Category: Member Blogs

Asking a Higher Question

As I was driving out of the St. Vital Centre parking lot this past Wednesday, I was surprised to see a large group of people standing outside a small store. Then I looked at the sign and realized what was going on. It was a cannabis store. This was the day Canada legalized the recreational use of cannabis nationwide.Well, the day came and went. Nothing really felt different, at least in my world. But how should we respond to this new reality, especially as people of faith? What should we be teaching our kids about cannabis? And what about us? Should we ever try it for ourselves?Well, first of all, let me say that I’m no expert on this subject. I’ve never really been affected by drugs or alcohol growing up. That’s not to say I didn’t struggle with addictions, but they were to other things. So for anyone, especially me, education is essential in order to have an informed opinion on the subject.Second, let’s define the question. To do that, let’s clarify what we’re not talking about.We aren’t talking about whether or not it’s okay to use cannabis for medicinal purposes. I have a lot of sympathy for people who are experiencing excruciating amounts of pain for which cannabis seems to be the best/only remedy. That makes sense to me. When compared to some of the other drugs that are offered to them, a natural way seems to be a healthier option.Don't forget that many pharmaceuticals are also highly addictive, often dangerous, and have significant side effects. Under the guidance of a medical professional, cannabis can be a life-changing medicine for people suffering with a variety of ailments.We’re also not talking about abuse and addiction. I think it goes without saying that we, as Christians, would never condone that. For any substance, including alcohol, illegal drugs, pharmaceutical drugs, coffee, sugar, etc., there’s a danger of becoming addicted. Dependency on such substances takes away our ability to be of sound mind and spirit, destroys our bodies, and can have serious consequences on our relationships. The Church should seek to help people with addictions of all kinds, offering freedom from such bondages through Christ.Lastly, we’re not talking about anything that would still be considered illegal. You must be over 19 to use cannabis in Manitoba. Driving or going to work while high is illegal. You also can’t simply smoke cannabis anywhere you please (just like tobacco).So what are we talking about then? I believe the real question we should ask is whether or not the use of cannabis for recreational purposes in moderation is morally acceptable. Seen the same way as alcohol, would it be okay to consume cannabis in a way that isn’t harmful to you or the people around you and doesn’t make you lose control? That is such a tricky question, especially because it was so easy for us to say no in the past. It was illegal, plain and simple. But our government has changed that, and now it’s up to us, not the law, to decide what would be morally acceptable in this case.This changes it from a community question to a personal one. The community has decided that it’s okay to use cannabis, now each individual must decide for themselves what they will do. We can draw parallels with alcohol, tobacco, abortion, and Medical Assistance in Dying. Let’s take alcohol as an example. Prohibition existed in Manitoba from 1915-1923. In 1923, it became legal again, but some smaller communities still decided to remain dry. When the country, province, city, and church all change their views on alcohol, the individual is left to discern on their own. Some decide they can enjoy it, some decide they don’t want to. It’s similar to the debate that happened in the Corinthian church about meat sacrificed to idols (1 Corinthians 8). Some couldn’t do it because it shook their faith, but for others it was okay. Paul encouraged all to watch out for those who would struggle with it and asked them to be considerate of what eating meat sacrificed to idols would do to their fellow believer’s faith. But is cannabis the same as alcohol or meat sacrificed to idols? Is it morally the same? Would God be okay if you used cannabis recreationally as a Christian? I think that’s the question we have yet to answer. The Bible doesn’t say anything about cannabis, or how we should consume alcohol for that matter. But it does say we should treat our bodies well because they are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), and that we shouldn’t give ourselves to drunkenness and recklessness (Ephesians 5:18). I believe that many people in our churches have no desire to try cannabis just because it’s legal, in the same way they wouldn’t want to smoke cigarettes even though they can. But if you are a Christian who wants to try recreational cannabis in moderation, I’d ask you to consider the following questions as you discern (hopefully not alone, but in community):Why is it that you want to use cannabis? Is there peer pressure? Is it just for fun? Is there a need that you are wanting to fill that could be filled some other way?Do you know what you’re doing? Are you aware of what cannabis is, what it does, how to use it, and what the laws say?Do you know the dangers and consequences of it? What if you find yourself feeling more and more dependant on it? What might this do to your relationships? How would your spouse, kids, parents, friends, neighbours or colleagues respond?How will this affect your Christian witness? Is this in line with your choice to follow Jesus? Where is your heart in this? What is your attitude in wanting to do this? What will this do to the faith of other Christians around you? I don’t have all the answers but I would encourage us not to be afraid to talk about these things, because in some ways, these are questions of faith. How can we live lives that are faithful to our call as followers of Jesus? How can we authentically share God’s love and draw people into God’s plan of reconciliation for the world?Canadian Mennonite University held a community forum on Cannabis recently where the diverse panel gave their perspectives on the topic. I would encourage you to watch it.

