A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006


I was driving by a local southern baptist church and I see on their sign: God is still speakng, are you listening? This particular church is liberal enough that I'm surprised they've not been punished by the SBC.

This congregation and pastor is one of the more ecumenical churches in the area, working with the local interfaith group, and even with the UCC/Disciples ministry I'm involved with. I suppose it goes to show that you can't tell a church by their label.

In other news, the Church of Scotland has recently approved same sex unions in the church. Beth Quick broaches the subject of Al Gore and a possible run for president. I admit, the prospect is an encouraging one given his turn in the last few years.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

DaVinci Code

I saw the DaVinci Code with friends from the campus ministry. I'm lost on why the story should be considered a threat. If one wants to focus on the history or lack thereof, I suppose that could ruin the movie for some.

But if one wanted to look at one of the broad themes of the movie, a masculine church which abhors the body, the sexual, the feminine, treating such things as a threat, I can see why the story has a ring of truth to it, why it can seem compelling for so many folks.

But his summer I'm trying to find books that relate religion and the public square as I'm worried that the religious left is repeating the mistakes of the right. Been reading the Niebuhr brothers and hoping to get into Stout's work Democracy and Tradition.

Monday, May 22, 2006

American Baptist Split

The board of the Pacific Southwest voted unanimously to withdraw from the American Baptists, making the split official. There is speculation that other regions will soon be leaving the church as well.

The issue is over homosexuality. The ABC condemns it, has a number of statements against it, but this is not enough for the right because they have not sought to punish or remove gay friendly ABC congregations because of their congregationalist polity.

It's hard to see how the right can claim the "traditionalist" mantle when you have baptists arguing against congregationalism, anglicans arguing for congregationalist polity in liberal dioceses, and presbyterians arguing against a reformed view of scripture.

The only thing which seems to unite such folks, besides their disregard for their own religious heritage is the effort to stop gay inclusion and acceptance within their respective denominations. It's become the new litmus test and thus it's a sad day for the church.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Width of Loyalty

Here are some quotes I found from Reinhold Niebuhr's work Man's Nature and His Communities which highlights the dilemma of the church. Does the church point to a wider loyalty, to God, or does it point to iself and it's current claims and practices?
By definition, saving grace is induced by an experience in which the conscience of the individual self transfers devotion from a contingent community, such as family, race or nation, to an ultimate loyalty to God, the fountainhead of value.

Actually the force of saving grace has a different course in history. It has emphasized the loyalty of individuals to the immediate community, rather than emancipating them from idolatrous worship of common loyalties.

Religious piety is likely to sanctify historical and contingent viewpoints...rather than showing a humble awareness of the relative aspects of all historical loyalties or bringing forth repentance for short comings as judged by a transcendent God.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Radio Show

Faithfully Subversive is the name of a new progressive Christian radio show that me and a friend have been working on and airing on WDBX in southern Illinois. We just did a successful broadcast this Monday and have another date set for July.

After this, it looks like we're going to get a regular weekly half an hour time slot. The format of the show tends to be 20 minutes of music and 10 minutes of commentary on the news. To find liberal themes we've had to leave "christian" music behind for other artists.

Here's our playlist from the last show: 10,000 Maniac's These Are Days. Sarah Mclachlan's World on Fire. Deidre McCalla's If God Only Knew (what is being done in her name).The Indigo Girl's Hammer and a Nail. And Jill Phillip's I am.

The dilemma is that the more religiously significant songs that we have are done by women. They tend to be commercial, something that's not a positive for community radio and we have a limited supply of music artists to choose from.

If you have any good recommendations of artists which touch on the issues of life and spirituality, including some men, which can connect with liberal christianity, we're interested in hearing about them, getting a hold of such music for the show. Thanks!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Presbyterian News

Another presbytery has drawn up a list of items that ministers must be instructed and guided by but it's not "subscriptionist" because folks would not be "forced to subscribe to any precisely worded articles of faith"

And yet such a statement will be given to "prospective ministers" so that "our theological expectations concerning what Reformed ministers must sincerely believe and proclaim" is made known. Also they are to be used as guidelines to evaluate ministerial candidates.

If they have this sort of coercive force that people may be ordained or not so based on them, that they represent what ministers "must sincerely believe and proclaim", we have, in every sense of the word, a creed which must be subscribed to.

The statement itself, 46 pages are filled with polemic and it becomes clear that the purpose of it is to discourage or prevent presbyterian moderate and liberal members from considering ordination in the presbytery. Here's some example of the phrases they use:

We cannot affirm any theology that seeks to substitute human effort or to promote some more "culturally relevant" paradigm for our salvation, justification, and reconciliation with God than Christ'’s death on the Cross for us.

We also do not affirm the notion that Christ'’s atoning work is universally applied to all or most of the human race, so that all or most are saved, regardless of their religion or non-religion and apart from hearing the gospel and believing in Christ.

We cannot affirm any doctrine that regards Scripture as subjectively, but not objectively, God's written Word, or that maintains the Scriptures contain the Word of God, but are not in themselves the Word of God

The last piece is of particular interest, because it's a rejection of a classic protestant formulation which goes back to Martin Luther. Instead a 19th/20th century American protestant fundamentalist formulation has now replaced this in a mainline regional body.

