The Problem with “Biblical Values”

Actually, the problem is with the words, not the values. It arises when you use a phrase, understanding what you mean by it, but the reader or listener takes it another way. A conservative newspaper columnist recently wrote of her apprehension that liberals were pushing the LGBTQ agenda. She feared they were attacking the “biblical …

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Hear Their Stories

In a school district in suburban St. Louis county, a controversy arose over the teaching of diversity curriculum. St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Aisha Sultan described it, detailing the heated feelings and speeches.  In one forum, a woman of color told of her own experience with racism. A nearby white woman responded to her, “No, you …

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Honesty and Humility Aren’t Enough

There are two defining virtues for a Christian: honesty and humility. Honesty: Christians have the courage to try and see themselves as they are, as objectively as possible. We search for blind spots, masked prejudices, self-justifications, and so forth. (Wasn’t that the point of Wesley’s small groups?) Humility: We admit we are hopelessly and unconsciously …

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“Staying” or “Beginning”?

I’m intrigued by something Father Richard Rohr wrote in his The Wisdom Pattern: Order-Disorder-Reorder. “It seems to me we must begin conservatively—with clear boundaries, identity, and a sense of respect for our reality. Then, and only then, can we move out from that strong center, according to our education and experience.” (p. 61) The trick, …

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A Backlash of Decency?

I have a new hope for 2021. The tragedy of the raid on the Capitol by President Trump’s radicalized supporters on January 6 prompted some officials to call it a day of infamy, similar to December 7. But Christians may also remember it’s Epiphany day. Maybe there’s a bit of epiphany in the aftermath of …

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Conspiracy Theories: The Election Was Rigged?

Why, with overwhelming facts to the contrary, do so many people believe the presidential election was rigged or stolen? To understand this, I turned to psychologist Rob Brotherton’s Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories. Here are some of his points, as I understand them. Conspiracy theorists don’t like ambiguity. It’s unsettling not being on …

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2020: And Now for a Little Good News

The ending of the season finale of comedian John Oliver’s show on HBO, “Last Week Tonight,” was cathartic. After an expletive-filled rant regarding how “bad” (euphemism) the year has been, he pressed a trigger and pyrotechnically blew up the gigantic numbers, “2020.” For some reason it feels good to vent anger and pain vicariously like …

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A Happy Family?

Showman P. T. Barnum had a display in his 1860’s American Museum called “The Happy Family.” It was a cage where natural prey and predators peacefully coexisted. People flocked to see lambs resting with lions without becoming mutton. Asked if he planned to keep the exhibit, he supposedly replied, “The display will become a permanent …

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How Many Voices?

I once ran an experiment in a church I pastored. I put black and white beans in a Mason jar and set it on a table next to a sign, “Guess how many beans are in this jar.” People could submit their guesses for a chance to win a fabulous prize (I think it was …

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“Were We Watching the Same Debate?”

Probably like some reading this, I felt physically nauseated by the recent presidential debate. I even had trouble sleeping. Visions of constant insults and interruptions haunted my night like Scrooge’s ghosts from A Christmas Carol. The haunt-in-chief was President Trump. I thought his behavior in the hour and a half debacle was deplorable. Couldn’t everybody …

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health workers wearing face mask

One Mask, Two Universes

Like most people I know, wearing a mask during the pandemic is a no-brainer. Science tells us that it helps prevent spreading the virus and may somewhat help in preventing becoming ill. So, I’m astounded by the anti-maskers. Recently a Springfield, Missouri, woman sued her city over an ordinance requiring the wearing of masks. She …

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Never Too Old to Be Tacky

Supposedly, the older you get, the wiser you become. Life’s experiences deepen character. You’re more patient, understanding, empathetic, and kind. Things become more flexible and conditional, and less inflexible and absolute. Younger generations discover how to cope with life, and prosper in it, by learning from wise silver-haired gurus. This is the theory. Unfortunately, incidents …

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George Floyd: Why Is Peace So Difficult?

After every senseless, racist murder, and after the public outcry and protests, we hope that we’ve moved closer to exposing racism and achieving a more just, peaceful society. Then there’s another George Floyd instance, and we’re back to pain and more division. As a white person who doesn’t know what it’s like to live the …

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A New Kind of Fundamentalism?

