White Christianity in America was Born in Heresy

This statement was made by Yale University theologian Eboni Marshall Turman last year at an academic conference. When the Americas were discovered and explored by white Europeans in the 15th and 16th centuries, various European nations began their grand history of empire-building. European missionary priests brought Christianity to indigenous peoples around the world. The underlying assumptions in all this conquest and exploration was that the Christian religion was best for everyone, and the specific version of Christianity* was white and European.

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The Katy Prairie

It’s a free country. I can do what I want with “my land,” right? Well, maybe. Consider Katy, Texas.

Originally, the vast expanse of land northwest of Houston was filled with native prairie grasses. The Buffalo Bayou runs through the area and on into Houston to become the major fresh water source for Galveston Bay. It is two blocks from my sister’s house which has been flooded twice in three years by statistical “500-year storms.”

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Who do you say that Jesus is?

I seldom write extensions for the Sunday sermon, but this time, the topic is too important. Matthew’s gospel this Sunday has Jesus taking the disciples to Caesarea Philippi where he poses the question to them, “Some say that I am John the Baptist… others, Elijah … but who do you say that I am?” To which Peter blurts out the answer and what will become Christianity is started right there.

Public Prayer

Whenever I am asked to pray in public, in a non-church setting, whether it is opening the Maryland Senate (three times), mealtime grace at a secular event such as Rotary meetings, or praying with a high school football team before a game, I always have alongside me in my imagination, two friends. One is Jewish and the other is an atheist. In my mind, they are listening to my prayer as members of the public who might be there. I ask myself, “How would they here this prayer?” and “Would they feel included or excluded?”

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The gods We Worship

We prefer to think of ourselves as thoroughly modern people who are Christian, monotheists in belief. Yet how many of our waking hours are consumed thinking about money versus how much time do we spend each week praying or meditating on the God of the Hebrew and Christian bible?

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Our daily office this morning gives us this insight into the very early church. (Acts 2:44-46)  “44All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts.” That generation lived out their faith in a particular way. It obviously worked or we wouldn’t be here talking about this. But it led me to wonder how the ways in which we structure our lives, the world around us and our church help or hinder passing on the relevant matters of faith to future generations. Read more…

Respect and Dignity

Listening to a recent BBC radio broadcast about the immigrants coming to the southern US border, I heard one British official note that many of these immigrants are fleeing violence and political persecution in their countries of origin and should qualify for political asylum. He went on to say that because they were fleeing terrible conditions and persecution, that they deserved to be treated with respect and dignity. I was shocked by the implications of this. Was this commentator suggesting that those people who were NOT fleeing persecution and political pressure were somehow less deserving or not deserving at all of respect and dignity? Read more…

Toxic Traditions

Much of this article is borrowed from a similarly-named article in www.patheos.com A century ago, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine were street legal and even found in some consumer products. Cocaine was in the original Coca Cola formulation. Heroin was prescribed as a cough suppressant (I bet it was effective) and meth was the drug of choice for WWII soldiers on all sides of the conflict. Now we know a lot more about the dangers of these drugs. In the same way, our church has developed “toxic traditions” that often cause more harm than good. Here are some of the author’s points. (Note that this is an evangelical, very conservative author. Six of his ten points I either disagree with or do not think they are relevant for Grace.) Read more…

The Lilies of the Field

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.

They don’t toil, neither do they spin. Mt 6:28

In the foggy early morning hours, I am looking out at one of the last hydrangea flowers of the season. Abundant June rains enabled these plants to explode in size and profuse flowers. The floral show this year was the best ever. Now, when most of the flowers have withered and turned to seed pods, I see one or two late bloomers pop out of the green hedge. I feel an affection for late bloomers of all kinds. A sage once remarked that “youth is wasted on the young.”

Church and Politics

I recognize that, taken together, these two subjects are about as welcome as talking about sex and income, but the faithful life cannot be lived outside of politics.  Considering a recent academic study that revealed the third most common reason young people leave the church is because they “disagreed with the church’s position on political and social issues.”   The disagreement on social and political issues happens with both conservative and liberal young people.  Lest we think this is a modern phenomenon, consider two of the disciples of Jesus, Simon the Zealot and Matthew.  Simon’s extended name, “the zealot” indicates that he was actively involved in the Jewish movement to overthrow the Roman government.  Matthew, on the other hand, was a tax collector.  Although he was Jewish, he made his living in collusion with the Roman occupiers.  I seriously doubt if Matthew and Simon ever agreed on anything politically, but we do know that the labored tirelessly together to build the church. Read more…