up in New York.  Both my father and grandfather were in the construction business and worked on the twin towers with their own bare hands.  I have an uncle who is a detective that was stationed at the WTC Port Authority station, and also a cousin who worked in Tower 2.  Both my uncle and cousin survived, but when those buildings fell, I felt pure hate for those who did it.  I admit it, I felt pure – unfettered - unadulterated hate for those murderers.  I cannot imagine how the poor souls felt who actually did lose their loved ones that dark day.  I think all human beings of conscience felt absolutely horrified at seeing how misguided and indoctrinated other human beings can become.

The Parable of the Window Shade

I have a couple windows in my sitting room (actual pic there btw).  Sometimes in the morning I get up early and hang out in that room for a bit to read or write, and I open the shade on the right to let a little light in.

Often times I don’t even bother opening the larger shade on the left because the smaller window on the right seems to let as much light in as when they’re both opened, and the smaller one certainly transmits more light than if I only open the large one instead.

Bart Ehrman with Stephen Colbert

This is a funny interview of Bart Ehrman by Stephen Colbert on the Colbert Report.  It's definitely worth the 6 minutes to check it out.   If you don't know Bart, he is a scholar who went to Wheaton College to pursue the evangelical ministry, but through his study there, and his subsequent Ph.D studies at Princeton, he ended up writing multiple best selling books about the many errors and contradictions in the Bible.  I find his scholarship to be excellent.

I'm a Gay Christian! (sort of...)

progressive Christian Cross
It’s official:  I am here to proclaim openly that I am a happy Christian!  What?  Did you think I meant something other than happy when I said I was gay?  Oh… you thought I liked guys?  You mean the word gay has evolved and changed its common meaning over the past fifty years?  Well no, I’m not gay in that way (not that there would be anything wrong with that).  I’m in my 30’s and the earliest use of the word gay that I ever heard was in the intro to the The Flinstones and the lyrics to The Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Andy Williams.  But perhaps there are some of you who are reading this right now who’ve never heard the word gay used in any other context?  In which case, let’s talk about another word that has evolved its meaning over the last fifty years: Christian.

When I say that I am a Christian in the United States, the common assumption is that I believe the Bible is universally authoritative, inerrant, infallible, and mostly literal.   When I say that I am Christian, many people assume that I am skeptical of science, distrusting of “liberals,” and that I think being homosexual is simply “a lifestyle” of which I would disagree with.  People assume I subscribe to theological ideas like original sin, substitutionary atonement, and redemptive violence.  Many people assume that I would be judging non-Christians to hell, am trying to bring America back to being a “Christian nation,” and am awaiting Jesus to return any day now.  You may even assume that I believe that 95% of scientists have colluded to create a clandestine society in order to fake the rest of the world out about evolution and climate change.

Well here’s the thing, I am part of a growing group of Christians who are very much the opposite of everything I just stated.  I am part of a movement of Christians who are applying modern education and logic to reframe what it means to call ourselves “Christians.”

So what do I mean when I say that I am a Christian?  Well in many ways, the opposite of the above.  I was raised as a Christian, so I am comfortable with that path, the liturgy, the concepts, and the general community.  I value Jesus and his message of love and forgiveness.  I believe that in all of us is a divine spark of sacred divinity, which is theChristos, or Christ or Christ consciousness (which literally means the divine anointing in all of us) that was originally attributed to Jesus; and through his teachings made known to us.   I don’t personally need prophecy, a virgin birth, a resurrection, or a return – but I do need charitable service, social justice, spiritual discipline, and a high regard for all of creation.  I need open minds and open hearts.  I need peace, love, and hope.

So yes, I and many others are redefining (or un-defining) the word Christian.   And while we’re at it, we are also reframing a whole bunch of other words, such as savedborn again,heavenhell, and even God.  I believe Jesus came to show us The Way.  I believe we can do everything that Jesus did and more (see John 14:12).  Jesus taught us to value the sacredness of all life.  He taught us how to find peace of mind and heart.  He taught us to value our own lives – and he taught us to value others as much (or maybe even more) than ourselves, through sacrificial love.

So, does any of this sound good to you?  If so, feel free to come hang out with this new crew of ragtag Christians who may not agree on one single bit of doctrine, but who certainly agree about our call to do unto others as we would want done unto us.

