It’s time for Mark Tooley to stop bullying Stanley Hauerwas and other pacifists

Galatians 5:20 says that the works of the sinful nature include “enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, [and] factions.” These things are no less detrimental to Biblical Christian holiness than fornication, adultery, and other sexual sins. And they have become the poisonous porneia of many Christians arguing on the Internet (including myself). This is why I’m very troubled by the attacks that have been coming out of the Institute for Religion and Democracy against Stanley Hauerwas and other Christian pacifists like him through the columns (here, here, and here) of IRD president Mark Tooley. These attacks do not exhibit the approach to Christian debate that “makes for peace and mutual edification” (Romans 14:19). Continue reading

Bob Edgar: A Christian for the Common Good (1943-2013)

bob-edgarHe always had a joke for the pastor in the handshake line, often a slapstick pun characteristic of an older guy who didn’t mind being corny. He carried himself with the confidence of an ordained Methodist minister, former congressman, seminary president, and National Council of Churches secretary-general, but he was thoroughly humble and approachable, caring intimately about the personal lives of his fellow parishioners at Burke United Methodist Church. I was deeply honored to be a pastor in the church that Bob Edgar attended. His most recent position was the president of Common Cause, a national campaign to get corporate money out of politics. Bob believed in democracy, and he believed that Christians should fight for the common good. It was devastating to learn of his sudden death this week in a dark time when his prophetic vision has never been more sorely needed.

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Why we need to build this meme: #JesusIsMyCandidate

It was only supposed to be a catchy sermon series to attract attention for our fall kickoff season. At first our senior pastor was worried about being misinterpreted in the heat of an extremely divisive election season. We have a beautifully “purple” church where progressive liberals and Tea Party activists worship together. It’s one of United Methodism’s greatest strengths and sources of agony. We’re one of the few big tent Christian denominations left. So many have split on female ordination, homosexuality, and other political issues. And so a sermon series called “Jesus is My Candidate” seemed entirely appropriate for a congregation in which people of all political persuasions worship and serve together. But now it’s gotten bigger than a sermon series; it’s become a meme — that strange 21st century cyber-object that you attach to a hashtag on twitter or hand over to Willy Wonka on Facebook hoping that it “trends.” The vision God seems to be sharing feels about as ridiculous as Kevin Costner mowing an Iowa cornfield to build a ballpark for ghosts, and I need a James Earl Jones with a much bigger platform to swoop in, put this meme on your back, and explode it. It’s really simple. We get as many people as possible on twitter every evening at 9 pm until election day to share as many personal testimonies and prophetic statements about Jesus as they feel like with the hashtag #JesusIsMyCandidate. And if we come up with songs, videos, flash mobs, etc, using the same meme, we go where they take us. It’s not slacktivism. It’s a 21st century act of prayer and resistance against the designs of Satan to use this presidential election to pummel American Christianity (and I’m not being a melodramatic wing-nut to name it that way). Continue reading

Thoughts on the alleged demise of liberal Christianity

I’m jumping on the bandwagon. Ever since the Episcopal convention last week, all the Christians bloggers are talking about whether or not the liberal church will survive. The conversation thread that I’ve followed has included John Meunier, Ross Douthat, Diana Butler Bass, and Rachel Held Evans. I spent my twenties in struggling mainline liberal churches that were very active in social justice causes in their community and painfully empty on Sunday mornings. Since I feel like my own observations and convictions are inadequate to explain the sociological shifts that are occurring in American Christianity, I’m not going to present this as any sort of coherent theory, but rather a series of points that respond to what I’ve read in no particular order.

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We can do better than “mainline”

I often tell people that fundamentalists and liberals frustrate me about equally. I just read an article by a United Methodist pastor named Martin Thielen in Christian Century on his church’s successful “mainline” marketing plan. Basically he did a sermon series that turned into a book called What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? A good friend in our church is reading it, and my wife told me I shouldn’t judge a book by its title, but I can’t help asking, Is this really the best we can do as Methodists? Continue reading