Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving reflections by Mark Sandlin.

Thanksgiving—it’s a day where we celebrate how a bunch of illegal immigrants invaded the native lands of an indigenous people and how those indigenous people ultimately met them with a kindness that they may not have deserved (sometimes known as grace). This Thanksgiving let’s be inspired to share that same kindness and grace with others.

Let us not forget the culture and nations of those gracious indigenous people were nearly completely removed by genocide as the U.S. began to establish itself. This Thanksgiving let’s be thoughtful, respectful and give some remembrance to their history, culture and relationship with the land the America founders took. (I give the tiniest amount of thanks that the racist named Washington NFL team doesn’t play today).

Let us also not forget the 50 million Americans who struggle to put food on the table. Please consider making a donation to help solve that problem. (you can donate here or here).

It is good to give thanks. I’d argue it is good for our souls and for our relationships, so let’s do it JOYFULLY! But let’s also do it with a larger concept of the realities of this holiday, and let’s do it with a renewed commitment to not repeat our abusive past and to make this a nation where more people have more reasons to be thankful.

Mark Sandlin writes for The Huffington Post, Sojourners and his own blog TheGodArticle.com

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Ferguson: We Just Don’t Get It

Am I Next

Reflections on Ferguson, by Bryan Berghoef.
First published at Huffington Post Religion.

My social media feeds are filled with voices of friends mourning, shocked, and deeply saddened. African-American friends are feeling deep pain at the perpetual injustices their community experiences. Injustices that are not incidental. Injustices that are systemic.

Many of my white and other non-black friends are also expressing their outrage and mourning. Rightly so.

But other voices of white friends also come across the screen:

In response to a black mother who is mourning about a 7-year-old son who said, “Don’t worry mom, if we want to live, we just have to stay home”–a white man responds: “It may just be safest to stay home for a little while. It looks like the protesters in Ferguson are ignoring Michael Brown’s parents’ pleas for peace and non-violence… Not a huge surprise – Michael Brown didn’t listen either.”

A well-meaning white mom posts: “my momma always said… “if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”… I try and remind myself of this every time I open my mouth to complain.”

In response to sharing a black friend’s son’s experience of police harassment, a white friend responded: “Yet the same way this man taught his son, my father taught me And my brothers. Any time we were pulled over, we kept both hands on the wheel, never moved towards the glove compartment. After the officer asks for ID, you politely ask if you may move to wherever to obtain it slowly. Let’s not do anything to appear as though we’re a threat.”

We still don’t get it. We just don’t get it.

When we, as the white community, see the deep pain and mourning happening today and post something about “not complaining” — we don’t get it.

When we, as the white community, see unfair police treatment of minorities and say, “Oh yeah, me too” — we don’t get it.

When we, as the white community, hear a mother lamenting the future of her young black son and say “Stay home and shut up and you’ll be safe. Mike Brown should have done the same” — we REALLY don’t get it.

Robert Jones points out in the Atlantic that the social networks of whites are a remarkably white. (Over 90 percent). He says, “In fact, fully three-quarters (75 percent) of whites have entirely white social networks without any minority presence.” He notes well that one major reason for the racial divide over Michael Brown’s death is that “white Americans tend to talk mostly to other white people.”

So to my white friends, who are accusing African-Americans of “complaining,” who are pretending they experience the “same thing” from police, who think it’s the best course for black people to “stay home.” STOP. Just stop.

It’s time to listen. It’s time to mourn. It’s time to side with those who are working to change the system. It’s time to ask God to have mercy. On us. Because we just don’t get it.

Video by Christine Berghoef: Lord, have mercy. #Ferguson #Palestine #Immigration #More

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Why NOT to Celebrate Columbus Day

Columbus quote

It is increasingly common to hear people question whether we should celebrate Columbus Day. My take is that it isn’t even a question. We should not celebrate this day. Unless we take a page from Seattle’s book and rename it: “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”

Shane Claiborne shares the following reasoning on why not to celebrate this day, and I wholeheartedly concur:


A growing movement in America no longer sees Christopher Columbus as someone we want our kids to know as a hero, and a growing number of cities like Seattle and Minneapolis are no longer celebrating Columbus Day, swapping it for “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.”