Syndicated from Blog - Moses Falco


Season After Pentecost (Proper 24[29]) – The Gospel Passage: Undertaking the ways of the Lord God Jesus Christ

“James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” ( Mark 10:35 – 37)
I can imagine Jesus slightly taken aback by the disciples’ statement, wondering just what was it they thought Jesus should do for them. Now Jesus would do ANYTHING for them as long as it was in their best interests. And I imagine maybe he was a little amused. But mostly wanting to set them straight.
“But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” (Verses 38 – 40)
There was a time I thought long and hard about who would sit at Jesus’ right hand or left hand. Especially when it is also said that Jesus sits at the right hand of God, which means that one of Jesus’ sides is already taken, unless Jesus and God are the same Deity in which case James and John just asked to be seated beside the Lord God the Divine. And if there is only one right hand of the Divine and one left hand of the Divine that means that out of all human existence only two people would be the ones “prepared.” AND considering what that “preparation” might entail, I am not sure that there would be only two people out of all of human existence that would be worthy.
“When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John.” (Verse 41)
If this situation were not bizarre enough, the other ten got peeved because they thought James and John were “budging” in line and they – meaning the other ten – should also be in contention for this honor. However, beloved reader, do not let this have you think less of the disciples. Between this point and Jesus ascending into heaven, the disciples got a crash course in what it means to be followers of the Divine. And that some honors come with too high a price tag.
“So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Verses 42 – 45)
You know, beloved reader, I really have to think and believe that Jesus Christ would not seek to be seated at the right hand or the left hand side of himself – if that was the honor. What I mean is that Jesus did not seek honors or prestige. He IS honored and glorified because he is Divine from the Lord God. But that was not Jesus’ agenda when he was on the earth. Jesus the SERVANT King – not a king that demands to be at the head of the line, but someone who is content to be at the every end of the line making sure that everyone else has what he or she needs for this life and the life to come. And furthermore, those two people who are seated to the right and left of Jesus will probably be the two people that everyone else thinks is lest likely to be there. I for one am looking forward to seeing which two lest likely people they are. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Podcast: Is Masturbation Wrong?

Greg talks about a controversial subject. Send Questions To: Dan: @thatdankent Email: Twitter: @reKnewOrg Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher | Google Play | RSS
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Syndicated from Greg Boyd – ReKnew

