Archive for the ‘Living the Questions’ Category

Painting the Stars: Science, Religion, & an Evolving Faith   2 comments

PtS logo white frameThe first reviews are in and Living the Questions’ new Painting the Stars series is receiving kudos as the new catalyst for dynamic and liberating conversations  about the communion of science and faith — all around the world.

Featuring over a dozen leading theologians and progressive thinkers, the seven-session program explores the promise of evolutionary Christian spirituality that has been gaining momentum in thoughtful circles of Christians across the globe. The challenging and engaging participant reader was written especially for this program by evolutionary theologian Bruce Sanguin. When you purchase the curriculum edition, you receive a code to access the downloadable/printable overview and reader.  The downloadable material also includes a facilitator guide, detailed discussion questions coordinated with the video segments, and original prayers/poems written for each session by Michael Morwood. The basic format for each 1-1 1/2 hour session includes conversation around the readings, a 20-minute video presentation and guided discussion. Click HERE for info on purchasing the curriculum edition.

“Fabulous!”
— Michael Dowd, author of Thank God for Evolution

“This course is a masterpiece. The content, editing and graphics are beyond first rate. Congratulations to all.”
— John Jacobson, Facilitator – New Smyrna Beach Theology Club

Painting the Stars is also available as a Home Edition licensed for private home viewing only. Each of the seven episodes runs approx. 20 minutes. Please note that, when purchasing the home edition, none of the downloadable material is accessible and the videos are not to be used in group settings.

THEMES
1. Toward Healing the RiftPtS HE white frame
2. A Renaissance of Wonder
3. Getting Genesis Wrong
4. An Evolving Faith
5. Evolutionary Christianity
6. Imagining a Future
7. An Evolving Spirituality: Mysticism

CONTRIBUTORS
Philip Clayton, Michael Dowd, Rachel Held Evans, Matthew Fox, Catherine Keller, Megan McKenna, Michael Morwood, Jan Phillips, Barbara Rossing, Bruce Sanguin, Bernard Brandon Scott, John Shelby Spong, Gretta Vosper

I just completed facilitating Painting the Stars with a group of fifteen. It was a wonderful experience for all concerned. The presenters, the visuals on the DVD, the discussion-provoking questions were all typical LtQ quality. What I wanted to convey particularly was the light that I saw go on in the eyes of several participants at several points during the class. It is a rare and special thing to watch a fellow seeker “get it.” Thank you!                                                                           — M. Mathews 

Ken Columbus?   1 comment

It’s Still About Conquest

About the best we can say of Christopher Columbus anymore is that he was a cheapskate. On his 1492 voyage, he promised a reward to whoever spotted land first. Hooray for sailor Rodrigo de Triana, right? Nope. Columbus claimed he had seen a “glow” the night before and gave the reward to himself.

The bottom line is that what we know now about the man should be enough to make even the most ardent “Knight of Columbus” feel ashamed – and it’s not PC revisionism of Columbus’ reputation, either. His own journals and logs reveal a man who, even by the standards of his own day, was more opportunistic monster than heroic explorer.

The one who many still celebrate for “discovering” America was, in fact, a heartless slave trader who brutalized and enslaved whole villages in an effort to lessen the effects of his failure to find a new trade route to the Indies.

As it turns out, the “Columbus sailed the ocean blue” song we sang as children needs a few new verses.  One might be about how he murdered countless natives. Another might be how he also dealt in child prostitution, giving his sailors the perk of 9 and 10 year old girls for their amusement. His reputation was so grim that, upon the approach of any Europeans, natives poisoned their own children and then committed suicide rather than face whatever torture was in store for them.

But he was not totally without scruples. Because the Catholic church forbade enslaving of Christians, he made sure not to baptize any of the natives he was selling into slavery.

Columbus’ own contemporaries despised him. As governor of Santo Domingo on Hispaniola, he was a despot who kept all the profits for himself, A number of attempts were made on his life and at one point he was actually arrested and sent back to Spain in chains for crimes against humanity. Good thing for him he brought a lot of gold and bought off the King and Queen, who pardoned him so he could get back to work.

We’ve got universities, companies, networks, rivers, whole countries named after this man. But most folks don’t have a clue as to the real nature of who he was and the horrific nature of his actions. Any claim he might have once had to being a brave explorer is eclipsed by the reality of the inhumanity he visited upon his fellow humans.

Like many holidays that involve a day off for Americans, most people either don’t care or downplay the origin of the celebration of Columbus Day. Good thing he was a Christian! Imagine how bad he would’ve been if he wasn’t following Jesus.

Considering Jesus’ summary of the Jewish Law and Prophets: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” it begs the question: how do we get from Jesus to Columbus? Or from Jesus to Jim Jones? Or from Jesus to any of us, for that matter?

