Preaching

Citizens United, Freedom of Speech, and the Liberation of Listening

Listening illustration, Brian A Jackson / Shutterstock.com
Listening illustration, Brian A Jackson / Shutterstock.com

The impact of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) is experienced with increased intensity as we approach Election Day. Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations and unions have a First Amendment right to independent political expenditures, certain portions of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act were reversed.

As a result, the voices surrounding political campaigns have risen in strength and size. And so, while a variety of viewpoints exist on the consequences of Citizens United, most agree that it has dramatically altered the culture of U.S. politics, and has thus sparked major discussion on the reach and limits of freedom of speech. 

Due to the ramifications of Citizens United, we should indeed recognize and critique the role that freedom of speech holds within a mature democracy. However, as we focus on free speech, the time has come to also consider the contributions of its equally important companion, the responsibility to listen. In other words, as we ponder the primary ingredients of a healthy society, the delicate balance between freedom of speech and the responsibility to listen should be held as a critical priority. 

Leave No Change Behind

How can pastors foster change in church? Not the kind placed in offering plates, but change of another sort. Change—alteration in character, attitude, and behavior, and the priceless gift of a new, or at least better, world.

 Many people are rightly agonizing over volatile financial markets and companies defaulting on their fiscal promises. There should be equal or greater concern about the balances in our moral accounts, lest insufficient funds lead to bankruptcy of our souls and foreclosure on the common good. Often when we think about mechanisms for social change, we conjure images of Washington politicians and Wall Street profits. Yet, to fix our broken world, we need more than profits. We need prophets—faithful, fearless people willing to invest in social change through prophetic proclamation in word and deed.

As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel astutely suggested, prophets are more interested in knowing what they see than in seeing what they know. Do we see the tragedy of the wealthiest nation in the world failing to provide health insurance for its most vulnerable citizens? Do we see the irony of building state-of-the-art prisons while our public schools have to beg legislatures for financial support? Do we see how many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people suffer emotional and physical violence, while many churches and cultural institutions remain eerily silent about their civil rights and moral equality? The priceless change so desperately needed in our world will arise when we are less concerned about making profits and more concerned about becoming prophets.

Read the Full Article

​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

More Than Words

“Words! Words! Words!

I’m so sick of words!

I get words all day through, first from him, now from you. Is that all you blighters can do?” 

So, Liza Doolittle challenges the hapless Freddy Eynsford-Hill at the height of a dramatic confrontation in My Fair Lady. Freddy has come to her rescue, with his flowery, long-winded protestations of love, but poor Liza is fed up with words:

“Don't talk of stars, burning above. If you're in love, show me. Tell me not dreams, filled with desire. If you're on fire, show me.” 

And you know, Eliza has a point. A well-turned phrase won’t keep you warm at night.

It’s ironic that this drama was penned by one of the great wordsmiths of the English language. The play turns on the transformation of a poor Cockney girl into a proper English lady through the manipulation of her ability to master the English language. One argument put forth in the course of achieving this goal is that it doesn’t matter what you say as long as you say it properly. Style can compensate for the absence of substance.

In contrast, I listened this week to a powerful sermon preached by the Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber to a gathering of some 34,000 Lutheran youth gathered in assembly in New Orleans.

Pastoral Resources for Preaching on Social Change

In a world desperate for change, pastor and homiletics professor Brad Braxton, in his Sojourners article "Leave No Change Behind" (August 2012), offers advice on how to preach for social transformation with passion, courage, and artistry. Here are some resources he recommends—good for preachers and lay people who want to go deeper in speaking about faith-based social change.

Read the Full Article

​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

How to Proclaim Restoration

AL TIZON’S Missional Preaching, as one might expect, is designed for those who proclaim the gospel. The text, moreover, should prove useful to homiletics professors, local ministerial groups, and church bodies seeking to encourage more reflective approaches to the craft of sermon-making. Tizon, an ordained minister in the Evangelical Covenant Church and professor of evangelism and holistic ministry at Palmer Theological Seminary, writes with lively prose, frequently deploying humor and hyperbole to complement biblical exposition and theological reflection.

For Tizon, missional conviction is about joining “God’s mission to transform the world, as the church strives in the Spirit to be authentically relational, intellectually and theologically grounded, culturally and socio-economically diverse, and radically committed to both God and neighbor, especially the poor.” Tizon’s commitment to mission is both theological and autobiographical: The author spent nine years doing community development in the Philippines and currently serves as the director of the Word and Deed network of Evangelicals for Social Action.