Horsch-ing Around Kraichgau, Germany

The house my Horst (Horsch) ancestors lived in 250 years agoMy mother was born a Horst, descendent of immigrant Jakob Horst who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1767 on the ship Minerva. As with so many other surnames of Swiss and German heritage, there are many variations; Horsch, Hürsch, Hursch, Horst, Hürst and Hurst. My immigrant ancestor’s family was Horst in Switzerland, Horsch in Germany, and returned to Horst in the USA.Jakob Horst (Horsch) was born in 1734 in Mauer, in the Kraichgau region of Germany. Like so many other Anabaptists, Jakob’s grandfather, also named Jakob, moved from Switzerland to Germany during severe persecution of the Swiss government in the 17th century. There were two great regions of Anabaptist migration to Germany—one to the Palatinate (see my ancestor Valentine Klemmer) which is west of the Rhine River, and the other to Kraichgau, located east of the Rhine River near Heidelberg and south of the Nekar River.Heidelberg on the Nekar River Several years ago, I visited some friends in the town of Bammental, Germany, directly in the Kraichgau region of Germany. Little did I know, that over the hill and around the bend, only three miles from where I was, lay the town of Mauer and the “Hof” where my ancestor Jakob Horsch lived and farmed with his family. During my year in Switzerland, I was asked to give a presentation about my Swiss heritage, and I came across an article by Clarke Hess on “‘Poor’ Jacob Horst, 1767 Immigrant.” This was a meticulously researched article on my ancestor, including information on his family origins in Switzerland.  When I looked up “Mauer” on Google Maps, I discovered that it was right next to Bammental, where I had visited only a few months earlier. I could have kicked myself for not knowing this before my visit. I hoped I would have a chance to return to visit my friend and the village of my ancestors.The image of the "Horsthof" I had from the Hess article to search Google EarthThe image of the Horsthof I found on Google Earth before I wentThe chance came in September 2018. In the meantime, I tried to find the exact location of the “Horsthof.” In the article on “Poor Jacob Horst,” there was an image taken of this Hof. I contacted the Hess to get a more precise location. He didn’t have an exact address, only that it was “close to the cemetery” in Mauer. I scoured Google Earth all around the cemetery to try to locate the place before going there. Hess helped me by forwarding some better images from a more recent visit of his. I found what I thought looked like the buildings of the Hof and took a screen shot. I sent this to Hess, and he confirmed that he thought this was indeed the Hof in question. Armed with this information, I headed to visit my friends in Bammental. The morning of my visit to Mauer was bright and sunny. My host and I arrived at the cemetery in under 10 minutes, passing an Aldi’s store on the way. Hard to imagine my ancestor rumbling along this stretch of road on a horse or in a horse-drawn carriage. The cemetery was on a hill at the north edge of town. It didn’t take long to identify the Hof that I had captured an image of from Google Earth. We scrambled down the stairs from the cemetery to the street. The entrance showing the name of the Bard andthe new use of the former HorsthofThe Horst Hof, which had been owned by the German Bard Göler von Ravensburg for several centuries, probably including the time my ancestor lived there, was now totally renovated and turned into a retirement community with a nursing home. The family of my ancestor was poor and were tenant farmers on this property. (picture of modern Hof)I could hardly wait to talk to someone about my relationship to the Hof. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as I had planned. The only people with whom I came in contact were very protective of the patients housed in the former barn of my ancestor and weren’t interested in my family history from 250 years ago. My host explained to me that German law is very protective of the privacy of individuals. I wrote more about this “misadventure” in a blog. The land around Mauer where my Horst relatives farmed.At least I was able to smell the air, and soak in the atmosphere of my ancestors who lived in Mauer. I was filled with awe to see an actual place attached to my history. In the meantime, my host explained to me that there were still many Mennonites in Germany named Horsch. Most of them had moved farther east to Bavaria. In fact, one established a farm implement company in Schwandorf, Bavaria, with branches in many parts of the world, including the USA. I decided to see if any of the Horsches had connections to my family from Mauer.South German Mennonite Fall Conference attendeesDuring my stay in Germany, I was able to attend a church-wide Fall Conference of the South German Mennonite Church. I asked my hosts to introduce me to any Horsch present. The first one was the son of the founder of the farm implement company and the current CEO. He was thin of average height and immaculately dressed with a winsome smile and slicked-back, black hair. He looked like a Horst cousin of mine (well, sorta!) and seemed to be making connections with numerous people at the convention. When I asked him if he knew of any family connection to Mauer, he immediately said that there were none. However, he did introduce me to another Horsch at the conference who he thought might know.I approached the second Horsch, an elderly gentleman who looked just like my grandfather Horst (just kidding!). He was short and stocky, with a thick batch of gray hair on the sides and balding on the top. He wore thick-framed black glasses. Once again, he said that he didn’t know, but that his son was interested in this and might have some information for me. He gave me his phone number.The next day I called the number I was given, and was able to talk to Johannes Horsch, who was on his tractor at the time doing chores around his farm. Being on the phone, I couldn’t see if he resembled any Horst relative of mine, but we exchanged email addresses for future reference. He was the friendliest of the Horsch contacts, and I am hoping he can make a connection with a Horsch family with ties to Mauer. Horsch-ing around Kraichgau for a few days, and then visiting the Palatinate, two of the main areas of Swiss Anabaptist migrations for another few days, was an eventful and fun-filled week. The highlight of the week was attending the South German Mennonite Conference and making many new and former connections beyond my ancestors. Since most of them, like me, have connections in Switzerland, I’m probably related to few of them.The Horschhof as it appears today
Syndicated from Klymer Klatsch

Podcast: What is Gender Based On?