A part of the reason is because Christianity has, for nearly two millennia, functioned out of an imperialistic mindset. Bent on conquering the other more than “loving” the other (along with the warped sense that coercing people into belief was a form of loving them…), Christianity has helped make tyrants like Columbus possible. For much of its history, the only thing Jesus would recognize about Christianity is that it functions with the same MO as the Roman economic, political, and military machine that led to his execution.

Jesus was pretty clear about the principle of “Loving your neighbor as yourself.”  He even clarified that this included one’s enemies. In Romans, Paul even looked at it from the other direction: “If it hurts your neighbor, don’t do it.”

But 2000 years of putting “conquering in Jesus’ name” at the top of your list is a hard habit to break. Being “right” and showing others how “wrong” they are is still at the heart of many people’s core Christian beliefs.

"Answers in Genesis" Times Square Billboard

“Answers in Genesis” Times Square Billboard

In keeping with their usual adolescent taunts of those with whom they disagree, Ken Ham and the folks at Answers in Genesis have invested in a billboard (see photo at left) that says way more about their having been compromised by imperialist culture than anything about Jesus. Their “To our atheist friends: Thank God You’re Wrong” message is not love. It’s not neighborly. It’s shallow, arrogant, and reinforces the very un-Jesusy notion that Christianity is about being right. Plus, it’s just downright embarrassing.

If our “friends” at Answers in Genesis were really paying attention to Jesus’ teachings instead of trying to conquer “the other,” they would be seeking ways to enter into conversation rather than taking very expensive cheap shots at their perceived enemies. If they were paying attention they would know that even Carl Sagan, poster child for atheists everywhere, said “For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.”

Even atheists know that in the final analysis, it’s about love!  And isn’t that the starting point for any conversation that moves us forward as a community, as a civilization?

Despite what we learned as children, we know now that Columbus in large part used Christianity as a means toward satiating his personal greed for power and influence. Sadly, Christians like those at “Answers in Genesis” still function out of a similar imperialist mindset. Despite what many of us learned as children, Christianity is not about us-vs-them, conquering “the other,” and triumphing over “false” ideas. It’s about love – and not a rainbows and unicorns kind of superficial love – but a love that does the hard work of engaging those with whom we disagree for the shared purpose of working toward the common good.

Christians were originally called “people of the way,” people who followed the example of Jesus in making love of neighbor (and enemy) a way of life. As followers of Jesus, can we ever recover from thousands of years of having been compromised by dualism, violence, and the lust for power? Maybe we could start with a blogpost that cleverly disses our “friends” at Answers in Genesis by comparing them and their motives to Columbus’ reign of terror. Or maybe not.

Click HERE to see Eric Kasum’s article on Huffington Post about boycotting the celebration of Columbus Day

God is Dying   Leave a comment

Sample God being Bombed

“God Will Not Be God Without Us.  When anybody in this world is hurt, God is hurt. When anybody in this world gets their lives twisted and out of joint, that radically affects the reality of God. When a culture is bombed and civilizations are dying, God is being bombed, and in human terms, dying.”

–Tex Sample
in Living the Questions’ Saving Jesus Redux,  “Atonement”

Tex SampleThe Rev. Dr. Tex Sample served as Academic Dean and Emeritus Professor of Church and Society at the Saint Paul School of Theology, and currently writes books and travels  as a freelance lecturer, workshop leader, consultant, and storyteller. His books include Ministry in an Oral Culture: Living with Will Rogers, Uncle Remus, and Minnie Pearl, and co-editor of The Loyal Opposition: Struggling with the Church on Homosexuality. He is currently the coordinator of the Network for the Study of U.S. Lifestyles and a contributor to several Living the Questions programs.

ONE DAY LtQ FLASH SALE: 50% OFF ALL DVD PROGRAMS!   2 comments

1 year anniversary coupon

This kind of thing doesn’t happen every day (or even every YEAR!), so don’t miss your chance to snag that LtQ program you’ve been meaning to roll out in your church or study group! ONE DAY ONLY: Wednesday, Sept. 4th, 2013 

“I’ve lead most of the LTQ courses. Each time people are energized by learning that they don’t have to believe in impossible things, just live a life rooted in the love, compassion and justice embodied in Jesus.”  — R.H. in Austin (via Facebook)

“Living the Questions is a breath of fresh air in the crazy world of contemporary religious thought. It will refresh, renew, challenge, inspire and sometimes drive you to a fine glass of red wine. LTQ literally changed my life!”  — S.S. in Ohio (via Facebook)

