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Keith Kelly

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  1. With the decline of the church, especially in industrialized countries, churches are increasingly used more and more for baptisms, weddings and funerals. Buddhism, on the other hand, has increased in the United States by 200% from 1990 to 2000 and another 200% from 2000 to 2010. People are searching for meaningful modalities of understanding spirituality and Christianity is but one alternative. The older models of the fall, saved by grace and Christ's death and the coming of the Kingdom are hardly understandable in modern terms, starting with understandings that developed during the Enlightenment. Is it time that we, as ones who identify ourselves as Christians, to think and speak in terms of us saving Christ? Cultural Christianity is readily available, however relatively few show up at, say, the Passion of St. John or Matthew. Volunteerism is another way to communicate the message. However it is my feeling that the present state of affairs calls for more of an overt salvage operation to meet the requirements of the coming age. Any thoughts?
  2. United Methodist. Have volunteered in the past to be sure. Attend weekly plus on religions holidays. The Methodist Church I attend is fairly open to comments that are progressive and are not offendedn that I know of regarding a person's beliefs, however most attendees themselves it seems are adherents of a theistic theology and would see the scriptures more as divinely inspired and containing accounts of happenings instead of being spiritual literary works.
  3. From the earliest Christians to the modern day one hears that Jesus is divine. However the search for the meaning of Jesus, at least in modern scholarship, questions the account of the Gospels as a bibliography. Strauss, followed by Bultmann, undertook the needed task to demythologize the Gospels. Strauss denied the divinity of Jesus while Bultmann generally supported it, perhaps in some qualifying ways. Does this dymythologization or further demythologization need to find its way further into the very meaning of Jesus? One could say he is divine in the classical (orthodox) sense; one could say Jesus is divine because as a human he nonetheless had a unique relationship and connection with God, or one could say that Jesus is divine in a way that all who seek to be fully human are divine. What does it mean to say Jesus is divine?
  4. Well, I think what is so disappointing about this is that Spong is an intellegent fellow with a lot of very good points to make. Such mis-exegesis at times really distracts from his work. Moreover, it leaves the reader wondering just what the motivation is. Is it publicity? Pushing an agenda at the cost of overreaching and tarnishing his work. Only Spong knows this, I suppose.
  5. Spong recounts scriptures and perspectives that places St. Paul in a certain perspective--one which he supports to a degree but far from conclusively--that St. Paul was a repressed gay man. Spong goes beyond stating this as a possiblity, however, establishing the perspective and subsequently speaking as if it is established that St. Paul was gay. Spong (Reclaiming the Bible) writes: "Imagine rather the power of the realization that we Christians have received our primary definition of grace from a gay man who accepted his world's judgment and condemnation until he was embraced by the Jesus experience and came to the realization that nothing any of us can say, do or be can place us outside the love of God. Paul, a deeply repressed gay man, is the one who made that message clear." This seems to be fairly close to a "just so" approach to the biblical literature and, frankly, sloppy and almost irresponsible as far as biblical interpretation goes. Spong is usually pretty good at interpretation, however it seems here his agenda gets in the way of the interpretive task. Bringing up a possibility is not the problem. Proceeding as if it is the truth and a springboard for further interpretation certainly is.
  6. Do you hear God speak to you? It this an outdated theistic view of religion, rooted in tradition or primordial thinking, or is it real? If God speaks directly to believers, why do believers hear different things? Many in the church pray and hear the voice of God or the Spirit. Is this consistent with Progressive Christianity?
  7. I have not studied dreams academically. It seems my dreams can usually be interpreted and the symbols or events within them directly relate to my life. Mine are highly symbolic, either in the actions or symbols in them. Sometimes I don't know what to make of them and sometimes I don't know if they really mean anything. The ones that make sense sometimes require some figuring out and usually point to something that takes up my time and thoughts during the day or over a period of time. A large anaconda that was lying around living quarters, being a menace and needing to be removed but nonetheless was not a direct threat, but a direct problem, was my dissertation. I finished my dissertation, so I don't see much of that snake any more. Something else will come along, though, as it always does. I suppose if one were seeking something spiritually then they might hear from a divine, but I think they are our minds are simply processing things that are eventful or important in life. Interestingly enough, John Wesley insisted that we be pure in thought and he included dreams in this. This raises some other questions, I suppose, and many find this a bit amusing.
  8. When is the last time you read the book of Revelation? Is it worth it? It seems fairly muddled to me and I don't see much value in it myself. Is there any value to it, apart from an historical or literary review of apocalyptic literature, i.e. if one happens to be interested in such literature? This is an interesting link on the book: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/31/four-big-myths-about-the-book-of-revelation/
  9. The concept of Jesus dying for the sins of the world is indeed quite strange. It is as if God were offended by the sins of humankind and thereupon sent another manifestation of the diety to suffer even further insult to clear the original offense. This logic is seen in many religions whereby adherents hold to a theory that a sacrifice of their possessions or other people to appease the God or gods and "earn" good favor from them. This logic is quite puzzling to the modern mind where cause-and-effect is not related to sacrificial offerings. There is punishment for offenses of crimes, and sometimes upon the families of criminals, but this is not related to the atonement theory of religious sacrifice. Now there are those orthodox adherents who would say that the wisdom of God is higher than our logic and that human logic is flawed in this manner. This is reminiscent of Pope Urban VIII telling Galileo that there is such a thing as human understanding but this does not displace the wisdom of God. Therefore the earth still rotates around the sun, and not vice versa. The problem with appeals to the wisdom of God is that historically they are frequently in retreat. Further, what is the wisdom of God during one period is different from the wisdom of God in another period--do to human understandings (or misunderstandings) of it! Therefore the arguments tend to be both ignorant of cause-and-effect as well as characterizing a circular belief system in orthodox Christianity. Now one might say that Jesus did die for our sins, however. His death highlights the life he lived, the price he paid for it, and the encouragement and vision for followers to follow his example. One might also say the same for Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the light,” and he may be. But there are also other incarnations close to spiritual connections. Religion is full of stories. The medium of belief and hope is realized through these stories. Sometimes the stories become outdated to future generations, but often something may also be gleaned from them. The challenge of Christianity is to make sense of the stories the best it can, but realize that we do no longer live in a world of gods being appeased by sacrifices and such. Hope this perspective helps.
