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.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Cycle of Violence

Israeli Children Sign Shells to be Fired Into Lebanon. I got this from Doug's Dark World. With pictures like this, one doesn't have to wonder if the cycle of violence will continue into the future. And Jesus wept.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Targeting Churches

Pandagon has a piece on the actions of Operation Save America and their protests at the last abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi. The group has also taken to targeting churches apparently.

Anti-Racist Action was "asked by the Unitarian Universalist Church to provide protection during their Sunday service from Operation Save America (previously known as Operation Rescue)."

They "came bearing 10 foot signs of an aborted fetus, set up a speaker on a tripod, and began yelling (from across the street) about how we’re all going to burn in hell because we allow 50 million unborn children to die in the U.S. alone. Many read from the bible at length."

They "told us they wanted to save us from the depths of hell (by turning to Jesus, of course) and called us cowards and shameful when we wore our bandanas as face masks (even though almost all of them had either a digital camcorder or a camera)"

If one wonders how the name of Christianity has sunk so low for so many, actions like these might explain it. When it comes to the culture war the lines are not "secularist" versus religious, rather the line cuts right through the church.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Advice to a Ruler

I think I posted this last year at Chris Tessone's old blog last year but looking at the increasing bloodshed from Iraq to Lebanon to Israel, this quote from the Confucian teacher Xunzi seems pertinent.
He who lives by force must use his might to conquer the cities that other men guard and to defeat the soldiers that other men send forth to battle, and in doing so he inevitably inflicts great injury upon the people of other states. If he inflicts great injury upon them, they will inevitably hate him fiercly and will day by day grow more eager to fight against him.

Moreover, he who uses his might to conquer the cities that other men guard and to defeat the soldiers that other men send forth to battlemust inevitably inflict great injury upon his own people as well. If he inflicts great injury upon his own people, they will inevitably hate him fiercely and will day by day grow less eager to fight his battles.

With the people of other states growing daily more eager to fight against him, and his own people growing daily less eager to fight in his defense, the ruler who relies upon strength will on the contrary be reduced to weakness. He acquires territory but loses the support of his people, his worries increase while his accomplishments dwindle.

He finds himself with more and more cities to guard and less and less of the means to guard them with; thus in time the great state will on the contrary be stripped down in this way to insignificance. One who truly understands how to use force does not rely on force.

Friday, July 14, 2006


This month is my third anniversary of this site. In that time my focus has been on the mainline but I think in the end what happens there affects the religious and social possibilities of us as a nation.

In a country facing polarization, when religion is increasingly marked by dogmatism and hostility to a liberal pluralistic society, we need a religion which can build communities where folks with differences can live together so as to build up the lives of all.

In a world marked by absolutes breaking out into conflicts we need a religion which understands transcendence as that which limits us and makes us dependent on one another and that small still voice as we try to discern together what is required of us.

In a world which depersonalizes this or that group, we need a religion which really does believe in imagio dei. There are problems in liberal religious communities to be sure but this is one of the few places where I can see such a faith taking root.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


To continue with the article on the "sins" of liberal Christianity, one of its guiding assumptions is that liberals have no commitments but rather is guided by "whatever".

I raised this with my post on Cal Thomas. Given the costs involved, churches and denominations have taken stands, ones which put them at odds with the wider church and society. Those things don't happen without a great deal of commitment.

I'm a Christian Too has a good post on the issue of commitments, especially in comparing liberal churches with megachurches. And isn't it odd to talk about commitment and then jump right into the numbers as if that soley determined the worth of an idea?

Not that there shouldn't be concern about growth. Some liberal churches have grown because they've created a distinct identity for themselves. It's something the UCC outreach campaigns have been based on. Not that there isn't room for improvement.

I've seen mainline churches reduce their commitments to campus ministries at the moment that evangelical groups are defining religion on campus. I've seen defeatism when it comes to young people and the church. But my criticism will be for another post.

But when it's only numbers you get into the absurd position of the IRD arguing that churches should not oppose US torture because this will cause membership decline. To defend the inexcusable because this is what sells is gospel killing.

There's lots of strategies which can make a difference for the church, but there has to be trust in doing the right thing, to not be seduced by the arguments of the IRD, to recognize that being a disciple may or may not always bring the results we want.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Bad History

Here's another column bashing the mainline, repeating a number of claims that are off including that liberalism in the church is around 40 years old. A surprise to JG Machen who wrote against it 80 years ago.

A better date could be the late 1700s with Schleiermacher's work Speeches to Religion's Cultured Despisers where he reconciles faith and modernity. It's also evident in the 1700s in what would become the Unitarian Congregationalist split of the early 19th century.

It's what led to historical critical understandings of the Bible in the 19th century. The search for the historical Jesus didn't begin with the Jesus Seminar, it also dates to the 19th century. Matthew Arnold's work on metaphor, likewise.

And re-envisioning God? Far more radical at the turn of this century then what we see today. If you were to walk through the halls of the University of Chicago Divinity School in 1906 versus 2006, the willingness to radically revise religion was more evident then.

And Liberal churches from the Quakers, Unitarians, and Congregationalists were in the forefront of social movements including abolitionism. And starting one of the "sins" Unitarians and Congregationalists in the 19th century began ordaining women.

How are the 60's blamed? I think it's based on the principle that whatever of significance has occurred within one's generation. Also the conservative narrative still demonizes the decade. And the membership decline of *some* churches started at this time.

So you can draw causation, without worrying why liberal churches before the 1960s held their own or grew. And you can ignore liberal religious growth after the 60s such as with Reform Judaism. This piece has some other assumptions I'll work with tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Good Point

Philocrites claims that if one wants to change the religious landscape we need to get involve in revitalizing liberal churches. Which is to say that what happens in the mainline is not incidental to the future of our country. Something that the right already knows.
The most important task I see for progressive religious blogs is not primarily to rally activists or to "fight the right." (Those are important tasks, but in the long term they are secondary tasks.)

It is instead to strengthen, grow, perhaps even transform communities of faith by developing forms of communication that popularize, contextualize, and evangelize the faith.

In their own small way, blogs can help revitalize liberal churches — because liberal churches need revitalization if they are to accomplish the work that only they can do.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Religion in the Public Arena

There's been a number of discussions online about Obama's speech on reaching out and including people of faith in the political process and in the Democratic Party. I'm still working out my thoughts on it.

I agree that it's key that everyone can come to the table including those with religious faith. And that they shouldn't have to shelve their religious language to do so. Because such language highlight resources which can make a difference in the solving of human problems.

My worry is that the effort to reach out to religious folks is going to be one sided. It's aimed at evangelical protestants, not the full array of religions represented in our country. Does this have more to do with Democratic Party fortunes than actually including folks?

We shouldn't be troubled by Christian language in politics, but we should also have Buddhist language, Pagan language, and Islamic language too. If we want to enrich the public discussion with the resources and ideas of religion let's include more than one religion.

And in doing so, let's include other folks, many who don't identify with any religion. In otherwords, let's not shut out folks in the name of reaching out. Given Obama's dismissiveness of the pledge issue and school prayer, I'm not sure he's doing this.

With different languages comes responsibility. The responsibility to communicate with folks with different languages so we can together work on the problems of life. Also key is the ability to be fallibilistic, so that "thus sayeth the Lord" begins and does not end the public conversation.