Greg talks about the mysteries of gender and cautions Christians to avoid certain extreme positions. Dan apologizes for a reckless joke. Send Questions To: Dan: @thatdankent Email: Twitter: @reKnewOrg Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher | Google Play | RSS Artwork: Evolution by: Piet Mondrian date: 1911
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Syndicated from Greg Boyd – ReKnew

Why Appreciate a Pastor?

I was forwarded an email yesterday about “Pastor Appreciation Month.” I think I vaguely knew that this was a thing, but I had no idea that it was upon us. Apparently, one of the ways that my church can show appreciation to me is to give me a gift certificate for a discount on books. It’s a nice gesture. But honestly the last thing I need is more books. I already have a dozen waiting to be read and I have probably reached that stage of life and ministry where I am less optimistic than I once was that a book holds the key to whatever intellectual, pastoral, or administrative deficiencies I daily inflict upon my church. But, again, a nice gesture. And it got me pondering a rather simple question: Why appreciate a pastor?
Well, the short answer is because while being a pastor is incredibly rewarding in many ways, it’s also kinda hard. Not harder than being a farmer or a nurse or a builder or a business person or a professor, I should hasten to add. Just harder in different ways. I spent some time this morning enumerating some of the things that I, personally, find most challenging about this utterly unique position that I never imagined I’d find myself in.
I want to be explicitly clear at the outset that this is not a plea for sympathy or some kind of passive aggressive dig at my church for not being sufficiently appreciative. Nothing could be further from the truth. My church is generous and supportive to a fault. But for those who only darken the door of a church a few times a month and wonder what on earth pastors spend the rest of their time doing or how it could possibly be hard to work for twenty minutes once a week (wink, nudge), here’s some of what might be going on in your pastor’s brain when they stand up on Sunday morning. It’s what’s often going on in mine, at any rate.
To be a pastor is to wonder and worry about the future of the church. It’s natural, when one’s professional identity is tied up in the ongoing existence of an institution, to feel this anxiety. Not admirable, perhaps, but natural. These are not the best of times for the church in the West. The church is (rightly and wrongly) associated with all kinds of sins, past and present. People have walked away and continue to walk away in droves. The research and the statistics show only downward trajectories. This can be a demoralizing space to inhabit. It can also be invigorating, I should add, because it can clarify priorities and sharpen theological vision. But it takes work to see the glass as half-full when the world “out there” often sees the thing that you have given your life to as irrelevant at best. And many of us, if we’re honest, have no idea how to “fix” this or turn around trends that aren’t terribly encouraging.
To be a pastor is to often feel incompetent. It’s no secret that people can expect a lot from pastors. A pastor should be a gifted orator, a compelling theologian, an efficient administrator, a sensitive counsellor/caregiver, an intuitive asker of the right question at the right time, a thoughtful event planner, a cheerful networker, a social butterfly… The list goes on and on. A friend of mine was recently on a search committee for a pastor. When I saw the job description at the end of the process, I cringed and said, “Jesus wouldn’t qualify for that job!” Larger multi-staff churches can adopt a divide and conquer approach to this impossible list of demands, but smaller churches can’t. Often it’s one or two people that are expected to cover all that terrain. And speaking personally, after ten years in this gig I know for a fact that I am terrible at some of those things. It’s easy to feel like you’re constantly disappointing some people at least some of the time.
To be a pastor is to constantly fight the temptation to measure your worth and success in the role by unhelpful (and un-Christian) metrics. How many people are in the pews? How many of them are under fifty? How much criticism or praise did the last sermon receive? How many disinterested yawns? How many programs, articles, baptisms, meetings, and pastoral visits can I point to in order to justify my position? How’s the budget looking? Who hasn’t been around in a while? Are the customers satisfied?
To be a pastor is to sometimes feel like you are having faith on behalf of others. Not only are churches emptier and older than they were a generation or two, those who come aren’t necessarily buying what the church is selling. They’re there for community or some other felt social need, but they’re not at all sure about this “faith” business. It all feels rather exclusive and intolerant. Sometimes it can feel like people are relying on me to keep a faith that they couldn’t.
To be a pastor is to often straddle the fault lines of difficult issues. Our cultural moment is dominated by a constellation of hot-button issues (race, sexuality, gender, identity, etc.). And of course, people bring their issues to church. These issues have the potential to tear families, communities, and churches apart. They have done so in the past. As pastor, people look to you to have something definitive (or at least helpful) to say. But to be a pastor is not simply to dutifully pronounce upon the correct theological conclusions about issue x. It is also to feel a deep (and appropriate) obligation to the real human lives who are wrestling with these issues. It is to know that sometimes it’s best not to have something definitive to say for the sake of preserving a relationship. Sometimes it’s best to withhold judgment. And sometimes? Well, sometimes you just don’t have a damn clue what to say. Sometimes you just don’t know. But saying “I don’t know” isn’t something pastors are supposed to say.
To be a pastor is to watch people suffer. This one is perhaps the most difficult for me. Watching people descend into the abyss of a debilitating disease, watching age steal people’s minds and bodies, listening to the heartache of parents whose kids are carving a path of chaos and destruction through the lives of everyone around them, watching marriages fall apart, watching faith and hope wither… These things take a psychological toll. Prayer and listening and co-suffering love all matter and make a difference. And to remind people of Christ within them, the hope of glory is the truest thing I will ever say. I am as convinced as I ever was that the church must be a place where human suffering can be interpreted and lived theologically, where it can be anchored in and tethered to the suffering Christ. But it’s easy to feel profoundly helpless in the middle of it all.
This has been a bit bleak, I know. I’m (sort of) sorry about that. It doesn’t even remotely tell the whole story. And it can feel kind of small and petty when set alongside the trials faced by pastors in situations of persecution and trial around the world. But I still think it tells an important part of the story at this particular time in this particular place. I know many pastors who have walked away from the role because they found it too exhausting or frustrating or whatever. I know other pastors who struggle to put on a brave, happy faithful face on Sunday morning while inside they are falling apart. If nothing else, the preceding might inspire you to say a prayer for your pastor as they clear their throat behind the pulpit next Sunday morning. Or to remember that grace is among the best forms of appreciation.

