March/April Issue


Salaries, Debt and A Whole Lot of Questions

From Jeff Munroe

How much money should ministers make?

I was a part of a conference last week sponsored by the Association of Theological Schools on “Economic Challenges Facing Future Ministers,” where this question was raised by Daniel Aleshire, the CEO of ATS.  Aleshire, always a compelling speaker, said that there is probably more agreement about the nature of the trinity than over how much those in religious vocations should be paid. 

Aleshire’s comments came in the larger context of a conversation about theological student debt.  I’ll come back to that topic in a bit, but want to say some things about ministerial compensation first.

There are problems on each end of the religious pay spectrum.  One’s ability to serve is compromised both by making too little and by making too much.  I’ve experienced people in ministry with deep resentment from being poorly paid, yet also learned the other day of a seminary president living in a $4 million home with a lifestyle described as “opulent.”  That story made me cringe.  Yes, this person has raised millions upon millions and brought all sorts of recognition to his school.  His board of trustees is rewarding him with the most tangible form of currency they have.  But is this good? Is it good for him?  


Sixth Sunday in Lent

The Lenten rose, one of the longest lasting blooms in any garden, still shines in the corner. Its flowers will continue well into summer, gently bending before the garden as the more vivid flowers emerge.

As I walk out to savor the promise captured in this heavenly hellebore, the heavy garden odor of soil and decay is suddenly pierced with sweetness. A hyacinth is blooming, clad in a deep purple robe. Its humble yet kingly appearance suits Palm Sunday.


Susan VanZanten teaches English at Seattle Pacific University, in Seattle, Washington. Her writings include Mending a Tattered Faith: Devotions with Dickinson (Wipf and Stock, 2011) and Reading a Different Story: A Christian Scholar's Journey from America to Africa (Baker Academic, 2013).


"Jesus Freaks in the Streets"

From James Bratt

Christianity Today’s Book of the Year award for 2013 went to a volume whose first chapter is entitled, “Jesus Knocked Me off My Metaphysical Ass.” The book in question is God’s Forever Family: The Jesus People Movement in America (Oxford University Press, 2013) by Wheaton College history professor Larry Eskridge. The book, as befits the conjunction of A-word and an Evangelical first prize, calls to mind Bob Dylan’s lyric from 1965, “something’s happening here/but you don’t know what it is/do you, Mr. Jones.” 

It’s apt to quote Dylan, troubadour supreme of the 1960s, because God’s Forever Family raises once again, but from a wonderfully revealing angle, the question of the meaning of “the Sixties” for American history. The Sixties of myth and legend was not identical with the chronological decade whose name it bears, of course; it began sometime around the aforementioned 1965 and ended with Watergate in 1974. The component parts of the era are familiar enough. The civil rights movement cresting and giving birth to Black Power. The antiwar movement growing broader, deeper, and more radical. The rebirth of feminism and first birth of ecological consciousness. A widespread dissatisfaction among young people with the blandishments of American materialism as defined by suburban living and corporate striving. Above, or below, all of these, the explosion of a youth culture driven by rock music in quest a new “lifestyle” (the word was coined just then) that was more hedonist than constrained, expressive rather than conformist, yearning for authentic relationships and personal meaning rather than the regnant tokens of middle-class success. The whole amounted to a cultural revolution that, with the rising acceptance of same-sex marriage, is now coming to completion in the USA—and that defined the culture wars in the decades in between.


The Same Coin

From Jason Lief

Yesterday I was listening to a conversation with a historian on the difference between the historical Jesus and the Jesus of faith. It was interesting, but I've heard it before. You know, the Jesus of faith being the result of a mossy, mythical, build up. The conversation sounded like a rehashed John Dominic Crossan PBS special. Earlier yesterday morning I had given a lecture to college freshman about the the way the gospel writers present the death and resurrection of Jesus. I've been trying all semester to help them see that the biblical authors aren't concerned with objective history, they're always much more interested in what events and people mean. Put bluntly, they gospels are trying to convince us of something. Most students find it interesting, but some think it's dangerous. They don't want to focus on meaning... it's not about interpretation. It's about facts. Did things happen exactly as the biblical writers said they did? That, after all, is the measure of truth--whether something happened exactly as it's described in the text.

The problem with both liberal and fundamentalist Christianity is that they end up arguing two sides of the same coin; they both overemphasize historical fact.


Welcome, Eleanor!

We're thrilled to welcome little Eleanor Oliva to The 12 family. She was born on April 3, 2014, to contributer Theresa Latini. (Hopefully Eleanor will make an appearance or two in future posts from Theresa.)