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Showing posts from July, 2018

The future of religion

An Ethical Musings’ reader wondered: “What is happening to religion? Are we further apart in our beliefs or could we be merging?”
A quick global examination of religious belief reveals three significant trends.
First, religion based upon a literal reading of a person’s faith group’s scripture is increasing, especially in its Christian and Islamic expressions as seen in the Global South. This observation distinguishes between Islamic extremism (and by inference extremism in all of its other religious manifestations) and historic forms of Islam, whether Sunni or Shiite. Islam, more than any other major religion has taught a literal reading of the Koran.
Second and concurrently, belief in organized religion is decreasing in the developed world. This trend is observable even in the United States with its traditionally high levels of religious belief. For example, a recent Pew survey found that a majority of Americans believe in a higher power but only a slim majority believe in the God d…

Zero waste churches

A parish in Raleigh, NC, where I have at various times served as Priest-in-Charge and Priest Associate has expanded and named its ecological stewardship ministry Zerowastechurch.org.
I commend your engagement with this website and the organization behind it for five theological reasons.
First, God loves all creation. Illustratively, after each step of the creative process outlined in Genesis 1 God saw, “It is good.” Human destruction, particularly wanton destruction of any part of creation, is sinful because the destruction profanes or ruins what God deems good. Remember, Genesis 1 is a theological testament, not a scientific text. To reject the idea that God saw creation as good because of the faulty scientific framework on which the theology is draped is to discard the baby with the bathwater.
Second, God appointed humans as the stewards of creation. Stewards care for that which the owner has entrusted to the stewards’ care; stewards wrongfully usurp the owner’s prerogatives when …

Does Trump teach us how to love our enemies?

Jesus instructed his followers to love their enemies. President Trump sometimes appears to curry favor with nations recently considered enemies or adversaries of the United States, especially Russia and China. Is he heeding Jesus’ teaching to love one’s enemies?
Lavishing blandishments and flattery on Russia’s President Putin and China’s President Xi does not communicate love. Both authoritarian rulers have enough sycophants in their governments that the rulers recognize flattery for what it is: empty words. Flattery infers shared values and perhaps obedience, neither of which should characterize U.S. relations with Russia or China.
Genuine love for enemies frequently requires speaking truth to power in a way that power is likely to hear. Using this criterion, Trump clearly does not express love for his enemies. For example, Trump failed to confront Putin about Russian interference in U.S. elections with sufficient forcefulness, relying on the word of a known prevaricator instead of …

Wearing a cross

A reader found my Ethical Musings posts on Why people go to church and What was Jesus’ brand interesting. The posts prompted the reader to wonder if I had given any thought to the number of people who wear crosses. The reader accurately surmised that by comparing the number of church attendees to cross wearers, a significant number of people who wear a cross have no connection to Christianity or to the theological meaning of the cross.
I found the reader’s observation insightful and thought provoking. After receiving the reader’s comment, I began paying more attention to the number of people wearing a cross and was startled at the number of crosses I saw, especially when contrasted with church attendance and membership statistics for Paris and London, the cities in which I made my observations. Some individuals wearing a cross were obviously American. Even ignoring those, a still surprising number of French and British persons wore crosses. Since returning to the States, I’ve found t…

Racing for God

I briefly encountered the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, in London. Sadly, we are not on a first name basis. Now that I have your attention, I’ll tell you what actually happened. One evening her motorcade drove by as Susan and I walked from our London hotel to a nearby restaurant. You may feel I misled you. Many Christians face a similar credibility challenge. Christianity promises people to help them develop a first name relationship with God and then too often fails to deliver. Today’s gospel reading (Mark 6:1-13) offers several constructive suggestions about how to assist people connect with God.
Clergy are icons of God. Believe me, these icons all have clay feet. Nevertheless, one reason the Church sets aside clergy is to symbolize God’s presence in our midst. Good clergy aim to achieve this purpose through being transparent, appropriately sharing personal foibles and struggles while hoping that people will simultaneously discern God’s presence. Incidentally, being an icon is…