While we are thankful for this land we call America, it is important not to romanticize the dark parts of our national history. In his book Lies My Teacher Told Me, James W. Loewen points out that Columbus and the Spaniard conquerers approached the native Americans and would read aloud what came to be called “The Requirement” that went like this:

“I implore you to recognize the Church as a lady and in the name of the Pope take the King as lord of this land and obey his mandates. If you do not do it, I tell you that with the help of God I will enter powerfully against you all. I will make war everywhere and every way that I can. I will subject you to the yoke and obedience to the Church and to his majesty. I will take your women and children and make them slaves . . . The deaths and injuries that you will receive form here on will be your own fault and not that of his majesty nor of the gentlemen that accompany me.”

And from Howard Zinn,
“When he arrived on Hispaniola in 1508, Las Casas says, ‘there were 60,000 people living on this island, including the Indians; so that from 1494 to 1508, over three million people had perished from war, slavery, and the mines. Who in future generations will believe this? I myself writing it as a knowledgeable eyewitness can hardly believe it….’
Thus began the history, five hundred years ago, of the European invasion of the Indian settlements in the Americas. That beginning… is conquest, slavery, death. When we read the history books given to children in the United States, it all starts with heroic adventure-there is no bloodshed and Columbus Day is a celebration.”

Part of what we must do is re-learn our history – so that we do not read the Bible with imperial eyes but learn to read the empire with biblical eyes.

It is a sad story, and we would not hesitate to condemn such actions today. Yet ironically we celebrate this day as if somehow because it is behind the founding of our nation it is OK. It isn’t.

Claiborne closes with a desire to view our history not from the view of the victors and the elites, but from the side of the oppressed, and those who work tirelessly on their behalf: “Our history is different from the history told by nations and empires—our heroes are not the pioneers of colonialism and capitalism like Columbus* and Rockefeller, but the pioneers of compassion like Mother Teresa and Oscar Romero. And our holy-days are different from the holidays of pop-culture and the dominatrix of power.”

Ready to change this holiday? See if your city will follow the example set by Seattle and Minneapolis. It’s past time.

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The sunsets over the Capitol Building. View from the Library of Congress.

The sunsets over the Capitol Building. View from the Library of Congress.

I haven’t posted much here the last few months. A lot of transition has been happening. My family and I moved from Washington DC to Holland, Michigan in July. We were unable to continue our efforts of building community with Roots DC for a variety of factors, and it was a sad farewell. We had an amazing time in the almost two years we were there, and I’ve resisted writing about it because it is still something I am processing and a bit hard to put into words.

We are so grateful for the time we spent in the capital city. The neighborhood we lived in became home in many ways: we got to know kids at the park, enjoyed house concerts at a neighbor’s basement, attended (and held) regular backyard parties, enjoyed impromptu glasses of wine on a few front porches. Urban life has its challenges, but one of the blessings is the sense of neighborhood that can truly be experienced.

We also developed a close-knit community of people with Roots DC. Many were coming from varying traditions, and most ready to be done with a formal church experience. I think we were among them. Yet in our living room we gathered for simple worship, reading and studying the text together, and breaking bread. In that setting, we felt reconnected to the Holy and to each other. We purposely held off on a ‘fast-track’ approach to allow depth and relationship to gather rather than pursuing numbers simply for the sake of growth. Eventually we began gathering in a historic pub in the Dupont Circle neighborhood on Sunday mornings—the same place we’d been gathering for over six months on Tuesday evenings for Pub Theology conversations. This setting was unique, informal, accessible, and, frankly—fun.

There were a number of highlights from our time – you can read about some of those in my wife’s blog post here: Things I Will Miss About DC. One not mentioned there is that I was an official beer critic/judge for the Washington Post’s Beer Madness, where we tasted 32 regional craft brews and selected a champion. (And I can’t forget visiting Nationals Park numerous times rooting on the Nats, as well as visiting Oriole Park at Camden Yards to watch my Tigers beat the Orioles. A memory I cherish after this year’s playoff disaster!).

Yet in the end, we simply couldn’t afford to live as a family of six in such an expensive city. School options weren’t great, and living outside the city held less appeal as we didn’t want to be disconnected from the urban center (not to mention dealing with Beltway traffic!).