Structurally, Tizon begins with three chapters on missional theology, covering liturgy, biblical perspectives on mission, and the missio Dei (the mission of God). For Tizon, missio Dei signifies God’s restorative purposes for the world, beginning with Israel and consummating in Christ. To complement the opening essays, each subsequent chapter pairs Tizon’s reflection on a missional topic with a sermon on the same subject matter. In a particularly compelling chapter, the author’s insights on whole-life stewardship are concluded by a riveting homily from Shane Claiborne.

Read the Full Article

​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Protestant Preaching Prof on Solidarity with U.S. Catholic Nuns

Photo by Elena Ray / Shutterstock.
Photo by Elena Ray / Shutterstock.

The crowd in an Atlanta church on Wednesday night was mostly Protestants, mostly preachers.

The speaker was a professor of preaching at Union Theological Seminary in New York City – one of the icons of the mainstream Protestant world.

Yet Barbara Lundblad’s message was a call for the 1,000 or so people gathered for the annual Festival of Homiletics to “stand with these courageous Roman Catholic sisters.”

She was referring, of course, to the recent crackdown by the Vatican on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the organization that represents about 80 percent of the nuns in the U.S.

Lundblad drew on the famous story of Mary, having just learned she was pregnant with Jesus, visiting her cousin, Elizabeth, who was also improbably pregnant.

The Gospel of Luke says that Mary “entered the house of Zechariah and visited Elizabeth.” Lundblad pondered why Luke felt it necessary to put Zechariah in the story at this point. She let that hang unanswered.

Then she noted that when Elizabeth saw Mary, the baby leapt in her womb in recognition of Jesus – a sign that women often come to theology through the experiences of their bodies. 
Lundblad said wryly, “Surely Elizabeth would not have been allowed to testify before the Congressional committee on contraception” – an all-male committee with all male witnesses, all representing church groups that do not allow the ordination of women.

Eugene Peterson: The Pastor on Preaching, Women Clergy

Eugene Peterson speaking Tuesday at the Q Practices gathering in New York City.
Eugene Peterson speaking Tuesday at the Q Practices gathering in New York City. Photo by Cathleen Falsani/Sojourners.

NEW YORK CITY — Today and Wednesday, I have the privilege of attending a private gathering here in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan with Eugene Peterson, the 80-year-old theologian and prolific author best known for his para-translation of the Bible, The Message.

The two-day event, Q Practices, is part-retreat, part-seminar on the theme of how we might cultivate our inner lives in an age of epic distractions.

I'll be reporting more fully later, but wanted to share with you a few gems from Peterson, who recently published a marvelous memoir titled, simply, The Pastor, from this morning's sessions.

Peterson, who is a Presbyterian minister (now retired from the pastorate after 30 years), grew up in Montana in the Pentecostal Christian tradition. His mother, in fact, was a preacher who later founded and pastored her own church.

Wallis and Mohler Debate Social Justice and the Gospel

What was most telling about the disagreement between the two men was their discussion of Luke 4. Mohler argued the passage should be understood in light of how he interpreted the preaching and teaching of Paul and the other apostles. This means that when Jesus said that he came to bring good news to the poor that good news was personal salvation.

Wallis argued that yes, personal salvation is one part of that good news, but that the other part is the Kingdom of God breaking into the world and transforming societal relationships as well. When the Gospel is proclaimed, it is good news for a poor person's entire being, community and world -- not just his or her soul.

First, it was encouraging to hear Mohler spend a lot of time emphasizing that working for justice is essential to fulfillment of the Great Commission. Throughout the night he repeated his concern that a lot of Churches are REALLY bad at making disciples who actually do the things Jesus told us to do. As the president of one of the largest seminaries in the world, it will be interesting to see if he is able to train a generation of pastors who will do things differently. My concern is that he is missing the connection between his theology and the failure of Christians to actually do justice.

The Gospel Should Be Offensive

kibera1

Scripture constantly should be challenging our assumptions about our lives and in every aspect of society. Transformation is needed on a personal and also a political level. Scriptural priorities shouldn't be glossed over in order to protect political ideologies and comfort zones.

If we believe that what Jesus taught remains just as relevant today as it did when he physically walked among us, then it should still be a comfort to those on the margins of society and offensive to the wealthy and powerful. That doesn't mean that the wealthy and powerful can't be good and faithful followers of Christ, but Jesus did warn them that their walk will be a hard one. Wealth and power bring unique and difficult temptations ... If you never feel uncomfortable when you read the Gospels then you aren't paying attention.

Pages

Subscribe