Bible

Why Am I a Christian?

Man holding Bible photo,  Stocksnapper / Shutterstock.com
Man holding Bible photo, Stocksnapper / Shutterstock.com

Rather than mine being a theology of “Jesus died for your sin,” mine is one of “Thy Kingdom come.” That is archaic language, and I find that a little off-putting, yes, but given that it’s from the Lord’s Prayer, attributed to Jesus, I think it’s worth wrestling with. Basically, I share the interpretation of this line of the prayer with many seekers of social justice, like MLK, Walter Rauschenbusch and the like, who believe that the line, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” is an expression of longing, for God’s love to be fully realized, for our inequities and brokenness to be reconciled here on this earth, and not just some day after we die.

This is not likely something at which we will entirely arrive in this life, but it is something toward which we should re-orient ourselves daily, in order to seek it out, actively and vocally, in all we do. This, I believe, is Christ’s call to the world.

Hotel Replaces Bibles with Kindles

E-book image by Dmitry Lobanov/Shutterstock.

According to CNN:

Last year, Gideons International distributed more than 84 million printed copies of the Bible around the world to students, hospitals, members of the military and, of course, hotels, where they are a ubiquitous sight in bedside tables.

Starting this month, however, the InterContinental Hotels Group is modernizing that mission at one of its hotels, replacing the paper tomes with electronic versions of the Bible loaded on Kindle e-readers. Each of the 148 rooms at the chain's Hotel Indigo in Newcastle, England, will be outfitted with a Kindle Touch with Wi-Fi. Guests can use the e-ink devices to catch up on scripture, as well as purchase and read any other books available in the Amazon Kindle store.

Apparently the Gideons are supportive of the hotel group's move toward electronic versions of Holy Writ. (And if a guest is so taken with the Kindle that they take it with them when they check out, the hotel will charge the guest's credit card for the Kindle.)

Read the entire CNN.com report HERE.

New & Noteworthy

God and the Godforsaken
Rafael Luévano, a Catholic priest and professor, writes a moving narrative theology of suffering—based on extensive field research—in Woman-Killing in Juárez: Theodicy at the Border. A powerful blend of reporting, analysis, and poetic theological meditation. Orbis          

Searching Harmonies
Veteran songwriter, producer, and musician Phil Madeira pulls together an all-star lineup including The Civil Wars, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, Mat Kearney, and Emmylou Harris for the alt-roots album Mercyland: Hymns for the Rest of Us—nondoctrinal music that yearns for a God who is love. Mercyland Records

In Shadows and Hope
In the 40-day devotional Not Alone: Reflections on Faith and Depression, Monica A. Coleman, an ordained A.M.E. elder and Claremont School of Theology professor, deftly blends theological thought, medical research, and personal experience in honest spiritual reflections for those suffering depressive disorders and those who accompany them. Inner Prizes Inc.

Bible Culture 101
While suitable for classrooms, The Back Door Introduction to the Bible, by John Kaltner and Steven L. McKenzie, is also lively reading for anyone who’d like to enhance their understanding of biblical texts by learning more about the symbolism, customs, and social mores found there. Anselm Academic

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With God Some Things Never Change

The Rev. Dr. William Barber II. Photo via the author's website.
The Rev. Dr. William Barber II. Photo via the author's website.

The better way says, if we follow God’s religious values we can use global technology, green economy, and targeted economic and infrastructure investment, total access to education, and creative job creation strategies to address the ugly realities of poverty. If we follow the enduring ethic of love we can beat our swords of racism into the plows that will till the new soil of brotherhood and sisterhood

If we see the poor as our neighbors, if we remember we are our brother’s keeper, then we shall put the poor, rather than the wealthy, at the center of our agenda.

If we hold on to God’s values, the sick shall have good health care. The environment shall be protected. The injustices of our judicial systems shall be made just. We shall respect the dignity of all people. We can love all people. We can see all people as God’s creations.

We can use our resources to develop our minds and economy, rather than build bombs, missiles, and weapons of human destruction.

Do we want to keep pressing toward God’s vision?  Values are once again the question of our times.

Do we want a just, wholesome society, or do we want to go backwards? This is the question before us. And I believe that at this festival there is still somebody who wants what God wants. Somebody who understands there are some things with God that never change

There are still some prophetic people that have not bowed, who as a matter of faith know that Love is better than hate. Hope is better than despair. Community is better than division.

Peace is better than war. Good of the whole is better than whims of a few. God wants everybody — red, yellow, black, brown and white taken care of. God wants true community, more togetherness … not more separateness. God wants justice, always has, always will.

Because with God some things never change.

Biblical Add-Ons, Edits & Agendas: A Challenge to Literalism?

IMAGE BY hfng/SHUTTERSTOCK.
IMAGE BY hfng/SHUTTERSTOCK.

After reading my post about Randy Wolford, the snake-handling pastor, died from a venomous snakebite, fellow God's Politics blogger Tim Suttle sent me a link to his own post on the subject. Suttle’s angle was different, and I found it fascinating.

