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, September 20, 2006

Perils of Conformity

This was a quote I gleamed off of Fr Jake's site. It identifies a problem with the drive to conformity that the right seeks. "Any insistence to agree on everything sounds like a call to build a new “Tower of Babel.”

In the story, unity of language and purpose led to pride, with the people patting themselves on the back for being so smart. (So) God decided to destroy the tower and to confuse our language in order to keep us mindful that only God creates anything of lasting significance.
Differences remind us that God alone is sovereign – not you, me, theologians or doctrines. Divergent ideas and actions, even heretical ones, will not destroy us, our faith, or Our Lord. But they will lead us to ask more questions, find new answers, correct old errors..."

Sunday, September 17, 2006


Terry Mattingly has a set of three questions which he thinks will nail someone as a modernist, which apparently must be a bad term.

Are the biblical accounts of the resurrection of Jesus accurate? Was this a real, even if mysterious event, in real time?

Given the diversity of the texts that's a hard claim but since there is a hedge in this question, terms like real and mysterious, this capture a range of options, including Paul's confused description at the end of 1 Corinthians, a description and a confusion that I'm likely to go with.

Is salvation found through Jesus Christ, alone? Is Jesus the Way or a way?
I'm sure I'll get nailed, since I don't see Jesus as the sole means of salvation. I don't see how one can get a monotheistic account that limits God's saving work to a single time period, a single religion, etc.

Ultimately I question whether the NT seeks to do such a thing either. "Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet."

"When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all." 1 Cor 15:24,25,28 Monotheism is never compromised. Even the instruments of God's saving work are subordinated to God's purposes.

This is why I get baffeled when folks speak of a Christian God or a Muslim God. There is no such thing, only Christian descriptions of God and Muslim descriptions of God. They may or may not provide resources for life, but God ends up being larger than this.

Is sex outside of the sacrament of marriage a sin? Until marriage is seen as an act of God, not of the church, which is marked by love, committment, mutuality, etc then marriage is no indicator of the morality of sexual relations. I'm a modernist afterall.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


Trying to work on more posts. We'll see how it goes. I've discovered that a number of campus ministry responsibilities have given me less chance to do student outreach, then before I was director which makes me wonder about our campus ministry model.

I ended up buying Gordon Kaufman's work Jesus and Creativity and am devouring it. I hope to have some post about it though I haven't nailed down blog book reviews. Also I had a chance to attend a UCC conference gathering, for the first time.

I noticed that Chuck Colson goes after the left for criticizing religious right politics and strategies, in particular with stem cell research. Ok, disagreement can be had but for some reason any criticism of the religious right is an "attack on Christianity"

This ignores the fact that many Christians support such research as well as many denominations. Hiding by religion to shut down debate. When that happens it makes it that much harder for religion to have a plausible role to play in the public square.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sept. 11

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Moral Pride

Here's an interesting Niebuhr quote I found in The Nature and Destiny of Man. This is a move to relativize us not a call to find some other absolute; not a common but needed function of religion.
Moral pride is revealed in all self righteous judgments in which the other is condemned because he fails to conform to the arbitrary standards of the self. Since the self judges itself by its own standards it finds itself good.

It judges others by its own standards and finds them evil, when their standards fail to conform to its own. This is the secret of the relationship between cruelty and self righteousness. When the self mistaks its standards for God's standards it is naturally inclinced to attribute the essence of evil to non conformists.

The character of moral pride is described in the words of St.Paul: "They have the zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For being ignorant of God's righteouesness and going about to establish their own righteousness they have not submitted themselves onto the righteousness of God."

Moral pride is the pretension of finite man that his highly conditioned virtue is the final righteousness and that his relative moral standards are absolute. Moral pride thus makes virtue the very vehicle of sin, a fact which explains why the New Testament is so critical of the righteous in comparison with sinners.

The final proof that man no longer knows God is that he does not know his own sin. The sinner who justifies himself does not know God as judge and does not need God as Saviour. It involves us in the greater guilt. It is responsible for our most serious cruelties, injustices and defamations against our fellowman.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Losing the Plot

School has started and I have not found out a way yet to balance the demands with a regular posting schedule. I am hoping to get myself into some routine because I value this site and its readership.

I've been hired as the director of a mainline campus ministry and I've been hired as an adjunct at a university 90 miles away to teach philosophy. And also been doing some side projects such as a progressive christian radio show and some reading.

I've been recently reading The Beloved Community; How Faith Shapes Social Justice, From the Civil Rights Movement to Today. And in that work the question is raised; what happens when the religious moorings of such movements are lost.

A lot of energy has been spent on analyzing how the religious right became successful but how did the mainline fail to address this with something more compelling? I have a hunch it relates to how too often the mainline has lost its own religious moorings.

Some of this has been sparked by the way a number of liberal protestant ministries have ceased to see themselves as providing a religious ministry and instead see themselves solely in terms of social change and a certain left politics.

Some of it is an ignoring of the particulars of Christianity to some broad based social, ethical, and political ideals that are divorced from the religion. And so we get things like the YMCA, a group that no longer pretends to be an ecumenical protestant ministry.

Somewhere in there hangs a tale, which has lessons for how the mainline lost and might regain the means to provide a compelling religious home for folks. Addressing this issue will need to be even more central than simply going after the religious right.