Living the Word: In The Cool of God's Shade


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THE DOG DAYS OF SUMMER can make for a preaching desert without an oasis in sight. This can be a fine time to take a vacation from the lectionary. Huge swaths of scripture go untreated otherwise—the entire Samson cycle, most of the cursing psalms, most of the gospel of John. One friend spends a portion of every year preaching through blockbuster movies and how they intersect with the scriptures. Another devoted a preaching series to favorite children’s books.   

Here in August the lectionary itself seems to take a vacation, visiting the discourse about bread in John’s gospel, inviting us to see every bit of bread, every bite of food, as filled with Jesus. Texts about water invite us to see all water as a sign of the God who creates us in the water of a womb and gives water for our salvation in baptism (an especially apt teaching point for those still sandy-toed from the beach).

A friend’s pulpit has on it “tree of life,” written in Hebrew—inviting all to see trees as reminders of the tree from which our first parents ate fruit forbidden to them, the tree on which Jesus was crucified, and the tree in the City of God whose leaves are for the healing of the nations.

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Earliest Draft of the King James Bible Discovered by New Jersey Professor

Image via The Green Collection / RNS

For some months after he returned from England last year, a Montclair State University professor did not realize what a treasure he had found in a rare books library at Cambridge University.

While abroad, Jeffrey A. Miller, an assistant professor of English at the New Jersey school, had acquainted himself with some of the 70 pages of a notebook that had belonged to Samuel Ward, a 17th century biblical scholar. But it wasn’t until Miller returned home, and made a more thorough study of photographs he had taken of its pages, that he understood how stunning a discovery he had made.

The notebook held draft portions of the most enduring English translation of the Bible: the King James Version, which was published in 1611 and named for the newly ascended King James I.

“I am not even sure I believed it initially,” said Miller, describing the moment when he figured out he had seen draft pages from the most widely read work in all of English, including Shakespeare.

There's Domestic Violence in the Bible. Let's Talk About It.

Image by Amanda Carden / Shutterstock

Bruised and battered in body and spirit, many victims of domestic violence are looking to faith communities for guidance. We must do more to make sure our congregations are safe spaces for survivors of abuse. And that starts with naming the sin of domestic violence in our churches and examining how our own sacred texts have been misinterpreted to condone such abuse.

This October—as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month—we’re featuring a new online series called Troubling Texts: Domestic Violence in the Bible. With thought-provoking commentary from experts, pastors, and emerging scholars, we'll take a hard look at how scripture has been used to justify domestic violence.

WATCH: Jim Wallis Talks Pope Francis and God’s Economy on PBS Newshour

YouTube / PBS Newshour

Photo via YouTube / PBS Newshour

Pope Francis’ strident critique of “unbridled capitalism” has turned heads across the globe. Ahead of his upcoming visit to the United States, American politicians, religious leaders, and laypeople are eager to hear how Pope Francis thinks about economics.

Economics correspondent Paul Solman spoke with Jim Wallis and others in a segment for PBS Newshour about why the pope wants us to stop worshiping capitalism.

Jim Wallis explained how Pope Francis’ critique of capitalism matches God’s vision for the world, as well as the ministry and example of Jesus:

From the Archives: Summer 1972


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God and the Rural Farmer 

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Instapray App Puts Our Best (and Worst) Prayer Impulses on Display

Photo via LDprod /

Photo via LDprod /

As long as people have been praying, they have also been asking for prayer from one another. In the Bible, the New Testament is full of requests from Paul and others to pray for them; contemporary places of worship often offer time in their services to pray for the specific needs of their parishioners.

A new app called Instapray makes sense as a digital heir to that tradition.

Oklahoma Satanist Church Wants Permission to Distribute Books in Elementary School

Photo courtesy of Adam Daniels / RNS

“Ahrimani Enlightenment,” by Adam Daniels, the church’s leader. Photo courtesy of Adam Daniels / RNS

Less than two weeks after a third-grade teacher in Duncan, Okla., distributed Gideon Bibles to her students, the Church of Ahriman, a Satanist church in Oklahoma City, has asked permission to distribute Satanist literature at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School.