  10. Apostle's and Nicene Creed, or occasionally other such as Korean Methodist creed or creed of United Church of Canada, is recited every Sunday in the traditional worship service, but not the contemporary, at my church. I prefer the traditional worship service, however. As for "Onward Christian Soldiers" it is in the Methodist hymnal, however I cannot ever recall it being sang over the years. There was a big deal over it when it was about to be excluded from the hymnal in the early 1980s and supporters successfully lobbied to include it. There are many other songs that are athwart progressive theology, however, referencing being "washed in the blood" and such. And, of course, the old Methodist hymn "O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing" which is a favorite. Dutch, that was quite a gutsy move to "tamper" with the Lord's Prayer! Was it the usual "forgive us our sins/tresspasses/debts" phrase or something else?
  11. And I suppose that it will not be up to us, as progressives, to solely influence the liturgy. But--what does the group think here that is worthy and appropriate for liturgical worship? I suppose a vote could be held as in the Jesus Seminar--like a black bead for excluding a passage or a piece, a red bead for including it as it, a yellow bead indicating inclusion, but needs reworked, and a gray bead for "needs further study." Some of these things---passages, hymns, or other pieces--as noted, can have double meanings. Religion is heavily about telling stories to bring meaning to life instead of describing a specific history. What would be the group's take on: the Nicene Creed, Apsotle's Creed, Lord's Prayer, O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing, various Old Testament passages (I take it some may come to mind), etc.? Do you know of any place that has actually incorporated such changes or inclusions (I'm sure there are many, but am specifically unaware)? The Methodist Church is a bit different than some as it has its pastoral staff on an itinerary, rotating through every few years.
  12. Janell above states: "Of course, some are so far from where we are today, there is no "rescuing" them with merely a few minor changes of words. But keeping in mind, just as we were influenced as children by what we heard, so will children today hearing whatever it is being presented to them...it may seem new and foreign to us 'older folks', but it will become the foundation for what moves these children today, in their adult years." This is so true. As I did some laundry today I pointed out the little pocket above the bigger right pocket on my daughter's fashionable jeans and asked "do you know what this is?" She replied "who cares!" which is about right for a relic of design. She had no idea that it is, or that started out, as a watch pocket. Certain things seem to hang on. Some are even more ingrained like the qwerty problem whereby the layout of the keyboard was originally intended to slow the typist so as not to snag up the system. Other things, like liturgy, have staying power because of tradition (some which will fade away or be transformed) or once-useful convention, but also because there are folks who seem to need the psychological assurance offered by the church. Witness how many "assurance" hymns are in most hymnals! Now some of this will not be easily changed. Perhaps the answer is that we will move toward an understanding based on understanding as opposed to being based on tradition, as tradition will invariably change with new understandings. I recently heard John Shelby Spong and it seems his point is that the traditional understandings are not providing an adequate resource and reference for those persons more amenable to a progressive understanding of the world. While I think that most of the decline in the mainline relates to modern lifestyles of not being connected to civic and social connections in general (Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone, pointing to a decline in a number of civic and social organizations), this is likely a factor for some or many. This also means that Methodism will be less Wesleyan, Presbyterian less Calvanistic, and so forth. We are seeing that happening now in a number of ways. Maybe it is time to let the beautiful gems of the past slip from our hands in order to grasp and create other gems. Others need to be reinterpreted--this also applies to the Bible as well (some of the early writers and early "church fathers" seem to hold to traditional views, then came the Enlightenment). For this reason there will always be the need for reinterpretation. It is a matter, it seems, selecting what needs to be retained for reinterpretation. This probably relates to establishing a value for various liturgical forms (to be retained or not) and further considering what the real-life application of that liturgy is or can be. Thanks to all for your insightful and thought-provoking comments!
  13. This is Keith. I have been ill for the past few days with a seasonal illness. Nothing serious, but quite draining. I see that others share some of my sentiments regarding traditional liturgy. The quandary of it all is that while it is historic and in fact some of it is downright beautiful, it does not fit in with what many Christians understand in the modern (since the mid 1700s?) era. Some of it may be amended or adapted, but frequently it is not. There are a number of folks in church who for some reason get quite a bit of comfort not only in the historical liturgy, but the historical (and "outdated") beliefs as well. This will, of course, vary from church to church, but also denominationally and regionally. Now some liturgy is, as pointed out, beyond the prospect of adaptation. For example, this performance of a traditional Methodist hymn by Saint Michael’s Choir of Coventry Cathedral of "O For a Thousand Tongs to Sing" (tune Lyngham by Thomas Jarman) at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LezdsDAr0-E. The theology is, in progressive terms, is very misguided and beyond adaptation, but the the performance is beautiful as well as quite historical and cultural. Maybe we may, with effort, glean some gems from it with a strong bit of editing or reconceptualization based on our own understanding. But overall, what are we to do with such a relic?? As noted before, I do not feel uncomfortable reciting the creeds. It is history. I do realize that the person setting in front of me may have quite a different take on it than I one what parts of the creeds make sense. In the past the best approach from a pastor's standpoint is to comment on the versus of Jesus feeding the 5,000 and then discussing alternate meanings of the text as well (I am an usher, not a pastor, having periodic discussions with the music director).
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