Thursday, February 28, 2008


I don't have to change the name of my blog!

What's your theological worldview?
created with
You scored as Modern Liberal

You are a Modern Liberal. Science and historical study have shown so much of the Bible to be unreliable and that conservative faith has made Jesus out to be a much bigger deal than he actually was. Discipleship involves continuing to preach and practice Jesus' measure of love and acceptance, and dogma is not important in today's world. You are influenced by thinkers like Bultmann and Bishop Spong.

Modern Liberal




Classical Liberal


Roman Catholic


Neo orthodox


Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan




Reformed Evangelical




(via heather @ holy vignettes, who happens to be neo-orthodox)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Regarding Right and Wrong

In a response to a recent post, Michael Ejercito said:
I find nothing wrong with the idea of God ordering Israel to do genocide. God determines what is right and what is wrong.

A lot of people seem to share this opinion, in particular some of my more intelligent friends(nudge nudge). So without a whole lot of rigamarole up front, let's discuss this.

My first question for Michael (or anybody else) is:

Are "right and wrong" things every god gets to decide, or is that a privilege unique to Yahweh?

The reason I ask is this: a few months ago I was walking across the parking lot between my office and the mall, and a dark-suited, middle-aged man stopped me and handed me a full-color tract about this god named Ishkabibble. That tract said that Ishkabibble, not Yahweh, gets to decide right and wrong, and to make things worse, it also said that lots of things that Yahweh says are right are actually wrong, and vice versa, and if I didn't do all the things that Ishkabibble instructed, then I would burn in hell for eternity.

So I'm kind of flummoxed on this one, really. Am I still safe following Yahweh? 'Cause it seems like I'm ... um ... damned if I do and ... er ... damned if I don't.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Yes We Can?

If you haven't seen the Yes We Can video, watch that one first.

h/t: colby

Friday, February 08, 2008

Why I'm Taking a Break from Church

People in my faith tradition love the Bible.

You may think that you too love the Bible, but you're wrong. We really, really love the Bible. We attend Bible class and Bible camp. Our kids learn about the Bible and compare their knowledge in "Bible Bowl". To protect our Bibles, we carry them in special zippered bags. We give one another guilt about reading the Bible. We claim that "we speak where the scripture speaks, and are silent where the scripture is silent." (By "the scripture", we of course mean "the Bible".) We even sing songs about ... you guessed it ... the Bible.

There are some good, historical reasons for this attitude, and very few people know or care about those reasons. Because in our tradition, history isn't very interesting, and neither is Biblical interpretation, really. There is no such thing as "interpreting" the Bible. It simply says what it means, and means what it says ... and what it means and says are what we've always said that it says and means.

It wasn't a bad way to grow up. I sailed along happily, riding this wave of certainty, singing about how I loved the Bible and how I wished someone would give me a Bible and how much I loved Bible camp, until one year at said Bible camp, something happened that roughened the seas a bit.

Every year, at the end of the week, the boys and the girls of each age group would engage in a Bible trivia competition. That year we had been studying 1 and 2 Timothy -- you know, the authoritarian epistles -- and we boys were, like every year, pretty much resigned to losing. The girls always beat us. But somehow, this year, perhaps buoyed up by the writer's exhortation that women should learn "in quietness and full submisssion", we eked out a win.

The girls were downcast. We were jubilant. And in the middle of our celebration, someone (I'm pretty sure it wasn't me) purloined the words of 2 timothy 3 for a victory chant:

"Weak-willed women. Weak-willed women! Weak-willed women!"

We all chanted together, rejoicing in our superior Bible knowledge.

"Weak-willed women!"

Then I noticed that one of the girls was crying, quietly.

If you've ever been a junior-high boy, you will probably know what happens when you see the tears of a junior-high girl who is kind, intelligent and more than a little bit cute.

You're utterly befuddled.

You walk back to your cabin, deeply confused. And as you process the situation, you start to notice that something is wrong. You're not quite sure what yet, but something, you know, is terribly wrong.

After a few years, you figure it out: something must be wrong with the Bible. Friends and acquaintances are abandoning their faith because they can't follow a God who would order genocide, or denigrate women, or abhor gays. And they can't simply ignore a few Bible verses and go on with their faith, because if they learned anything growing up in church, they learned this: either all of the Bible is true, or none of it's true.

But soon after, you realize that maybe nothing is wrong the Bible; maybe something is broken about how you're interpreting it. And if something is broken about how you're interpreting it, maybe something is also wrong about how you're applying those interpretations. Over time, and with quite a bit of help, you begin feeling your way out of the darkness of Christian fundamentalism and the trap of biblical literalism. You can see the contradictions in the text now, but they don't scare you. They simply point to he beautiful frailty of the real people behind the Bible, a frailty that you see all around you every day. As you change the way you interpret the Bible, you change your theology. You begin ignoring those parts of the Bible that endorse prejudice, or misogyny, or genocide. You allow other voices, like science and your own experience, to inform your understanding of God.

Then you wake up one morning and realize that you don't fit in at church. Not only don't you fit in, but you're not really welcome, and you don't particularly like being there.

And that's where I found myself a few weeks ago.

I realized that while my church is admirable in its attempts to pursue social justice and racial integration, its justifications for doing so, and its core theology, were essentially fundamentalist. My church is great in that it has no creeds, no membership, no checklist telling us who's in and who's out, but underlying all of its programs, all its deliberations about church leadership, all its expressions of worship and interactions with the surrounding community was this fundamental, axiomatic belief that the Bible is the infallible word of God. And that made church exhuasting.

Instead of singing, I spent my time trying to translate the song lyrics into metaphors I could affirm.

Instead of praying, I spent my time pondering the moral bankruptcy of a God who would grant any of our prayer requests, while every day, thousands of people starved to death. I tried not to be appalled at people who would follow such a God.

Instead of speaking the standard Jesus-speak, or providing perspectives that would contradict the established church culture, I tried to keep my mouth shut. I mostly failed at that, though, which mostly made me feel like a curmudgeonly bastard.

I became desperately grouchy, because I was always having to define my faith in terms of what I didn't believe, and I didn't have any spiritual mentors who could show me the way to a positive, progressive faith. (Thank God for the Internet, right? People like Paul and Crystal kept me afloat ... I want to kiss them.)

Finally, I realized that being at church wasn't doing me any good. It wasn't making me a more virtuous person, and it wasn't even making me feel good. Going to church was like poking myself in the eye with a sharp stick, and it would probably be better for everyone involved if I just STOPPED POKING MYSELF IN THE EYE WITH A STICK.

So I did. And now I feel better.

In the future, I may return to a church. My roots are there, my family is there, and I'd like to try to help people who are looking for an alternative to fundamentalism. But for now, I have to figure out the next few lines of my story.

I'd like to find a faith community that exhibits the virtues that I hope to learn. I'd like to find mentors who can express their progressive faith in positive terms. I'd like to see if I can learn some wisdom from other faith traditions, because there are books other than the Bible. I've even read a few of them, and while in lots of places they're as scary as the Bible in the hands of an angry fundamentalist, there always seems to be something to learn about love, or people, or God.

And one last thing: for those of you who might be worried about my apostasy, have no fear. God is out here too.

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Yes We Can

I linked to this in my news feed (up there at the top right), but it deserves its own post.