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: Creative Extremism (January 18)

We are fools for Christ. – 1 Corinthians 4:10a When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was imprisoned in 1963 because of a protest against segregation, he took it as an opportunity to write a letter. Known now as the “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” he was responding to white clergymen who urged him to show more moderation, instead …

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MONDAY MEDITATION: Was Jesus Handsome? (January 11)

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Have no regard for his appearance or stature…God[ doesn’t look at things like humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the Lord sees into the heart.”…[David] was reddish brown, had beautiful eyes, and was good-looking. The Lord said, “That’s the one. Go anoint him.” – 1 Samuel 16:7,12 Well, that’s …

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nativity painting of people inside a dome

MONDAY MEDITATION: If Jesus Hadn’t Lived (December 28)

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! – 2 Corinthians 9:15 One of the best spiritual exercises a Christian can undertake is to ask the simple question, “What would my life be like if Jesus hadn’t lived?” I’d miss out on grace. “Forgive seventy times seven.” I’d miss out on an extended family. “Whoever …

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MONDAY MEDITATION: “Have You Met My Son?” (December 14)

The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people…This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.” – Luke 2:10, 12 My father, in his latter years, was slowed by dementia. Luckily he still retained his …

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MONDAY MEDITATION: “Is It Worth It?” (December 7)

I faced these dangers with hard work and heavy labor, many sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, often without food, and in the cold without enough clothes…Who is weak without me being weak? – 2 Corinthians 11:27, 29a There are times in following Christ that you have to stop and ask, “Is it worth it?” When …

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MONDAY MEDITATION: Bucking the Harness (November 30)

Part company with every brother who bucks out of the harness. – 2 Thessalonians 3:6a (Cotton Patch Version of the New Testament) Way before tractors/trucks were horses/mules/oxen and plows/wagons. It was a popular image in Jesus’ day (Matthew 11:28-30; Luke 9:62). The sense is that if you follow Jesus, you have to be directed by …

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