“LtQ2 both broadened and deepened our Christian Formation studies at my church in Atlanta. We could watch the confining bonds of literalism fall from the consciousnesses around us as we could once again view the numinous through our liturgies. Awesome materials.”  — M.D. in Atlanta (via Facebook)

NOTE: Offer applies only to DVD curriculum purchased from the livingthequestions.com website and is not valid on previous orders or combined with any other promotional offers. Offer valid through 11:59 pm, Central, September 4th, 2013.  To receive the discount, you must create a member account or be logged in to your member account and enter the code: 1YRLTQ

Crossan on Structural Injustice – be it Vineyard OR Fast Food Workers   Leave a comment

STRIKE-McDonalds-v2As fast food workers strike across the U.S., the idea of structural injustice takes center stage:  low-wage fast food workers are pitted against owners who feel confident that if their current employees are unhappy, there are plenty of other people who are desperate enough to take the non-living wages they offer without complaint.  Jesus had something to say about that.  In First Light, Living the Questions’ DVD curriculum on “Jesus and the Kingdom of God,” Dom Crossan and Marcus Borg explore the culture and times in which Jesus lived.  For Labor Day here in the U.S., here’s an excerpt from the participant guide: John Dominic Crossan reflecting on the structural injustices that Jesus is critiquing in the parable of The Vineyard Workers.

vineyard_workers_cropped_medTHE VINEYARD WORKERS.

Imagine, for example, how that process worked in an oral delivery of the Vineyard Workers in Matthew 20:1-16. It is harvest time in the vineyards and a landowner goes to the marketplace to hire day laborers. But instead of hiring all he needed at once, he went out five times—at 6am, 9am, 12 noon, 3pm, and 5pm. (Are you already sensing a comment on his character in that procedure?).

At the end of the day, all alike are given a silver denarius for a full day’s pay. They grumble immediately about the landowner’s injustice. And, from Matthew on, we tend to focus on that problem of personal and individual justice or injustice. Was it fair? Was the owner equitably generous or provocatively condescending? And in focusing there, we do not focus elsewhere.

But think about this interchange: “About five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard’” (20:6-7). How would Jesus’ listeners—especially poor day-laborers—have responded to that interaction? Would nobody from the oral audience have objected to such a blatant blaming the victim? Would nobody have protested that looking for work all day was not laziness?

What would have happened in such a discussion was a raising of the audience’s consciousness on the difference between, in our language, personal and individual justice or injustice as against systemic or structural justice and injustice. Why did it happen mysteriously that, even at high harvest in the vineyards when labor should have cost top denarius, day-laborers were still looking for work at the end of the day? And, of course, the owner knew that situation full well since he had tried all day to have just the amount of labor needed and no more. He knew he could go out as late as 5pm and still find workers. How did things happen just as the landowners wanted?

The audience would have been lured by that story into thinking, debating, and understanding the crucial distinction between individual charity (a denarius for each) and structural justice (no work for all), and in that collaborative process they would—Jesus hoped and intended—begin the collaborative process of eschatological transformation with a God of distributive justice.

— Dom Crossan excerpt (from First Light reader) © 2010, livingthequestions.com, “Vineyard Workers” graphic by Ky Betts

FirstLight4First Light is a 12-session DVD and web-based study of the historical Jesus and the Kingdom of God. Follow John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg, two of the world’s leading Jesus scholars, on location throughout the Galilee and Jerusalem as they ask, “Why did Jesus happen when he happened?” “Why the tiny villages around the Lake?” “Why were the titles of Caesar Augustus — Divine, Son of God, God from God, Lord, Redeemer, Liberator, and Savior of the World — taken from a Roman emperor and given to a Jewish peasant?”

John Dominic Crossan says that First Light “is all I have to say about Jesus after half a century of study — in succinct summary.”

Crossan for webJohn Dominic Crossan is one of the world’s most respected Jesus scholars and author of numerous books, including “Jesus, a Revolutionary Biography” & “God and Empire: Jesus Against Rome, Then and Now.”  He is featured in a number of Living the Questions programs, including “First Light” and “Eclipsing Empire.”  In 2012, Crossan served as the President of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL)

A Dream Day Legacy   Leave a comment

Tex Sample asks,  “I often wonder where the people who are marginalized in the world, where the people who are poor, where the people who are outcast, can find those that they can trust. Is it you?  Is it me?  Can it be the church?”

chalmers

Allan Knight Chalmers

MLK 50

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Allan Knight Chalmers was a Professor of Preaching at Boston University School of Theology and a mentor to Martin Luther King, Jr.  While at Boston University, Chalmers was the president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and was involved in Civil Rights struggles and Civil Rights action all over the United States. It was professors like Chalmers and Dean Walter Muelder who intentionally sought out African American students from the South to train them for the Civil Rights challenges that were to come. During his tenure at Boston University, Dean Muelder was responsible for the training of more African American PhD students than any single university in the country. One of those was Dr. King.