With protests against COVID-19 restrictions popping up around the country, I’m wondering if we’re not seeing a display of a new kind of fundamentalism. Christian fundamentalists, a sliver of believers, have been around a long time. They derive their name from adhering to five fundamentals of the faith. Their resulting version of Christianity comes across …

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Feelings about the Proposed United Methodist Church Split

I am relieved by the proposal recently hammered out by the inclusive, high-level mediating group dealing with the future of our denomination. If it ends up being presented at, and approved by, the 2020 General Conference in May, then the decades-old wrangling over gay ordination and same-sex marriage may finally come to an end. It …

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Sitting with the “Enemy”

When a picture circulated of comedian Ellen DeGeneres sitting with former President George W. Bush during a Dallas Cowboys football game, it raised some eyebrows and questions. As Ellen said, in a USA Today story, people asked themselves, “Why is this gay Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative Republican president?” The implication seemed to …

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Is God on Our Side?

Abraham Lincoln followed a vision that transcended partisanship. In his second inaugural address, with the Union’s victory assured, he could have piled on. He could have condemned the South and spoken about an eye for an eye. Indeed, our current political climate would have repeatedly fostered animosity through endless tweets. But Lincoln saw the bigger …

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Six Days of Creation? Really?

According to an article in the Christian Post, the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church recently passed a resolution affirming belief that God created the world “in six natural days.” This might come as a surprise to the Creator, since we know earth to be over four billion years old. There’s irrefutable proof of that, as Bill …

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Does Our Religious Orientation Choose Us?

Light shone down from heaven in a seminary classroom one afternoon. It’s stuck with me all these years. The theology prof provided this moment of clarity when he said that there are basically only two theological orientations. We all fall, in varying degrees, into one of them. He called one “redemptionist.” This is the group …

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No Pure Place to Stand

The Missouri Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church recently completed its three-day meeting in Springfield. We elected delegates, lay and clergy, who will represent us at the 2020 General Conference, the policy making body of our denomination. The people we elected (with surprising quickness) all endorse full inclusion of the LGBTQIA+ community into the …

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Suggestions for a New Methodism

With the Judicial Council’s recent decision that central elements of the Traditional Plan are constitutional, the trajectory of United Methodism has been set for the immediate future. There will be no Book of Discipline-approved ordination of homosexuals, nor will there be same-sex marriages performed without harsh penalties. The resulting uproar in the aftermath of the …

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Dealing with Post-General Conference Anger

I went on blood pressure medication shortly after the 2019 General Conference concluded. The two events are not unrelated. As I’ve grown older, I’ve noticed those systolic/diastolic numbers creeping up in annual physicals. However, by the time the GC ended, my numbers had eclipsed the threshold. What happened in the St. Louis gathering shocked people …

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Tragedy in Church

A horrible event happened in the church I serve. Last Sunday morning (Feb. 17), a man entered the building and asked a greeter where the rest room was.  Once there, alone, he took his life. Our staff and security personnel responded quickly and appropriately. Happening toward the end of the last worship service, the congregation …

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Doubting or Questioning? There’s a Difference

“Doubting Thomas” is not an endearing term. It stems from the Resurrection account in John’s Gospel when Jesus, post-crucifixion, shows up in the room where the disciples have huddled. Thomas, though, is missing. When later told about what happened, he replies dogmatically, “Unless I see him for myself, I’m not going to believe” (John 20:19-29). …

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It’s About Honesty and Humility. Period.

After 40+ years in the United Methodist ministry, two things have become clear. If we’re ever going to resolve our significant differences, we’re going to have to have the honesty to admit that none of us knows what we’re talking about. Each of us sees things only through a very narrow lens. Our genes, ancestry, …

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MONDAY MEDITATION: Invest and Believe (July 19)

“The Lord of heavenly forces, the God of Israel, proclaims: Take these documents—this sealed deed of purchase along with the unsealed one—and put them into a clay container so they will last a long time.” – Jeremiah 32:16 There was one rule of investing that you should follow: If I buy a stock, don’t buy it. Too …

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MONDAY MEDITATION: The Kingdom’s First Citizens (July 12)

Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. – James 2:5-7 (The Message) When I volunteer at ministry groups serving in the city, I see folks …

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MONDAY MEDITATION: What Good Does Doing Good Do? (June 21)

“We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. We don’t know what to do, and so we are looking to you for help.” – 2 Chronicles 20:12 I feel powerless when I fantasize that things are getting better only to be repeatedly hit by the realization that they seem to …

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MONDAY MEDITATION: Speed Bumps (June 14)

We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. – 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (The Message) In a devotion in the Upper …

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