When one reads the statement it becomes obvious how other voices are not wanted in this church and how the "traditionalists" are not traditional at all but are placing Presbyterianism on a whole new basis which has little reference to it's own histories and insights.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mother's Day Proclamation

Mother's Day was not invented by Hallmark for greeting card purposes but to challenge the effects of war on our society. Here's the original 1870 Mother's Day proclamation by Julia Ward Howe.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Gays and the Church

Clergy in Arizona are praying against a gay marriage ban. Services were held throughout Washington in support of recently passed legislation which bans discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Iliff Seminary, a United Methodist school, came out against the Judicial Council ruling which let stand a minister's ability to deny membership to someone who is gay or lesbian. And the head of the South African Anglicans comes out in support of Gene Robinson.

While clergy and churches have often taken such stands we find Howard Dean, in the name of reaching out to the church, bashing gay marriage on the 700 Club. It won't impress the religious right and at the same time it leaves those of us in the church working for equality confused if not demoralized.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Media Bias

The Telegraph cast pot shots at those working for inclusion in the Episcopal Church. Their convention will be a "test of how far the liberal leadership has pulled back from its radical agenda"

I'm curious, what makes the inclusion of gay and lesbians radical? In the context of this piece, it's clearly a bad thing. And gay marriages are in quotation marks, as if they were less real.

And if ECUSA keeps pushing "ahead with its liberal policies, Williams may have little choice but to refuse to invite its leaders to the 2008 Lambeth Conference", making it sound as if this whole crises is by ECUSA and not those on the right who are pushing for their expulsion.

Another piece of bias is an otherwise fine piece by Andrew Sullivan who contrasts the religious right with Christians who privately try to live out their faith without trying to gain political control. Who are these Christians..well, legit ones of course.

They would be evangelicals, catholics, good solid orthodox folks. Mainline or liberal protestants are not included in this list, presumably because he was trying to convince the reader that indeed legitimate Christians (not us) are unhappy with the religious right.

Just some examples of the way in which mainline and liberal protestants are generally treated or prevented from being heard in the media. Given this fact, I'm impressed that the United Church of Christ is addressing this with their site accessible airwaves.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Dewey and God

Al Mohler, in his call for families to consider removing their kids from the public schools, took a swipe at the philosopher John Dewey. The reason is what Mohler calls his "anti-Christian" and atheistic religious beliefs.

But Dewey wrote quite a bit about God in the positive sense, so much so that Mohler's claim makes one want to scratch their head. Here's some excerpts on the subject by Dewey in his book A Common Faith. Let's see if Mohler is right:

God..is also connected with all the natural forces and conditions including man and human associations that promote the growth of the ideal and that further its realization. For there are forces in nature and society that generate and support the ideals...

Militiant atheism is also affected by lack of natural piety. The ties binding man to nature that poets have always celebrated are passed over lightly. The attitude taken is often that of man living in an indifferent and hostile world..

A religious attitude, however, needs the sense of a connection of man, in the way of both dependence and support, with the enveloping world that the imagination feels is a universe. Use of the words "God"..may protect man from a sense of isolation

Saturday, May 06, 2006

UUA General Assembly

I've only been to one church convention before and that was the 2003 gathering in Minneapolis for the Episcopal Church. It was that event which led to the creation of this blog.

But since the UUA's general assembly will be meeting 90 miles from where I live I have to attend. I want to hear Jerome Stone's presentation on religious naturalism. He's one of the few scholars who is interested in the same religious ideas and folks that I'm into.

I should note that I spent a number of years as a UU and went to seminary to become a pastor. Instead I went into philosophy and found my way back into the mainline. One of the events which led to my leaving was a UU theology course at my school.

It was called the way of the spiritual left and it introduced me to a number of religious naturalists from William James to Henry Nelson Wieman. This provided the basis for me to affirm theistic belief, more than that to affirm the reality and presence of God.

When that started to become central to my religious belief, worship which did not point to that reality ceased to be worship for me. I've been to some UU churches where I've seen God spoken of, pointed to in worship, but it's not common enough

Such a theistic framework opened doors to other central Christian ideas such as original sin, especially through reading the Niebuhr brothers but also seeing these ideas worked out concretely in the building of a mainline campus ministry. So I ended up in the mainline.

While I am currently a member of a Disciples congregation, there's a lot I carry with me from UUism. I did my master's thesis on Wieman I still dust off my Theodore Parker now and again. And I care and follow what's going on with the UUA. I appreciate their social stands.

In a way the blog name, religious liberal, comes from my UU days as the term usually is circulated in that context than in the mainline. There's a lot of great UU blog sites and I'm hoping to meet up with the folks behind those blogs in St. Louis.

Friday, May 05, 2006


Been reading about the coming split with the American Baptists. The right is unhappy that while the denomination has consistently spoken out against gay and lesbians, they have not sought to punish individual churches who disagree.

But the ABC is congregationalist and that means that such decisions are up to local churches. I don't see how that is not evident even to those on the right. Sadly congregationalist governance is becoming endangered by this crusade against gays in these denominations.

The LA Times writes on this issue in the ECUSA. CA is considering who will be the new bishop. A number of the candidates are gay. If one is chosen, the ramifications are quite large for the church. A number of thingssaid in this article are worth noting.

A conservative is quoted as saying that a gay bishop will mean "anything goes". There are divisions between liberals and conservatives in the church, but no one has affirmed "anything goes". If there is to be division, let's have it over actual divisions, not ones made up to make one side look bad.

Dealing with end of the semester and fighting a cold, so my postings are likely to be rare for the next week. Check out this article on inclusion by Chris Tessone. "The exclusion of gays and lesbians from the full life of the church is a symptom of disease in the church."

Monday, May 01, 2006

May Day

What does labor want? We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures-Gompers

Years ago I recognized my kinship with all living things, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on the earth. I said then and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.- Eugene Debs Happy May Day.