And so, after much wrestling and prayer, we decided we couldn’t continue. We were sad to leave. DC has made its mark on us. We hope we left some small impact on DC as well.

So, what now? I am continuing to work for the nonprofit Shalem Institute in DC, working remotely (it would be a long commute!) helping run and troubleshoot online courses as well as curating their social media content. I am very grateful for the opportunity to continue with such a great organization. Shalem has been a leading center for ecumenical spiritual formation for over 40 years, and specializes in teachings and practices that foster contemplative living and leadership. I’m also helping facilitate a local Pub Theology gathering at Saugatuck Brewing Company and doing some web development work on the side (holler if you need a new website or social media help!).

A friend shared a quote from Teddy Roosevelt that has been an encouragement to us, in the face of our current situation:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
-Theodore Roosevelt

But for now, to all who risk adventure, who know the joy of discovery and the sadness of goodbyes—keep it up, even when things don’t pan out as intended.

Good things still may come.


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3 Barriers Hijacking Christians’ Ability to Love Our “Enemies”

Guest post by Jon Huckins 

Empathy-1024x540In recent years, my family has navigated some rough patches; death, cancer treatments, open heart surgeries, chronic disease, etc. Now, I’m certain this isn’t everyone’s experience, but mine has been that in these times of trauma or tragedy, family comes together to stand with one another as we wrestle through life’s crap. We aren’t picking fights, we are crying on each other’s shoulders.

In recent months, our human family has been enduring an especially rough patch.




Deadly viruses.

Plane crashes.

Whether in remote villages or urban centers, few have been untouched (in some way) by the realities unfolding.

As I observe our corporate response to tragedy as a human family, and evaluate my own response in the midst of it, I have noticed something disturbing unfold. Rather than rally together as a family navigating a season of trauma, we have used this moment to divide, stir hatred and misunderstanding, point fingers and more than anything, view those on the opposite side of an issue as less than human.

Watching political pundits bark the party line or news anchors posture themselves as authority figures rather than conduits of curiosity, I find myself asking the question, “What keeps us from seeing others as human?” 

And by human, I mean, divine image bearers who have stories, families, pain, hopes, traditions and a unique interpretation of reality.

Here are three barriers that are hijacking our ability to love our “enemies” and acknowledge our shared humanity:

1. Fear

Those of us in the West (and I’m sure many others around the globe) live in a culture of fear. It is a reality of “What If?” What if the robber breaks into my house? What if all of our jobs are taken by immigrants who don’t deserve to be here? What if the terrorists strike my city? What if that person walking on the street (who looks different than me) tries to jump me? What if the stock market crashes and I lose all my investments? What if (insert name) gets elected and everything goes to hell?

The Problem? We spend so much time trying to prepare for the “what if” that we completely miss out on the joy, beauty and opportunity right in front of us. Further, we project our fear on others and undeservedly make them the potential culprit. Because everyone is out to get us, we can no longer trust anyone and our worldview is largely pessimistic.

The Cure? “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do…Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows…Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” — Jesus (Luke 12)

In the end, if we truly believe Jesus is reigning, what do we have to fear?

2. Nationalism

Yes, we live in a country with unprecedented wealth, opportunity (for many) and infrastructure that has done remarkable things domestically and abroad. As I travel around the world, I don’t have to look far to run into people who dream to live in our country. There are so many reasons to be grateful to live here. With that said, it is deeply disturbing to me how inverse our allegiances have become within the Christian subculture. Many, out of reverence to our country, have placed their primary allegiance to the USA rather than to the Kingdom of God.

The Problem? Nationalism is a form of idolatry that we must repent from. Healthy love of country isn’t what I’m referring to. Nationalism is the belief that our country is somehow set apart over and above all other countries which leads to unquestionable support of our nation’s policies and practices even if they come at the expense of innocent human beings on the other side of the globe. Further, we often place our hope in our elected officials rather than in Jesus (who reigns as king of the Kingdom that has come and is coming). It means we — whether subconsciously or consciously — see people who live outside of our borders as “less than.” We may not admit it, but it is certainly the case. If our war machines take the lives of those half way across the world it is somehow easier to justify than if it were the life of one of our own.

