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.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Significant Books

Friendly Atheist asks what books played a role in his readers thoughts about religion. In that vein, though I remain a theist, I figured I'd post a few books that were significant in my journey.

Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism by John Spong, gave me permission to have doubts and rethink things about my faith without feeling that I needed to leave the church. Even if one cringes at his thought, many folks have stayed in the church because of him.

Robert Funk taught me to value historicism in his book Honest to Jesus while Mortimer Adler in his book How To Think About God impressed on me that a God that is not an actuality and a faith that doesn't point to realities in this world could not suffice.

Mordechai Kaplan's The Meaning of God in Modern Jewish Religion and Gordon Kaufman's In the Face of Mystery spoke to me about God as those realities in the world that act to transform life for the better. Boenhoffer's Prison Letters taught me to locate God in this life.

Shailer Matthews' The Growth of the Idea of God and Victor Anderson's Pragmatic Theology argues that religious language and practices are responding to our experiences of the world thus providing a basis for public inquiry and discussion of religious ideas.

Gustafson's Ethics from a Theocentric Perspective, Josiah Royce's The Problem of Christianity, H. Richard Neibuhr's Radical Monotheism and Western Culture made an impact on me in helping to publicly translate religious ideas to tackle human problems.

Edgar Brightman's The Problem of God and William Ernest Hocking's The Meaning of God in Human Experience suggests the way that we can find rootedness in the particularities of our traditions while at the same time respecting the universal impulse in religion.

Which is to say that faith ought to push us to a more expansive vision of the world in a way which relativizes our own sense of things. And yet the platform it has to do this is all the particular rituals, practices and ideas of our respective traditions.

Rosemary Reuther's Christology and Cultural Criticism problematized Gnosticism. John Dewey's Common Faith broadened my sense of religious experience. Ok this list is getting too long and too many key folks are left out so what's on your book list?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Reaching Out Campaigns

Peace Bang raises some thoughtful concerns about the new ad campaign of the Unitarian Universalist Association in that it does not emphasize the positive content of UUism. Nonetheless I can see how this ad can work.

It may play on the idea that UUism is not like other religions but the problem is folks on the whole only seem to know of fundamentalism or no religious option. That’s it. There simply is no space in a lot of folks heads to imagine a third option.

To consider UUism or any alternative means to consider the possibility that there is a religion which does not look like religion as they know it. This ad (like the United Church of Christ ads) try to create that opening. This made an impact in our campus ministry work.

For folks more sophisticated about religion it may not be compelling. But most folks who give up on fundamentalism don’t become UU, Buddhist, liberal Protestant, or other forms of progressive faith. They simply become members of the church alumni association.

For those who could find positive resources in various religious traditions but can no longer find fundamentalism as viable,it's important to be able to articulate not just a positive alternative but also that it is indeed an alternative to religion as they know it.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Happy Birthday

Adler, the gray cat on the left was born on this day in 2005. The tan cat on the right Talula. I don't know her birthday but I know she was born in 1997 so I invented April 19th as her birthday. In any case, my vision of the good life includes having my cats around.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Protestant Images

If you click on the painting above by Lucas Cranach, you'll see the altar he made at Luther's church in Wittenburg. It represents a time period in which protestants understood and used iconography. This makes me want to hunt for protestant icons now.

This picture portrays the last supper. What's interesting is that all the disciples are in a circle. And Judas is being fed first! Talk about grace. At the bottom you get a picture of Luther preaching and of course pointing to Christ.

This Sunday we took the church kids to the Interfaith Week art show, which indicated the way that children ranging from the LDS to Judaism to the Disciples of Christ conceive of their faith. Those pictures tell a story of self identity as potent as most icons.

If one wants to see how protestant churches are seen by someone who is on the outside (doesn't it seem perverse to speak of insiders and outsiders when it comes to such a thing?) check out Oliver's posts as he visits various churches in Mississippi.

His most recent was to a presbyterian church in Oxford, which is one of the only moderate to liberal congregations I could find in Mississippi. If there are other congregations for Oliver to visit that others can recommend, feel free to post here or on his site.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Science Matters

A quote from Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. Perhaps Shuck and Jive and others participating in evolution Sunday were expressing a feature to be found in the reformed protestant tradition?
Whenever we come upon (art and science) in secular writers, let the light of truth shining in them teach us that the mind of man is clothed and ornamented with God's excellent gifts.

If we regard the Spirit of God as the sole foundation of truth, we shall neither reject the truth itself, nor despise it wherever it shall appear, unless we dishonor the Spirit of God.

Shall we say that the philosophers were blind in their fine observation and artful description of nature? Shall we say that those men were devoid of understanding who conceived the art of disputation and taught us to speak reasonably?

Shall we say that they are insane who developed medicine, devoting their labor to our benefit? What shall we say of all the mathematical sciences? We marvel in them because we are compelled to recognize how preeminent they are."

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A liberal church in Mississippi?

Friendly Atheist has highlighted an atheist who is visiting various churches in Mississippi. Obviously he's had a rough time of the experience so far. So the question is whether there are liberally minded churches in the state.

I tried to find public liberal churches in Mississippi, something you can find easily in most parts of the country. Not very easy in though that state besides a few UUA congregations. A couple church websites from that area did catch my eye though:

http://www.trinityhattiesburg.org/ Trinity Episcopal Church in Hattiesburg which says they are an "open and diverse family dedicated to serving God and all creation" Many of the Episcopal churches in the state gave indication of being moderate to liberal.

http://www.fpcoxford.net/index.php?/who-we-are/ First Presbyterian in Oxford says "we celebrate and respect the rich diversity of background and belief to be found here" Also First Christian in Gulfport shows some promise at www.fccgulfport.org

My own work is with the UCC and Disciples of which there seems to be little presence. One's best bet is PCUSA, the Episcopal Church, and the ELCA. But even these groups, which are generally moderate to liberal, are often conservative in Mississippi.

I honestly don't know what I'd do if I lived there. Sounds like a painful time to be had for anyone who expects to find fair minded religion. But if anyone has congregation suggestions in that state feel free to share them on this site and Friendly Atheist's site.