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.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pannenberg on Gay Marriage

Wolfhart Pannenberg is a noted German theologian, along with Jurgen Moltmann, required reading among most Lutherans I know. I feel a bit embarrassed that I haven't had a chance to read him yet.

Sadly, the first piece I read is one against gay marriage and the argument hinges on the most flimsiest of claims. Gender essentialism. Apparently Paul's "there is no male nor female in Christ" is thrown out and the marriage metaphor (with the husband and wife) is lifted up.

That marriage metaphor is moving. But that this must be used so as to attack gay and lesbian love achieves a result that I think overturns the logic of Christianity (increasing love of God and neighbor) versus the historical way churches have related to glbt folks.

Pannenberg goes with the history. I'd try to go with the underlying logic of the tradition. And yes Pannenberg tries to anathematize churches that support gay and lesbians, but that language (who is in and out of the true church) is the oldest of rhetorical tropes.

One which I suspect would be used to condemn Pannennberg himself depending on who is using this trope. But there must be a better way to talk to each other. I hope Pannenberg's writings on other subjects are marked by more charity in any case.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Pluralism pt1

This portrait of Jesus is from the BBC. It makes Jesus a bit less Anglo and a bit more connected to first century Palestine. Theologically I try to parse this out in my Jewish Christian dialogue course concluding:

To critique and to seek to undo the damaging stories we Christians tell about our neighbors (ones which find their origins in the NT) would call for a fundamental recasting of the Christian story. We would need to have a much more expansive vision of God’s revelatory activity.

Such revelatory acts would be seen ever present and at work not just in the life of the church and in Jesus but in Judaism too, both then and now. So we ought not to be worried (or surprised) if Jesus echoes themes that place him within Judaism and the hellenized world.

God’s revelation should be seen as being found within Judaism and in other religious and secular contexts. Whatever is to be cherished in the story of Jesus and Christianity, can be cherished for what God has done in it, without limiting what God does in other stories and communities.

I also wonder if there isn’t a handicap when it comes to how we've spoken of Jesus. The early church, cutting up Jesus determining what ratio was human and divine, Jesus as the God-man and Jesus as moral exemplar carry a sense of Jesus apart from history and his context.

Is there a way to see the incarnation as a total complex historical event, which includes Jesus but also all the people, ideas, institutions, he touched (and was touched by)?

As Henry Nelson Wieman wrote, “The creative transformative power was not the man Jesus, although it could not have occurred apart from him. Rather he was in it…It required the Hebrew heritage, the disciples...and doubtless much else of which we have little knowledge.”

So the focus is on the God of Jesus and God’s reconciling activity, as found in people, traditions, communities, (including those that helped shaped Jesus, founded the church as well as those in very different contexts) that proves to be liberating and transformative.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Immigration Reform

Remember immigration reform? Bush and the Congress weren't able to reform the system in a way that could provide a path to citizenship. But the need remains. Does the will?

A number of churches have worked together to lift up the issue. The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference has raised the issue of INS raids in workplaces. Churches are working on providing resources and support for families impacted by such raids.

There's also a new Interfaith Immigration Coalition which is seeking "cooperation from the White House in reforming immigration policies, strengthening due process laws for immigrants and promoting humanitarian treatment of undocumented immigrants."

The change in the white house is significant for a number of progressive religious causes (though such causes are ones which a have a broader base of support and concern). Every once in a while it's worth noting when progressive churches are impacting the public discussion.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Quote of the day

We can reinvest our resources into campus ministries — reviving existing ones and launching new ones. Is a college that lacks a Presbyterian witness located within ten miles of your church? Do any colleges existing within the bounds of your presbytery lack an active Presbyterian student organization? Then you have some work to do.

This quote from Presbyterian Outlook could apply to all mainline protestant denominations at this point.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


The Synod of the Pacific is holding a church trial against That All May Freely Serve's Minister Coordinator Lisa Larges and the decision of her presbytery to move forward her ordination in the PCUSA. The trial is because of Large's sexual orientation.