The Cure? “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world. — Jesus (John 18:36)

May we daily submit ourselves first and foremost to the rule and reign of Jesus, praying, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

3. Power

The growing distance between those with economic and political power creates a social distance that doesn’t allow us to share tables with those who have differing degrees of power. Often, those in power don’t KNOW the people who their power impacts which leads to decisions that negatively impact those on the underside of power. The flip side is that those without power are willing to dehumanize others as a way to ascend to power. If getting power means values and ethics are compromised (which inevitably has direct implications on human beings), then so be it.

The Problem? Power is viewed as a commodity that can be acquired for our own advancement rather than gift to be given away for the flourishing of others. A utopian view would say everyone is born into an equal playing field of opportunity, but that simply isn’t the case. Those in power don’t plan to relinquish it and those without power will often choose unethical means to gain it.

The Cure? “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.’” — Jesus (Matt 18)

What if we took seriously Jesus’ words that the first shall be last and the last will be first?

A Prayer for the People of God and our Human Family

May we, the people of God, choose to live fueled by the hope Resurrection rather than held captive by the fear of death. 

May we, the people of God, choose to rightly place our allegiance in Jesus and his kingdom rather than become slaves to the kingdoms of this world.

May we, the people of God, choose to embrace the way of the Cross and freely give away power for the flourishing of others as we join God in the world he is making.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as our human family endures a season of trauma, may your image rise in each of us so that we can offer and receive love in the most unexpected people and places.  Amen

HuckinsHeadShot13Jon Huckins is the Co-Founding Director of The Global Immersion Project which seeks to cultivate everyday peacemakers through immersion in global conflict. He is the author of Thin Places & Teaching Through the Art of Storytelling.

This post originally appeared on jonhuckins.net.

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POLL: Pub Theology Conversation online

As part of creating space online for ongoing Pub Theology conversation, I’m considering a new Facebook group. This will be for pub theologians everywhere to gather at a virtual table, to discuss any number of topics. Vote on the Facebook page with your thoughts. If you think I should consider something other than Facebook, let me know that in the comments.

I’m in the process of creating a new Pub Theology website, so ideally whatever I create can be embedded and accessed there.


August 7, 2014 · 2:23 pm

Unacceptable: What it’s like to be a Liberal Christian in a Sea of Conservativism

Guest post by David Schell.

NO_LEFT_TURN_signPeople think I moved left because I wanted to compromise with the world, because I wanted to fit in better.

People think I moved left because I was deceived by the devil.

People think I moved left because I’ve been reading the Bible without the help of the Holy Spirit.

People think I moved left because I just stopped reading the Bible.

I accidentally go to conservative churches sometimes and find books by Ken Ham that say I’ve compromised – with the world, the devil, whatever.

My dad sees me as a disappointment and is glad I’m still alive. He doesn’t say it, but I’m pretty sure he thinks that if I died today I’d be in hell. He holds out hope that God will show me the light because I’m still alive.

My Grandma calls me and says she’s heard rumors that I don’t believe in the Bible anymore.

My aunt sends me a Facebook message that her kids, my very young cousins, are praying for me. They’re worried about my soul.

When my conservative Christian friends and family ask me questions, it’s not to find out why I believe what I believe. It’s to fix me or help me realize that I’ve gone off the rails and am wrong.

Other folks have very real concerns that because I don’t share their view of the atonement, I’m not a real Christian.

I’ve gotten tired of arguing about stuff, because it’s always the same argument. It may be new to you, but I’ve had it a hundred times and it always ends the same sad way. Seriously, let’s pass on it. It’s not worth it.

No, seriously. It’s not.

I hear the same tired arguments and Bible verses over and over again. I know them all, I promise. And I have responses to all of them, but you probably won’t like or agree with my responses, so can we please pass on the high-stakes debate? I’d be happy to have a conversation with you about why I believe what I believe if you’re curious, but I don’t want to fight about it.

I’ve fought enough already.

The churches I go to are small, because evangelicalism and rock bands and the feeling that there’s something “real” going on attract more people my age than silence and liturgy and ambiguity.

People think that because I don’t think that the Bible’s “inerrancy” is a fundamental doctrine, I’m not a Christian, or at least I’m on the road toward apostasy. We’re Christians, not Biblians.

When I visit big churches, I consider myself lucky to get a phone call that “might be important” to get me out of a worship service with stifling, repetitive, boring, and theologically dumb (at best) songs.

