Scripture

Layton E. Williams 6-08-2017

The long history between the church and LGBTQ people is one fraught with tension, pain, and, sometimes, violence. Those who believe that homosexuality is a sin often point to several well-known Scripture passages from the Old and New Testaments. Most of the Christian debate about human sexuality has centered on interpretation and emphasis of these passages.

In his book God and the Gay Christian , Christian LGBTQ activist Matthew Vines challenges LGBTQ-condemning interpretations of these Scriptures — sometimes referred to as “clobber passages.” But these clobber-texts aren’t the only Scriptures that can guide faithful Christians as we seek a godly understanding of sexual and gender identity.

Nate Pyle 4-24-2017

In the same-sex marriage discussion, people cite 2,000 years of church history to support their suspicions of affirming theology. But this same history offers plenty of examples of healthy theological shifts that actually counter tradition. Healing on the Sabbath went against thousands of years of history. Replacing circumcision with baptism went against thousands of years of history. Even the Reformation went against 1,500 years of history, with the Reformers’ claim that they better understood the church fathers than the church did. History reveals that the church is always learning, always engaging in a re-examination of core values.

It is the tragedy of Christianity that the first hate crime in our constellation of texts is Matthew’s, in his telling the story of the passion. Jesus was a great teacher, an inspiring healer, and a man whose radical compassion touched everyone — women without honor, under-employed fisher folk, Roman soldiers, gentiles, Samaritans, scholarly Pharisees. The hearts of Palestinian Jews flocked to him, and this terrified the Romans. They tried to abort his movement by making his death a spectacle of cruelty and unutterable degradation.

Since it was unveiled last week, President Trump’s proposed budget has been widely denounced as “immoral” and downright “evil” for boosting defense spending by billions while demanding drastic cuts to vital aid programs.

Yet if liberals and some conservatives are upset about cuts to programs that help ensure clean drinking water, give financial aid to low-income college students, and even help support Meals on Wheels — which delivers nearly a million meals a day to the sick and elderly — would Jesus have a problem with slashing assistance to the needy?

Melissa Browning 2-20-2017

While they told Moses that, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do” (Exodus 24:3), in the end they turned to idols and broke God’s laws. By the time we get to First Samuel, we hear the people clamoring for an earthly king so they could be like other nations (1 Samuel 8:4-22). They thought life would be better if they shook up their system of government, so they ditched the judges and looked for an outsider. In the end, they got exactly what they asked for – a king named Saul who was wicked and moody and paranoid.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

“God raised up, I believe, Donald Trump,” said former U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann after he won the GOP nomination. “God showed up,” the Rev. Franklin Graham said to cheers at a post-election rally. “God came to me, in a dream last night, and said that Trump is his chosen candidate,” said the televangelist Creflo Dollar.

For those who share this view, Trump’s victory was nothing short of miraculous, especially given that he beat out 16 other in the Republican primaries — some of them evangelical Christians with long political resumes.

Image via RNS/Rev. Tuhina Verma Rasche and the Rev. Jason Chestnut

For many Christians who observe the liturgical season of Advent, leading up to Christmas, an Advent devotional is a beloved companion.

Such devotionals typically include a short Scripture reading and reflection on the birth of Jesus.

But most are “crap,” according to the Rev. Jason Chesnut of Baltimore.

Image via /Shutterstock.com

"The Reformation gave at least a segment of Christians access to the Bible in a way that hadn’t happened before. Most of our history has been a rather Bible-less Christianity that was dictated or defined mostly by the hierarchical church, not by people who read the Bible. … We gained the freedom to approach it, and then in the current age, we have ceded that exploration to media, to entertainment forms, to prepackaged interpretations that are delivered in video, audio and pulpit forms so that there’s a substitute Bible that isn’t the Bible, per se, at the same time that people aren’t reading."

Billion Photos / Shutterstock

Billion Photos / Shutterstock

NOT LONG AFTER graduating college, I read everything I could find about various expressions of Christian community. Somewhere along the way, I stumbled upon the stories of Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin, and the other Catholic Workers who would follow in their footsteps. I remember being immediately captivated by the Catholic Worker vision for hospitality houses that were community hubs for both action—growing food, feeding the hungry, protesting American militarism—and learning—cultivating conversation and reflection on radical Christian faithfulness and the socioeconomic vision that defined the movement.

Although perhaps more widely admired for their activism and works of mercy, the Catholic Workers have long published a newspaper that is a catalyst for their social vision—fusing the stories of scripture, saints, and literature with the ubiquitous challenge to live faithfully in an age marked by greed and violence. In the words of Maurin, an essential part of their mission is to make “workers out of scholars and scholars out of workers.”

The United Methodist Church is struggling to maintain unity amid deep divisions over Scripture and sexuality, the presiding bishop of America’s second-largest Protestant denomination acknowledged.

Elaina Ramsey 10-01-2015

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.

Kenneth Tanner 3-04-2015
Hands in gratitude. Image courtesy CHOATphotographer/shutterstock.com

Hands in gratitude. Image courtesy CHOATphotographer/shutterstock.com

Every age must be baptized, this one as much as any before it.

The world made by men is passing away; successive scientific paradigms and technological achievements fall into times past along with the times that gave them birth. Ideas are tried and fought over, and even the best are eventually found wanting and impartial. Mansions, buildings and cities are erected and torn down or — in some places, slowly — worn down, and all the people that lived and moved and had their being in them are gone.

Yet the gospel is ever-new for Christ is not dead but alive. Despite appearances, resurrection and new creation are the end toward which all things are headed. Chaos, destruction and death are judged and in the time after the cross fight on with one hand bound, their ultimate defeat assured. The grave is now never the end.

