Wednesday
Jul232014

#FaithFeminisms

From Jes Kast-Keat

Feminism, like faith, is not monolithic. 

Over the last few weeks a group of feminist on Twitter found each other and began dreaming. We are holy-resisters and hope-filled dreamers of faith. We are diverse in all the ways one could possibly hope for diversity. Some of us are evangelical, some liberal, and some radical. We all want to talk about feminism and faith. What began as a simple idea of a week of five blogs hoping to nuance faith and feminism conversations has turned into a hashtag movement #FaithFeminisms. Someone generously made a website for us www.faithfeminisms.com that not only amplifies our blogs, but people are able to add their faith and feminist blog to the conversation, too. This movement has caught the attention of Rachel Held Evans when she blogged this week "We need feminism..." Suey Park, activist who caught the medias attention this year, is also participating in the conversation (stay tuned for her post today and Friday). Voices of all sorts of feminists are making their thoughts known this week in what we are referring to as a flash mob movement on the internet. My spouse has given us one of his platforms that he created called "Thirty Seconds or Less" where we are all able to offer our actual voice to the conversation in a 30 second podcast. Everyday this week four to five podcasts are broadcast. Instead of just sharing about the project, let me share some of the voices.

Tuesday
Jul222014

Only Something Nice?

From Scott Hoezee

Last week one day I was reviewing some of the audio sermons available in the archive of my Center for Excellence in Preaching website.  One sermon I listened to was preached by my friend Tom Long at the Worship Symposium some years ago and in which, at one point, Tom singled out a very troubling comment and line of thought that was expressed by Joel Osteen in his book Your Best Life Now.  Afterwards, I remember Tom coming in for some criticism from some of the other people and pastors at the conference.  Some felt it was just wrong to attack or criticize in a sermon someone who professes to be a fellow Christian.

But I don't need to recall just my friend's experience in this regard--I've had my fair share of similar commentary.   In one sermon years ago, I was talking about the damage that hypocrisy causes to the Christian life and to the wider church.  This was right at the time when some new Nixon White House audio tapes were made public in which Dr. Billy Graham was heard making clearly anti-Semitic remarks to the President.  The remarks were at odds with more public things Graham had said about the Jews such that his comments recorded in private (and in secret) were clearly an instance of hypocrisy, of saying one thing in public and completely opposite things in private.  So I used this as an unhappy illustration of hypocrisy in my sermon.  But after that sermon I was assailed at the church door--and in a letter again the next day--by a man from my church who said I had besmirched a great man in that sermon.   "You should never criticize a fellow Christian in a sermon" he said.   Over the years a few others said similar things when I singled out dreadfully arrogant and judgmental public comments by Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson (particularly following 9/11).

 "If you can't say something nice" the old bromide has it, "then don't say anything at all."   And let's admit that preaching should not be a time in which a primary thing that happens is the preacher beats up on anyone and everyone he or she does not like.

Monday
Jul212014

I am a Flintoid 

From Jeff Munroe

I’ve been reading Gordon Young’s Teardown, his memoir about growing up in, escaping from, and returning to Flint, Michigan.  Flint is Detroit without the charm of the professional sports teams - 70,000 jobs at General Motors plants have disappeared and the public school system enrollment has gone from a peak of over 46,000 students to around 14,000.  Flint’s problems are a complicated stew of economics, race, crime and apathy.  Like Gordon Young, I too am from Flint, and have my own Flint stories to tell.

My church, First Presbyterian, still stands downtown on Saginaw Street, across from Kewpies (technically Halo Burger), where I would get in line as a twelve-year-old to order a burger and Vernor’s amid the lost souls of the city who sat inside on cold winter days waiting for the cops to kick them out.  In the summer we’d go a half-block further from Halo Burger to the A&W where they’d hook your tray to your car window, guaranteeing the obscenities coming from the guys across the street in the county jail would stream in your open windows.  