When I visit big churches, I’m always the compromiser the pastor’s talking about.

When I visit big churches, things that inspire other people’s faith scare me to death and make me wonder why I’m in this whole Christianity thing anyway.

My dad warns me that I’m deceiving people and reminds me that God’s going to have a stricter judgment for me.

Sometimes I try to keep my political posts down so as not to aggravate my conservative friends who share clips about why Obama is the anti-Christ every five minutes. I promise you guys, you only have to put up with him for two more years. Plus, I’m not a big fan anyway – but my reasons have nothing to do with Obamacare, except that I think it didn’t go far enough.

When I comment on pro-Israel posts to mention that Gaza has a higher death count, everybody thinks I wish Gaza would just bomb Israel off the map, or that I have absolutely no idea what’s going on, or that I don’t believe in the Bible, or that I’m just deceived by the devil. It’s kind of a theme.

I see posts from Christians that are against illegal immigration and I get so confused how Christians who are supposed to love our neighbors can stand at the border and tell little children from war-torn countries that Jesus wants them to go away.

I go to a church in a denomination that other churches are leaving because they can’t stand the idea of being in the same denomination as churches that are allowed to perform same-sex marriage. The PCUSA has space for both sides, and while the liberal churches are okay with worshipping alongside those who disagree, the conservative churches have no space for that sort of disagreement about fundamental issues like the resurrection. …Oh wait, that was about gay marriage. Never mind. Like I said, it makes me sad.

I mention that I’m in favor of marriage equality and people think I’m not a Christian.

I mention that I attend a Presbyterian church and everyone wonders how I can go to a church whose denomination allows (not supports) same-sex marriage.

Friends and family members who once respected me and had high hopes for my future are now praying for my eternal salvation.

I have space for my conservative brothers and sisters in Christ, but far too often for my happiness, they don’t have space for me.

I didn’t shift left because it made my life easier. I shifted left because I went to college and learned that the world doesn’t work in the simple logical way that conservative talk-show hosts and evangelical / fundamentalist pastors think it does. It’s complicated. Rush Limbaugh’s logic is missing large chunks of data that anyone who’d taken Sociology 101 would know.

Shifting left has made my life harder. My life would be easier if I suddenly realized that Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck were right about Jesus, and John Dominic Crossan wasn’t.

I can’t even imagine how many of my friends and relatives would breathe a sigh of relief if I threw away everything I’ve learned and suddenly “realized” that being gay is a sin, or that the Bible was absolutely true about literally everything it said and had no disagreements within it (a relatively modern view).

But that ain’t how I was raised.

I was raised to stand for truth and justice even if you stand alone, and even if you look like a fool while you’re doing it.

I was raised to speak up when the world around me is cheering for injustice and evil. I was raised to disagree. I was raised to misbehave and stand against the current.

Veggietales taught me to stand up for what I believe in.

Patch the Pirate taught me to do right until the stars fall down.

I even wrote a little song about how “you gotta to dare to be different” that was so bad that nobody but Andrew will ever hear it. Ever.

But I also do it because it helps. I do it because every now and then, I get a message from someone saying that they read my blog all the time and feel encouraged and not-alone. I do it because sometimes I get messages saying “Hey, I read your blog and it got me thinking.”

I do it because I know people who’ve been beaten over the head with the Bible and don’t like God very much right now, and I want to give them hope that maybe they can be whatever they are and God will still love them and maybe they can still be Christians.

I do it because sometimes I’m one of those people.

I do it because I want people who are on the margins of Christianity and think the whole thing might just be nuts to know that things they think is crazy, I think are crazy too, and if I can be a Christian, maybe they can too.

One thing more.

I don’t have it nearly as hard as my LGBT brothers and sisters, or as hard as my Palestinian brothers and sisters, or my immigrant brothers and sisters, or my brothers and sisters anywhere who also feel the ire of conservative Christianity. So I speak up for them.

Because I believe it’s the right thing to do.

David M. Schell is a doubter, a believer, and a skeptic. He writes about God and stuff. He is happily married to Kristen, and that’s why his posts don’t come out as often or as angry. David lives in Colorado Springs, CO. This column was originally published on his blog: David M Schell: Theology. Hilarity. Transparency. Pretentiousness.


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