If you have been sitting on the side lines trying to avoid the word Christian because of the stigma it carries, or because you can’t wrap your mind around many of the intellectual barriers, I share with you “good news” that the word is changing (in a way I believe Jesus would appreciate).  I invite you to come on over and join the movement of progressiveChristians who are swimming against the current, making space for education and reality within Christianity, and defining our own creeds on our own terms.  It’s fun, stimulating, rewarding, and there are lots of good people with similar situations and stories to build community with.  In this community you can also call yourself an atheist, Buddhist, Jew, hippie, humanist, or whatever.

And if you know someone else who may welcome this message, consider sharing it with them too.

If you want to think about this further, you may also like reading:

My 7 "At Some Points" of Christianity

What is Progressive Christianity?

How Can We Just Redefine the Word Christian?

Why Not Call Ourselves "Jesus'ists" Instead of Christians?

Are you interested in this type of discussion and want to build some community?   Check these out:

+ Like (and follow) the Christian Evolution Facebook page.

+ Check out ProgressiveChristianity.Org

by Eric Alexander

Love Love Love is All We Need

Love Is All We NeedAs much as I like rolling up my sleeves and looking deeply at a subject, I also very much appreciate images that can do the work of a thousand words, so I try to create some sharable memes.   I don't post them all on the blog, so if you're not already following the facebook page be sure to like (and follow) it to see them all.

A big focus is the messages of peace and love that Jesus and others demonstrated by their examples.  So I created this image to help spread the word that love truly is all we need.

Can Christians also be Atheists?

Old Testament God
This question about whether Christians can also be atheists (or vise versa) may sound absolutely ridiculous to you, but it's one I felt compelled to explore.   Over the past decade I've noticed a large migration of Christians into the atheist camp because of their preference for logic and reason - instead of woo-woo, irrationality, and blind faith.  But over the past decade there has also been a great emergence of Christians who aren't hiding from the facts either.  Christians who accept science and historical / literary Biblical criticism.  Christians who are not pushing untenable positions on others via a contentious package of ultimatums. Christians who are in many ways a-theists (said another way, non-theists).

A Matrix of Christianity - Come and See

Matrix Christianity
If you've seen the movie The Matrix you may remember this scene where Morpheus offers Neo the option to learn "the truth" - or - to go on believing whatever he wants to believe.   The clip is below (it's only 36 seconds).

False Evolution vs True Evolution

A (creationist) friend shared this image on facebook today, and I found it troubling, as if it has to be an either-or type of thing.  Like someone cannot agree with evolution and be a humble follower of Jesus.

The Progressive Christianity Index (PCI)

Welcome.  This project is designed to promote awareness and understanding about the various types of people who classify themselves as "progressive Christians" and participate in "progressive Christian" communities.  All voter data on the associated surveys is completely anonymous and completed in partnership with Survey Monkey.

Do You See Jesus?

I wanted to share a little back-story on this image, as I think the chain of events around how I found it, and why I created it as a text over, tells as story of its own.

Now to those of you who know my theology, you will know that I don't literally go for the heaven / hell  and king / throne imagery in this parable - but I don't want to get into a big exegesis about that in this post.  What I do want to get into though is the points Jesus is making.  He's making two points (1) love ain't about intellectual beliefs  (2) if we want to "believe in Jesus" we do that by serving "the least of our brothers and sisters."  That's how we show that we "believe" (properly translated as agree) in what Jesus was saying...

Here's the Bible parable I'm talking about:

What God Isn't

what God isntWhile writing this months column on prayer for ProgressiveChristianity.Org (which you can check out here if you would like) I got inspired to create the latest meme.   What do you think?

If you would like to comment and share you can click here for the Facebook post

What Are James Fowlers Stages of Faith?

James W Fowler Stages of FaithJames Fowler was a Professor of Theology at Emory University, and a United Methodist Minister.  He published the following "Stages of Faith" in his book called Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning, which became very popular in the 1980's and remains influential to this day.

Over the past few months I've heard a number of people mention Fowler's stages in casual conversation, and I thought it might be useful to share them with anyone who may not be familiar with them - or to serve as a reminder for those who may have heard it in the past but haven't looked back at them in some time.  Similar to the stages of grief we might reference after the loss of a loved one, these "stages of faith" by Fowler can help us make sense of our life - and our spiritual path.   They're also helpful to focus us on where we are and what we might be looking for next.   I highly suggest everyone take an honest inventory and put some thought into how we progress, and if we are currently engaged in any communities or practices that are helping us move forward.