And so there is no such thing as a "post-Christian" culture, only a new moment — right now — in which the mind of Christ, like leaven in bread, humbly seeks residence that it might by self-giving love transfigure and transform the present as it has the past and as it will the future.

Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.

David P. Gushee 12-08-2014

The fact that gay people—indeed, gay evangelical Christians—are no longer just being talked about but are finding their own voices and making scriptural, theological, and ethical arguments for themselves, inevitably changes the nature of the conversation—if we are willing to have a conversation.

Timothy King 10-24-2014

It was in my senior year of high school that I began to lose my faith in Scripture.

Then, my first year of college I read the entire Bible, cover to cover, and that pretty much destroyed what confidence I had left.

The Bible, I discovered, was full of polygamy, incest, murder, rape, genocide, adulterers, inconsistencies, impossibilities, and a whole bunch of screwed-up people who never seemed to get anything right.

The more I studied the “perfect” word of God, the more I expected that doctrine would become clear and consistent, the authors exemplary, and the stories contain distinct and readily discernible meanings.

When I read, I found I had more questions than answers, concerns than affirmations, and was more likely to feel disrupted than tranquil.

I almost gave up entirely.

Jacob Myers 8-18-2014
l i g h t p o e t/Shutterstock.com

l i g h t p o e t/Shutterstock.com

Do you want to know a secret about working out? Here it is: we don’t grow our muscles in the gym. When we lift weights we perform controlled damage to our bodies; we literally tear our muscle fibers, forcing our bodies to adapt. We improve outside of the gym by consuming healthy foods. To “battle the bulge” requires a commitment to strenuous exercise and healthy eating. All who have enjoyed (or endured) a strenuous workout or have disciplined their dietary practices understand that results are impossible without bodily sacrifice — no pain, no gain.

Furthermore, if it is true that we are what we eat, then Christ-followers ought to take a long, hard look at the kinds of things we are putting into our bodies. Paul’s words to the Christ-followers in Rome offer us some food for thought (pardon the pun; couldn’t help myself).

Paul beseeches us to present our bodies as living sacrifices, that is, to submit our lived reality to the standards that God deems acceptable. Such a way of being in the world is deemed reasonable — spiritual even, as the NRSV translators put it. This is our tangible act of service to God.

Jordan Davis 8-13-2014
ArtFamily/Shutterstock.com

ArtFamily/Shutterstock.com

According to one of my favorite authors, Brennan Manning, "The single greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable." It is just a much more eloquent way of saying that the world thinks we’re a bunch of hypocrites. 

To be quite honest, most of the time, the claim is warranted. I have a friend who wants nothing to do with Jesus because his father, a very religious man, was active in the local church but was abusive behind closed doors. Another friend continues to distance herself from anyone associated with the church because of their judgmental glares about her lifestyle choices. 

Whatever their reasoning, I understand. I, too, have personally encountered the hypocrisy they see in our communities of faith. And if I'm at all honest, the number of times I have been the hypocrite who has turned others away are too numerous to count.

Nils von Kalm 5-20-2014
oneinchpunch/Shutterstock.com

Love and faith need to be verbs. oneinchpunch/Shutterstock.com

There is a line in the famous movie Ben Hur in which one of his relatives goes to hear Jesus speak. She comes back enthralled. The way she describes Jesus is by saying that he is like no one she has ever met before, that he speaks words of life. And so he did. The Gospel writers add that he spoke as one who had authority. The Message version interprets this as meaning he lived out what he spoke.

Our lives have the most impact when we live what we speak. Jesus of course is the perfect example of this. For 2,000 years he has captivated people of all races and colors. There is something about this man that is like no other. He speaks words of life and he lived those same words. He loved his enemies, he walked the extra mile, he denied himself, took up his cross and lived a life of obedience to the Father.

Our lives speak, whether we like it or not, and whether we think so or not. We are either speaking life or we are speaking death. We all have a worldview.

Mary Hinkle Shore 5-19-2014

If you have to reassure people that you’re not abandoning them, it may be because they feel you slipping away. In John 14, Jesus is responding to the anxiety of those he loves. “I will not leave you orphaned,” he says, but it is not clear how he will keep that promise. In a few hours, his arrest, trial, crucifixion and death will all have been accomplished. It will feel as if he has, in fact, abandoned them or been torn away from them.  

Jesus loses his life, and he is not the only one to suffer loss. Those he leaves behind lose him, and without him, they lose whatever security they might have felt in the world. After his death, they take refuge by hiding. They are isolated from each other and afraid of everything on the other side of locked doors. 

We rarely think of what happened to Jesus as an experience of combat, but the story of his arrest includes soldiers, weapons, and at least momentary hand-to-hand combat as Peter draws a sword to slice off the ear of one of those sent to arrest Jesus. Twenty-four hours later, those who could not watch with Jesus in the garden or save him from the enemy will themselves be lost without him. 

Jordan Davis 5-16-2014
GlebStock/Shutterstock.com

Offer us the hope you once did. GlebStock/Shutterstock.com

My Dear Friend,

It breaks my heart to be the one to tell you this, but I figured you might be more receptive hearing this from me. I think you already know what I'm about to tell you — it's nearly impossible you couldn't know with how loud everyone's whispers have become.

Something is terribly wrong! You are sick.

I know this isn't the news you were hoping for, but it's the truth. With this in mind, I feel now, it is more important than ever that I lay things out for you — no matter how much it pains me.

Samuel Harrison 5-13-2014

"Elevation of the Cross," by Peter Paul Rubens

Through the slippery spirit's incomprehensible means / A perfect surrender.

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