Spirituality

Robert Hirschfield 4-03-2014

Denise Levertov: A Poet's Life. University of Illinois Press.

A Poet's Revolution: The Life of Denise Levertov. University of California Press.

Tyler Francke 3-27-2014
Twentysomething man taking a selfie, Annette Shaff / Shutterstock.com

Twentysomething man taking a selfie, Annette Shaff / Shutterstock.com

Millennials are the worst generation ever, a recent study by the Pew Research Center confirmed. The other generations already knew that, of course, but the study has given them new insights into what characterizes me and my fellow Millennials beyond “They freaking love Starbucks” and “They refuse to move out of my basement.”

The study’s revelations include that we’re not making all that much money, we have tons of debt, we’re racially diverse, and we use the Internet a lot (curiously absent was the fact that 97 percent of us do not like being broadly defined or labeled or otherwise demographed). We also tend to shun institutions, including religious ones, at rates far surpassing our parents and grandparents.

This last little detail has not escaped the notice of conservative media outlets, whose reactions have ranged from cautious reserved judgment to something bordering on full-blown alarm.

Like a true Millennial, I don’t think things are all that bad (heck, I wouldn’t know where the panic button is even if I wanted to press it). Actually, as a Christian, I think there is a lot to be excited about in the generation that’s poised to inherit the world … after we move out of our parents’ houses, that is.

3-26-2014
Interfaith conversation involving evangelical theologian Jim Wallis on the role of clergy in the elevation of and working for the "common good"
3-26-2014
Evangelical leaders like Jim Wallis have long attempted to construct a “body of Christ” in service to others that would ignore controversial theological issues, which in practice means that progressives set their concerns about gender equality, marriage equality, and reproductive justice aside in the name of serving the poor, healing the sick, and so on. World Vision is now, in effect, asking conservatives to return the self-censoring favor. Mohler makes clear what most progressives have known all along: religious conservatives just can’t.
Henry Brinton 3-24-2014
M. Pellinni & VLADGRIN/Shutterstock.com

M. Pellinni & VLADGRIN/Shutterstock.com

This year, some have given up Facebook for Lent. Others joined the “National Day of Unplugging” on March 7-8, putting away their phones, tablets, and laptops for a 24-hour digital Sabbath designed to slow people down in an increasingly hectic world.

According to the National Day of Unplugging website, people unplugged in order to dance, sleep, write, play, reflect, relax, reset, tune in, chill out, stay sane, and be more connected.

But wait a second — be more connected? That seems odd, since the promise of social media is that it will strengthen connections. Facebook links us instantly to hundreds of friends, family members, co-workers, and neighbors. Twitter enables us to follow people and collect followers of our own. LinkedIn links us to colleagues through an enormous professional network.

Social media seems to be all about connections. But its links have serious limitations.

Christian Piatt 3-21-2014
Envy concept, stockphoto-graf / Shutterstock.com

Envy concept, stockphoto-graf / Shutterstock.com

I drive a Prius. I wouldn't exactly say it's a sexy car; the word "practical" comes to mind. It gets good mileage, is safe, and fits our family of four just fine in most cases. It's gotten its share of bings and dents over the years, but it has been a very reliable and low maintenance way to get around town.

Of course, what I really want is a Tesla. My son wants one too. There is a showcase for them in a local storefront, and he begs me to go by for a visit every time we are nearby. Though he is only 10, he already makes a pretty strong case to my wife, explaining how much of the cost of the car will be offset by the savings in gas, and he was elated to find out it was recently rated the safest car on the road.

So far it hasn't worked in our favor. But we keep trying.

This, of course, is not envy; it is simply good old-fashioned greed. The thing I have is sufficient, only until something newer, edgier, shinier comes along (which, in America, is a daily occurrence). Then suddenly, perfectly good car in our driveway has shortcomings and liabilities that were, hereto for, invisible to us.

Envy is different, and I would argue that it actually is worse than greed. While the latter is simply our desire off of its proverbial chain, envy gets personal. It is the easy but unattractive marriage of greed and judgment. Yes, we desire what someone else has, but there is more to it. When we are envious, we gain nearly as much pleasure from the idea of the other person not having the thing we want as we do from the idea of having it ourselves.

3-18-2014
Winright seeks to equip and enable students to think theologically, to inform their consciences about significant questions and issues of the day, and to be men and women for others. He is an active member of several professional and learned societies, co-editor of the Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics, book reviews editor for the international journal Political Theology and a contributing writer to Sojourners magazine.
3-18-2014
Renowned theologian Walter Brueggemann observed in a Sojourners article, "Lent is 'Come to Jesus' Time": "Lent is a time for fresh decision-making about reliance upon the God of the gospel. Such decision-making in Lent is commonly called "repentance." It's a time to reflect on the way in which God gives new life that is welcome when we recognize how our old way of life mostly leaves us weary and unsatisfied. Lent is a time to face the reality that there is no easy or "convenient" passage from our previous life to a new, joyous life in the gospel. The move is by the pattern and sequence of Jesus' own life, an embrace of suffering that comes with obedience, a suffering which comes inevitably when our lives are at odds with dominant social values."
David Vanderveen 3-14-2014

A man holds an XS Energy Drink, which the author was selling, in Ukraine. Photo by David Vanderveen

Intending it as a compliment, a friend described my work in in Kiev last weekend as selling sodas in Ukraine. 