Tex Sample video clip from Living the Questions 2.0, available at www.livingthequestions.com

Letting the Cat Out of the Bag   Leave a comment

Don’t miss John Shuck’s “Religion for Life”  interview with David Felten, one of the co-creators of Living the Questions:

religionforlife podcast graphic

Click HERE or on the graphic above to listen to the podcast

Among a variety of topics in this podcast, Felten and Shuck discuss how clergy have not been honest with laity about what is being taught in seminary and academia and how hesitant many clergy are at letting the cat out of the bag about the Jesus of history. This is part of Shuck’s current series on The Future of Faith featuring interviews with Marcus Borg, Val Webb, Lloyd Geering, Matthew Fox, and many others.

If you’ve ever been in conversation and had to fumble to try and describe exactly what “Progressive” Christianity is, then you’ll find some succinct answers in this wide-ranging conversation.

David Felten and Jeff Procter-Murphy

Felten & Procter-Murphy

David Felten and Jeff Procter-Murphy are the creators of the DVD series, Living the Questions and authors of the Amazon best-selling  Living the Questions: The Wisdom of Progressive Christianity.

John Shuck

John Shuck

Religion For Life is an educational program that explores the intersection of religion, social justice and public life. It features interviews with local and national figures from a variety of religious traditions and from a variety of perspectives, and  addresses the effects of religion – both positive and negative — on public life.

The host of the program is the Reverend John Shuck, a Presbyterian minister for 21 years and currently the minister at the First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tennessee. Prior to entering the ministry, Shuck was a radio broadcaster at stations in Boise, Idaho and Seattle, Washington. Shuck’s website is HERE and podcasts are available by heading over to PODOMATIC.

Living the Questions: How the Wisdom of Progressive Christianity is energizing a 21st Century Approach to Following Jesus.   Leave a comment

Carlsbad Flyer ver2
In Southern California at the end of July? Then join author, pastor, and co-creator of Living the Questions, Rev. David Felten on Monday, July 29th and Tuesday, July 30th at Pilgrim UCC in Carlsbad for practical insights on a Progressive approach to 21st century Christianity.

Ever struggled with questions about how Christianity is going to survive in an increasingly secular world – or whether it should survive? How do we justify the expense of maintaining brick and mortar churches when Jesus’ call to peace and justice are struggling to get any traction in our communities? For some surprising insights and practical tools to help tease out some possibilities, we’ll be spring-boarding off of four Biblical stories you thought you knew, but probably don’t!

PBJ 6The Rev. David Felten is a United Methodist pastor in Fountain Hills, Arizona and co-creator of the “Living the Questions” DVD curriculum for progressive Christians.  His book, Living the Questions: The Wisdom of Progressive Christianity was co-authored by Rev. Jeff Procter-Murphy and published by HarperOne in 2012. David is one of the founders of the pro-LGBT clergy group, No Longer Silent/Clergy for Justice and a director of the Arizona Foundation for Contemporary Theology. You can find his blog posts at www.livingthequestionsonline.com and www.huffingtonpost.com

LtQ on “Culture Shocks” with Barry Lynn   Leave a comment

Felten Culture Shocks

Co-creator of Living the Questions,  Rev. David Felten, was interviewed this week for the nationally syndicated radio show, “Culture Shocks” with Rev. Barry Lynn. Lynn is an ordained UCC pastor, constitutional lawyer, noted activist, and longstanding civil libertarian. For over twenty years, he has served as the executive director for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to preserving the constitutional principle of church-state separation as the only way to ensure religious freedom for all Americans. David serves on the board of his local chapter of AU in Phoenix, Arizona. The interview was aired on Monday, June 10th and will be available streaming online by clicking on the graphic above or HERE, the Culture Shocks website. 

The Journey of Liberation   Leave a comment

Townes Liberation

Liberation is about “being on a journey, being in a movement.” It’s “the process of coming into an awareness that there is definitely a better life for people to be had. Not just for myself but for all of us. The Church should be part of that. And where it is not, it is not the Church.”

And whether it’s the Church or each of us as individuals, it’s about “doing the right thing day after day after day and moment after moment. It really is doing it every day. I cannot say it often enough: treating people fairly, decently – respecting them for who they are – knowing that none of us is perfect.”

Emilie TownesRev. Dr. Emilie Townes is an an ordained American Baptist clergywoman and scholar whose areas of expertise include Christian ethics and womanist theology. She appears in a number of Living the Questions DVD programs. In 2013, Townes is moving from Yale University to become dean of Vanderbilt University Divinity School.

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