Basically, he contends that the verses in Mark that Wolford and others use to justify handling snakes as an act of worship (among other bizarre practices) should not ever have made it into the Bible to begin with. His article cites what he calls a “nerdy academic journal article” from Bible scholar Robert H. Stein. In it, Stein notes a few reasons why the text in Mark chapter 16 beyond verse 8 should never have been included in the Bible.

First, there have been older copies of the manuscripts from which Mark was produced that stop at Mark 16:8. In addition, there’s the historical agreement among scholars that scribes (the guys who copied the texts by hand) did have a propensity for adding to the documents they copied but seldom, if ever, deleted anything. There’s also the fact that ancient scholars whose commentaries on Mark have been found do not mention these verses at all, as well as the agreement among many Biblical scholars that the tone of those verse suggests a different author wrote them.

What is the Chief Political Concern of the Bible?

Image by Sergey Kamshylin / shutterstock.
Flag/scripture image by Sergey Kamshylin / shutterstock.

Both religion and politics are concerned with how we should organize societies. Yet the tendency for Christians has often been to begin with the politics and work backwards to find religious rationale for our political beliefs. As a result, most people read the Bible not to challenge our deeply held beliefs, but to affirm the decisions we've already made with our lives.

If you tend toward the political right you might say the chief political concern of the Scriptures has as much to do with smaller government, lower taxes, individual freedoms and gun rights as any explicit Christian concept.

If you tend toward the political left you might believe the chief political concern of the Scriptures has more to do with reproductive rights, religious pluralism, big government and labor unions.

Too often the ideologies of the secular right or the political left have been allowed set the terms for religious Christians.

Dear Pastor Charles Worley: We Condemn Your Words of Hatred and Cruelty. REPENT!

http://youtu.be/d2n7vSPwhSU

No matter where you stand on the issue of gay marriage, there are some boundaries of human decency that should never be crossed.

Never.

Even in the name of free speech, some boundaries should never be crossed. Pastor Terry Jones crossed that line in burning the Koran and making a global media spectacle. Pastor Wiley Drake crossed that line in suggesting that he was praying for the death of President Obama. And then, of course, there are the folks of Westboro Baptist Church. 

But this…?!#@

Wow, this takes the prize for the most idiotic, insane, stupid, asinine, cruel, ungodly, foul, inexcusable, heinous, and disgusting comments by any person – let alone someone that calls himself a pastor and shepherd.

N.T. Wright Asks: Have We Gotten Heaven All Wrong?

RNS photo courtesy HarperOne
N.T. Wright RNS photo courtesy HarperOne

The oft-cliched Christian notion of heaven -- a blissful realm of harp-strumming angels -- has remained a fixture of the faith for centuries. Even as arguments will go on as to who will or won't be "saved," surveys show that a vast majority Americans believe that after death their souls will ascend to some kind of celestial resting place.

But scholars on the right and left increasingly say that comforting belief in an afterlife has no basis in the Bible and would have sounded bizarre to Jesus and his early followers. Like modern curators patiently restoring an ancient fresco, scholars have plumbed the New Testament's Jewish roots to challenge the pervasive cultural belief in an otherworldly paradise.

The most recent expert to add his voice to this chorus is the prolific Christian apologist N.T. Wright, a former Anglican bishop who now teaches about early Christianity and New Testament at Scotland's University of St. Andrews. Wright has explored Christian misconceptions about heaven in previous books, but now devotes an entire volume, "How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels," to this trendy subject.

Methodists Uphold Policy Calling Homosexuality 'Incompatible with Christian Teaching'

The Rev. Will Green calling for greater inclusiveness at the 2012 UMC General Conference. RNS photo by Mike DuBose/UMNS.

Despite emotional protests and fierce lobbying from gay rights groups, United Methodists voted on Thursday to maintain their denomination's stance that homosexuals acts are "incompatible with Christian teaching."

Two "agree to disagree" proposals were soundly defeated during separate votes by the nearly 1,000 delegates gathered for the United Methodist Church's General Conference in Tampa, Fla.

One proposal would have replaced the "incompatible" phrase in the Book of Discipline, which contains the denomination's laws and doctrines. Both proposals sought to soften the disputed doctrine by adding more ambiguous statements about homosexuality.

Gay rights advocates in the UMC viewed the compromise proposals as the best chance to advance their cause at this year's General Conference, which convenes every four years. On Friday, delegates are expected to debate the church's bans on noncelibate gay clergy and same-sex marriage.

Arctic Christians Get First Complete Inuit Bible

RNS photo by Ron Csillag
Inuktitut Bible translators flank director of scripture translation for the Canadian Bible Society. RNS photo by Ron Csillag

The Bible is by far the most translated book in history. Portions of the Old and New Testaments have been translated into more than 2,500 languages. According to United Bible Societies, the complete Bible has been rendered into 469 tongues as of 2010.

   
Add Inuktitut to that list. 

Later this spring, an entire Bible in Inuktitut, the language of Inuit people and the most widely spoken aboriginal tongue in Canada's Arctic, will be dedicated at an igloo-shaped church in Nunavut, an autonomous region carved out of the Northwest Territories in 1999.

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