Syndicated from Rumblings

Season After Pentecost (Proper 24[29]) – The Epistles Passage: Understanding the ways of High Priests

[Somehow I did a cut and paste of the incorrect Epistle passage last week. And now I am faced with writing something “quick fast” so it is ready to post posthaste. It reminds me of the days in college, and once in a while in seminary, that I had a paper due and needed to somehow complete in a short amount of time. I actually write quite well under pressure. But I have not had to for a good many years! So here I go! ]
“Every high priest chosen from among mortals is put in charge of things pertaining to God on their behalf, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness; and because of this he must offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people.” (Hebrews 5:1 – 3)
What strikes me here is the human-ness of the high priests. Sometimes the high priests are as fallible as the people they serve and sacrifice for. I am reminded of Eli who Samuel reminded what it was like to be called by the Lord God. And Samuel himself who thought that a king appointed by the Lord God would like strong and “kingly.” John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah, who was struck numb when he doubted that he would have a son. And then there were the high priests of Jesus’ time who cared more for politics than faith. Paul seems to have a kinder view of high priests. In our own time there have been good ministers and not so good ministers. So we know what Paul is talking about.
“And one does not presume to take this honor, but takes it only when called by God, just as Aaron was.” (Verse 4)
That could be why some of the high priests who presided over the Hebrews were hit and miss – many times such an honor was passed down through family lines and not an individual calling by the Lord God the Divine.
“So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”; as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” (Verses 5 – 7)
Not, Paul seems to being saying, because he was the Son of God but because he comported himself as a child of God. We can do that too, beloved reader!
“Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Verses 8 – 10)
Next week the Epistle passage speaks to the proofs of Jesus Christ being the perfect High Priest. I should know, because as I said earlier, I cut and pasted the wrong passage and ended up writing on next week’s Epistle passage instead of the one for this week. I am still trying to figure how that happened and feel a little loopy having set down such a strong case for Jesus as the perfect High Priest, and now having to back track to an earlier point in Paul’s argument. Knowing where he is heading, it is challenging to write the prequel! I guess it just goes to prove Paul’s point – human-ness can be a heavy load to bear, and allowances should be made! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Fall Bonfire and Block Party in East Petersburg

East Petersburg Mennonite Church is hosting their 4th Annual Community Fall Bonfire and Block Party on October 31st, from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. This annual event is open for everyone and features a...