Not so says Jim Berkley, it's really about Larges being "defiantly..sinful. Orientation is irrelevant. This is about homosexual practice." Isn't that on par with saying that it's ok to be Jewish, just don't "practice" Judaism? At one point does the distinction fall apart?

And the Church of England affirms Christ's uniqueness. I suppose nobody could deny uniqueness. The issue is whether the church and certain religious terms serve as exclusive gatekeepers to God. Is that where Anglicanism is going?

The purpose of this resolution is to spur evangelism but must there be a link between that and uniquity? If one has a message that is good news it's worth spreading regardless. Lack of evangelism has more to do with factors that this resolution doesn't touch upon.

Such factors that are worth exploring in future posts. But as an example; I wonder how intelligible this resolution is to folks outside of the church? I wonder if the church is interested in being intelligible to such folks? That's a significant concern if one is interested in outreach.

Friday, February 13, 2009


Two stories: First was the decision to reinstate 4 bishops, one which is a holocaust denier, of the Society St. Pius X, a break away group which opposed the reforms of Vatican II.

While there has been much outrage, appropriately so, from the Jewish community, with this reinstatement the rational given by Cardinal Kasper was that the Pope had wanted to bring them back into the fold to “reinforce the unity of the Church”. But there's another story.

The decision to fire a Catholic priest who opposed proposition 8, the ban on gay marriage in California. And the active efforts of the diocese to prevent this former priest from getting a job including threats to defund a non profit that had considered hiring him.

I admit. I haven't seen any indication that the Catholic Church has been interested reconciling liberals within the church. Schismatics are welcomed in, reformers are to be gone after in the church. That doesn't suggest "unity" but something else, which is disturbing.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Know Your Neighbor

This is from Friendly Atheist's post on the myths of many Christians, he found from another site. A few things strike me as wrong about point seven and her further elaborations:

Atheists are arguing with straw men: they criticize the ugliest, stupidest, most simplistic, most outdated versions of religion and ignore the thoughtful, complex forms of serious modern theology.

But, Most atheists don’t give a rat’s ass about religion as it’s practiced by a handful of theologians. We care about religion as it’s widely practiced in the real world. And that includes many versions of religion that are outdated, simplistic, stupid and ugly and richly deserving of criticism.

Every generalization of what the masses believe ignores liberal religious communities. Just putting aside the question of "sophisticated theologians", many churches celebrated Darwin Sunday. Yet those churches never get mentioned when critiquing Christianity.

If you are just criticizing the religious right, it's one thing. But not very often is the criticism so limited. It's often against Christianity or even more absurdly "religion". One's experience with Christianity in one context becomes the norm of religion in general.

So I wouldn't ask folks to not critique. But to know what one is critiquing. You don't have to be an expert on sophisticated theology, a brief visit to a synagogue, for instance, could do a lot to not have Judaism roped into whatever case one has against the religious right.

Christian Century bloggers, like John Shuck, a Presbyterian pastor whose work in progressive religion and politics is done in the church suggests that a perusal of a few blogs should make religious generalizations less sustainable.

Greta suggests that many of us progressive religious types have not read in depth the sophisticated theology of other religions and we feel free to reject other religions. So are we expecting something different from atheism than we're likely to have done ourselves?

I don't think so. I have read theologians from other religions but my participation in Christianity is an affirmation of my religion, not a rejection of another one. Nor is my critique of some atheists over whether they accept a given religion or not.

It's that they are not given a fair reading to their neighbor. In that, I don't think atheists need convert. But I do think all of us, Christian and atheist, if there is common ground to be had should find it and folks across the spectrum should develop a sympathetic read of each other.

The point of Greta's post is how often Christians, can fail to know and therefore speak truthfully about their atheist neighbors. "Myth 7" likewise is saying we all need to know something more about our neighbors if we're going to speak truth and relate to each other better.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Kick Starting the Blog

That's a goal of mine. I work full time and go to seminary full time and so I haven't had the means so far to do so. But this has been a helpful site to work out my thoughts and catch up with religious news and the thoughts of others. So I'll see if I'm able to give this site a new start.