Adam Daniels, the church’s leader, said he wanted to give students a copy of Ahrimani Enlightenment, a primer and workbook normally given to new members of the church.

In a letter to the Duncan school district, some 80 miles south of Oklahoma City, Daniels assured administrators that his book is “no where (sic) near as graphic as the Christian Bible.”

Daniels said he has yet to hear back, but he believes equal access laws mean that his church has the right to distribute literature if other religious organizations are permitted to do so.

Blaming the Victim

Mindmo / Shutterstock

Mindmo / Shutterstock

WHEN I WAS 15, my church youth group was not a safe place. Like most youth groups, there were college-age volunteers who served as counselors and Bible study leaders.

One counselor, Paul, took it upon himself to constantly tell me I wore too much makeup, my clothes were too tight, and that I was a flirt. These actions took place in public for six months while other counselors and students watched and laughed. The interactions came to a head when he commented on my lipstick color and I snapped back at him. He grabbed me, forced me onto his lap, and told me I liked it.

At the time, I just thought Paul was creepy; I now recognize his behavior was sexual harassment. I also recognize that the other members of my youth group, including the leaders, saw his behavior and failed to intervene. Why did this happen? Both Paul’s behavior and the leaders’ silence belong to a larger set of attitudes in our culture—and churches—that allows sexual violence and sexual harassment to become normal, even expected, behaviors.

This set of attitudes is known as “rape culture.” When we fail to confront these toxic attitudes in our churches, we undermine our love for our neighbors, ignore the Bible, and misrepresent God as misogynistic.

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‘Dig’ Digs Into the Bible — But Is It ‘True?'

Photo by Ronen Akerman / USA Network / RNS

Jason Isaacs as Peter Connelly, and Alison Sudol as Emma Wilson in “Dig.” Photo by Ronen Akerman / USA Network / RNS

Breathlessly describing his new USA Network series “Dig” in a promo, leading man Jason Isaacs promises “everything is based on reality and true.”

To a point.

The new series, which premiered March 5, moves quickly between multiple story lines and locations, bouncing off prophesies and spinning conspiracies around the Second Coming of Christ, the Book of Revelation and the restoration of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, where much of the series is filmed.

Throw in a high priest’s magical breastplate, a spotless red heifer, and a doomsday Christian group living in a bunker and the series becomes the would-be love-child of Steven Spielberg and Dan Brown.

And that’s just the first episode.

Five Reasons Saying 'The Bible Clearly States' Is Dangerous

Text from the Bible. Image courtesy Lane V. Erickson/

Text from the Bible. Image courtesy Lane V. Erickson/

Most of my life, I’ve heard people preface some sort of argument they want to support with the preface, “The Bible clearly states…”

I’ve come to believe, however, that this is a phrase Christians should eliminate from their vocabulary, for a number of reasons:

  1. There’s no such thing as un-interpreted scripture. 
    Legendary preacher and theologian Fred Craddock famously noted that, even if one believes the Bible is inerrant, perfect, or directly handed to humanity from God, there’s still no way to glean an absolute understanding from the texts. After all, we all are imperfect, and as such all that we perceive flows through this imperfect vessel. The good news is that the Bible is full of imperfect vessels still being used for incredible good. So maybe rather than on absolutes, we’re meant to focus more on growth, improvement, and restoration.
  2. We can use the Bible to make nearly any claim we want. 
    Did you know “the Bible says” that if my man-jewels are squished irreparably for any reason, I’m barred from heaven (No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord. Deuteronomy 23:1)? And have you considered that the Bible condones mass killing, or what some might consider genocide (Make ready to slaughter his sons for the guilt of their fathers; Lest they rise and posses the earth, and fill the breadth of the world with tyrants. Isaiah 14:21), or even infanticide (Isaiah 13:15-18)? I can use the Bible to justify slavery (wouldn’t be the first time), keeping a sexual concubine, or to prove why eating shrimp condemns me to hell.
  3. I’ve never met ANYONE in my life who follows the Bible completely from beginning to end. 
    I could swear the protesters from Westboro Baptist wear shirts that are a poly-cotton blend, and that some of the fiercest Bible-thumpers out there enjoy a good shrimp cocktail from time to time.