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Syndicated from Jeff McLain

How to Be a Civic Environmentalist

It is something of a truism to say that we live in polarized and polarizing times. This has most recently been laid bare by the Kavanaugh hearings south of the border and the Trump presidency more generally. But the political and social irruptions dominating the news in America are manifestations of broader cultural trends that are increasingly pitting politics and the identities we construct around them against one another. It’s a reality that many are struggling to come to terms with, contribute to, or even understand. 
David Brooks delves into some fascinating new research on these matters in his piece called “The Rich White Civil War” in today’s New York Times. Here are some of the conclusions he mines out of a study called “Hidden Tribes” conducted by a group called More in Common.

American politics is no longer about what health care plan you support. It’s about identity, psychology, moral foundations and the dynamics of tribal resentment.

Few of us would disagree with this. The evidence is all around us (it dominates our Facebook and Twitter feeds). But, perhaps surprisingly, the tribal resentments that seem to feed American politics and so much of our cultural discourse—the 5-10% on the far right and the far left of the spectrum—are driven by those who are mostly white, educated, and rich.

These two groups are the richest of all the groups. They are the whitest of the groups. Their members have among the highest education levels, and they report high levels of personal security… My first big takeaway from “Hidden Tribes” is that our political conflict is primarily a rich, white civil war. It’s between privileged progressives and privileged conservatives.
You could say that tribalism is the fruit of privilege.

Brooks goes on:

People with college degrees are more likely to describe their ideology as central to their identity. They are much more likely to derive moral meaning from their label, more likely to affiliate with a herd based on their label and more likely to vote on the party line.

All in all, as someone who’s richer that I’d probably like to admit, sorta educated, and pretty white, that’s some interesting (and indicting) research.
The good news is that once you get outside the two elite groups of privileged white, educated people on the fringes that seem to drive the agenda, there is a lot more “independent thinking and flexibility.” Around two-thirds of Americans (and, again, we could probably extrapolate beyond America into other parts of the Western world) could be categorized as the “exhausted majority.” You would never know this by reading the papers or watching the news on TV or online. You would, at times, think that we are on the verge of all out liberal vs conservative warfare. But of course the media has a vested interest in making us think this. Extreme positions sell. The rich white civil war sells particularly well. It generates clicks and, more importantly, outrage, which at times seems like our last remaining common currency.
So, what’s an “exhausted majority” to do? Well, Last week, David Brooks wrote another insightful article called “A Complete National Disgrace.” In it, he argues for creating a new “environmental movement”—a movement that recognizes that the only way through and (hopefully) beyond our present state of affairs will be to start taking personal responsibility for “policing our civic environment.” The solutions will only come when we resist the easy and lazy scapegoating that we so easily trade in (especially online) and actually begin to interact with real human beings rather than convenient categories to serve as ciphers for all of our rage, scorn, fear, and helplessness.
According to Brooks,

You detoxify disputes when you personalize them. People who don’t have regular contact with people they disagree with become intellectually dishonest quickly.