Hes right. I was in the embattled city to represent a company I helped co-found and our Southern California energy drink brand in meetings with more than 10,000 Ukrainian independent business owners. 

It was as simple as that and also so much more. 

Like Bono, I believe free enterprise is a cure for all sorts of poverty  economic, political, and spiritual.

3-14-2014
For example, our feature story didn't have room to discuss her world travels, organized through agencies that focus on community service and social justice issues - issues that are and have been close to her heart. Most recently, she's become affiliated with the Interfaith Hunger Initiative. She's toured the Middle east with a couploe different groups that focus on the arts and nonviolent conflict resolution. She has shared the stage with Sojourners' founder Jim Wallis.
3-13-2014
Today the world celebrates Pope Francis' first year. Notice I didn't say the church is celebrating, but the world. The pope has graced the covers of every magazine from TIME to Rolling Stone over the past year. People all over the world are delighted by the breath of fresh air he has brought. His popularity has moved beyond Catholics to Christians of all kinds, believers from other faith traditions, agnostics, and the "nones," who are very drawn to this pope who emphasizes love and simple living.
3-10-2014
Catherine Woodiwiss (Co-Founder, Trestles Creative Agency) @chwoodiwiss + @trestlestweets Catherine is a journalist, start-up founder, musician, and community-accumulator… Catherine is also a columnist and editor at Sojourners, a leading faith-based social justice blog and advocacy group in DC. Presenter at session: Do It Together Is the New Do It Yourself #sxsw #DIYalive
Julie Polter 3-06-2014

Just Jesus by Walter Wink with Steven Berry / On "Strangers No Longer" by Paulist Press / Eve by Angélique Kidjo / O Taste and See by Bonnie Thurston

3-05-2014
Catherine Woodiwiss offers guidance for those who want to help a friend or loved one going through trauma or suffering. Among her suggestions? “Do not offer platitudes or comparisons. Do not, do not, do not”:
3-05-2014
He was inspired by a blog Catherine Woodiwiss wrote for Sojourners about her recovery after being hit by a car while cycling. Both listed rules and lessons that I found helpful. Reading through them, I came up with a few additions of my own.
2-28-2014
I’m not sure whether this set-up as the anti-Francis was deliberate, but to me the contrast was striking indeed. Over at Sojourners, the Rev. Greg Coates also noticed “The Anti(Gospel) of Francis Underwood”: “I was left in awe at the show’s brutal honesty of what a life purely committed to power potentially looks like.” In the end, Coats says, the show poses a crucial question to us viewers: “Will you follow the way of violent power or will you follow the way of self-sacrificial love? Will you trample over others or will you empty yourself, taking the very nature of a servant? In short, will you choose the way of Francis Underwood or the way of Jesus Christ?” Given Pope Francis’ theme of mercy and the anti-Francis’ theme of “ruthless pragmatism,” I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to rephrase that last sentence: “Will you choose the way of Francis Underwood or the way or Pope Francis?”
2-28-2014
Speakers at the conference included Dr. Bernice King, a Baptist minister and CEO of The King Center; Rich Stearns, president of the non-profit humanitarian group World Vision U.S.; Jim Wallis, president and founder of Sojourners; Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of National Latino Evangelical Coalition; and Lynne Hybels, founder of Willow Creek Community Church.
2-28-2014
I'm taking a course this semester on Spirituality and Leadership. The course has just started but we've already heard a wonderful variety of voices. This week, our readings include an article by Lisa Sharon Harper, the director of mobilizing for Sojourners. I heard her speak a few years ago at an Interfaith Immigration breakfast in Seattle and was deeply inspired by her commitment to a lived faith that does justice. I just finished reading her chapter, "Singing the Creator's Song in a Strange Land," in the book Learning to Lead: Lessons in Leadership for People of Faith. I am challenged and inspired by this quote, which I in turn share with you in the latest installment of Theology Quotes on the blog.
2-28-2014
Peace and Conflict Transformation (PACT) at Anderson University welcomes Lisa Sharon Harper to campus on Thursday, Feb. 27. Harper is an author, activist, educator, and senior director of mobilizing for Sojourners.
2-28-2014
My friend Jonathan Merritt and Kirsten Powers co-penned a piece on the Daily Beast titled, “Conservative Christians Selectively Apply Biblical Teachings in the Same-Sex Marriage Debate.” Their essay, written in opposition to the Arizona legislation allowing companies to refuse service to same-sex couples on religious grounds, is fair and even-handed. In fact, if anything, it’s too safe.

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