In the summer of 1978 all the male members of my family worked for General Motors. My most vivid memories of that time include being there when a woman’s thumb was cut off by a metal press and watching a guy sleep on a pallet of cardboard every night. I guarantee the guy sleeping was making more money than me. And furthermore in the twisted irony of the place department: I remember our quality control inspector would yell needed corrections I couldn’t hear because of my ear plugs and the noise the presses made.  Plus he was an immigrant with a very heavy accent, so what I could hear I couldn’t understand.  What killed GM? Stuff like that, a million times over.

Sunday
Jul202014

Dog Days of Summer

We are in the dog days of Summer, the Book of Common Prayer in 1552 designated July 7th through August 14th as "Dog Daies" which coincided with the rising of the Dog Star named Sirius. Hence, the name Dog Days of Summer. Last week 30 Stephen ministers joined in a basement on a hot sultry day, and we focused on this prayer by Ted Loder. It put the day in perspective and we spent time rejoicing in the simple and beautiful pleasures of a hot summer day, even if it meant we were in a church basement. On this Sunday afternoon, may this prayer enrich and nourish your spirit the way it did for us. Happy Dog Days to you!

Let Me Live Grace-fully

Thank you, Lord,
for this season
  of sun and slow motion
    of games and porch sitting,
      of picnics and light green fireflies
        on heavy purple evenings;
          and praise for slight breezes.
It’s good, God,
as the first long days of your creation.
Let this season be for me
  a time of gathering together the pieces
    into which my busyness has broken me.
O God, enable me now
  to grow wise through reflection,
    peaceful through the song of the cricket,
      recreated through the laughter of play.
Most of all, Lord,
let me live easily and grace-fully for a spell,
  so that I may see other souls deeply,
    share in silence unhurried,
      listen to the sound of sunlight and shadows,
        explore barefoot the land of forgotten
dreams and shy hopes, and find the right words to tell
another who I am.

A Summer Prayer by Ted Loder in his book of prayers,
"Guerrillas of Grace/Prayers for the Battle"

Rev. Kirsty DePree is an associate minister at Marble Collegiate Church (RCA) in New York, New York.

Saturday
Jul192014

Ecumenicity and History

From James Bratt

Last time I threw an elbow to my right regarding the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, so this week I’ll exercise a bit of fair and balanced and tweak the progressive side—at least what passes for progressivism in Reformed and Christian Reformed circles. My thoughts are prompted by a query from a fellow historian of American religion who read that the synods of these denominations held some joint sessions at their recent annual meetings. “Anything to this,” my friend wondered. I, frankly, stifled a yawn and then tried to stifle my cynicism. The only sure method to the latter end is historical rumination. So here goes.

“Nah, nothin’ much,” was my first reply. This making nice at the top is playing catch-up to a lot of ad-hoc collaborations already happening on the ground around the map of the Dutch immigrant diaspora. Then, too, major funding incentives have been provided by a zillionaire whose birth family was riven by CRC-RCA quarrels when these burned hot and intense. He wants to heal that piece of the past before he meets his eternal future. Finally, these talks are a classic instance of the market model of ecumenicity elaborated half a century ago by sociologist of religion Peter Berger. Growing churches don’t merge, Berger observed; they move forward on sunny paths confident that they’re carrying out an important work of the Lord. Jesus’ high-priestly prayer, “that they all may be one,” tends to get piously invoked instead by downsizing corpora—urr, churches that are much less certain of their mission and identity. Overcoming silly divisions from the past contributes a positive item to their portfolios, and raises prospects of higher numbers, greater resources, and restored significance. Except that, in fairly short order, the new combined church gets down to the pre-merger size of each of its constituent parts. See the history of mainline Presbyterianism since the late 1950s.

In general, I’m more excited about churches with organic visions for a significantly different future than official agencies concocting bland statements minimizing the differences of the past. Even more, I get a touch annoyed with ecclesiastical versions of the “enormous condescension of posterity” that English historian E. P. Thompson saw exercised by Whiggish progressives toward archaic forms of radicalism. Ok, let’s not be bound by differences from yesteryear, but let’s recognize that these arguments could involve important matters of substance and perspective—matters at least as important as today’s quarrels over the implications of Hobby Lobby.