I think he’s one hundred percent correct on both counts here. Disputes are detoxified when they are personalized. It’s far harder to be a jerk when you’re interacting with a flesh and blood human being, no matter how distasteful you find their positions on this or that issue. When you’re talking with a person rather than a category, you quite quickly realize that many of the same human concerns that animate you are driving them. It becomes possible to have conversations instead of arguments. Discussions become more exploratory and curious and less adversarial.
And he’s right about the second part, too. When we remain in our ideological silos, lobbing discursive bombs at those we blame for all that is wrong in society, congratulating ourselves on our correctness and virtue, we do, in fact, become intellectually dishonest. Rather quickly, it seems to me. We construct straw men and gleefully tear them down. We present the views of others in terms they would never agree with. We describe our own views in terms far too certain and personally flattering. We do ourselves and our communities a profound disservice when we surround ourselves and interact with people who pretty much think exactly like us on all matters. We lose the ability to see the world from another point of view. We forget that we have things to learn.
I’ve seen this many times in my own life. I’ve sat down over coffee with people who were antagonistic to, say, the refugee work I was involved in a few years ago. Online, these people were often combative and closed. In person, the tone changed. There was give and take and concessions and questions. There was still disagreement, sure, but it felt different. It felt… detoxified. I regularly sit in hockey dressing rooms with friends whose politics and worldview does not always map on to my own, but who remind me that just because things look a certain way from behind my desk, that doesn’t mean that they look and feel the same while laying concrete or working as a mechanic or whatever.
I’ve heard this from others, too. A few weeks ago when I wrote about the experience of reading Jordan Peterson, I got a handful of private messages from people (some of whom would probably be more politically liberal than I am) who said things along the lines of, “You know, I’m scared to admit this online or in public spaces, but I’ve read Peterson too. He speaks the language of the guys I hang out with, my co-workers, the people I meet at the rink or the gym. No, I don’t buy everything he’s selling, but he makes sense to people that I care about and I think it’s important for me to pay attention to this.
I could go on, but this post is (predicably) getting long.
It’s important to have contact with people who think differently. Really important. Having people in my life who are both more conservative than me and more liberal than me has taught me a great many things, not least that how you say something is often at least as important as what you say. It regularly reminds me of just how important it is to “police” my contributions to the civic environments of which I am a part. And, well, it’s a lot more interesting (and rewarding) than lining up and dutifully taking up arms in the rich, white civil war.

Syndicated from Rumblings

Interview: Philip Gulley, Unlearning God

Philip Gulley joins the podcast to discuss his latest book, Unlearning God, with Steve Kimes. The book is described this way:
With his trademark humor and gentle wisdom, Philip Gulley is a spiritual director any wayward pilgrim could warm to. In Unlearning God: HOW UNBELIEVING HELPED ME BELIEVE (Convergent; OSD: 9/25/2018), he invites readers into his own sometimes irreverent, sometimes daunting, but always refreshing journey of soul-deep reconstruction. In addition to lovers of Gulley’s works, this is a book for readers whose faith has been challenged by the world around them. Gulley teaches the reader to let go, or unlearn these burdensome obstacles in their faith so that they can forge a more authentic relationship with God.
Raised in small-town Indiana by a Catholic mother and a Baptist father, and proselytized by Jehovah’s Witness neighbors, young Gulley struggles with the absurdity of all three camps being utterly convinced the other two are doomed. To nearly everyone’s consternation, Phillip grows up to become a Quaker pastor. “Someone else’s faith,” he writes, “is a poor substitute for having our own.” Yet even his own tradition, he discovers, serves best as a way point in the serious, lifelong process of letting go of inherited certainties in order to flourish.
Driven by Gulley’s trademark storytelling and chapters bookmarked by small sections titled “Why this Matters,” Gulley identifies a number of tenants, dogma, and conventions in his religious journey that he has chosen to “unlearn” on his quest for an all-encompassing faith…
Writing in the tradition of Barbara Brown Taylor, Rob Bell and Rachel Held Evans, Gulley showcases his well-loved gift as a narrator of the American religious experience and his acute sensibilities as public theologian in conversations that will charm, provoke, encourage and inspire.
Philip Gulley is a Quaker pastor and popular author and speaker. He has written 21 books, including the Harmony fiction series, the Porch Talk series of inspirational essays, If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person (coauthored with James Mulholland), and The Evolution of Faith: How God Is Creating a Better Christianity. Gulley holds a master of divinity degree from Christian Theological Seminary. He is co-pastor of Fairfield Friends Meeting in Camby, Indiana.
For more information, please visit: Apple Podcasts | Android | Email | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | TuneIn | RSS

I Pray #2 – In Community

In our sermon series, I Pray, we explore how prayer connects us to Jesus and others in regular life. Many of us struggle to have a "prayer life" but perhaps it is time for some of us to recognize that all of life is prayer. Through intentional practices and orienting our mind on Jesus, we will come to see that a prayer-saturated life with God is for everyone. In this message, we used a modified version of a liturgy from Oct 14th in "Common Prayer: Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals" available online at

Syndicated from PangeaCast - Pangea Church


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