Shuck and Jive

Friday, July 31, 2015

On the Cover of the Omnibus

My new presbytery's newsletter is called the Omnibus.   This was a very nice welcome.  In the latest issue the editor included on the front a page a story about me and my radio program, Religion For Life!  

You can read it here.  

They took stories from the Kingsport Times News (Sept. 2012) and the Johnson City Press (Dec. 2011) and some of my information to create the article.

This is a picture from the KBOO studio where I record and produce the shows.   KBOO is one of the first community radio stations in the country and I am excited to produce the show for their podcast page and for the other stations (WETS/Johnson City, TN; WEHC/Emory, VA; and KZUM/Lincoln, NE).  

Every program is 29 minutes and free to any radio station.

New shows are uploaded every Sunday.  You can download them from the KBOO podcast page or at the Religion For Life podcast page or from iTunes.

The Existential Jesus

Some smart aleck(s) want(s) to stump me with these questions for the BYOS (Bring Your Own Sermon) summer series.   Here they are:
  • You use the term Jesus ________???? ( Ask John what phrase he uses and fill it in.) What do you mean by that.
  • Please talk about Sartre, Camus and other existentialists (maybe Tillich, maybe not) and whether or not they have a strong kinship with Jesus and how some of that might be important to Southminster.
I think the first bullet point is about "the historical Jesus" and so I will talk about that.   The second bullet point is beyond my pay grade.  Thus, you get what you pay for.   But I will give it a go.    

Faced with these absurd questions I am in anguish.
"It was then I realized that you could either shoot or not shoot."
"There was no way out."   

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Greenpeace Hanging Out in Portland

Lovely and I stopped by St. John's bridge last night to check out the protesters.    Thirteen Greenpeace activists are hanging from the bridge to prevent Shell's icebreaker from leaving Portland. The goal is to keep it here until the window of opportunity passes for the icebreaker to make trouble in the Arctic.  So far the action has been successful.   They turned away the icebreaker, the MSV Fennica, today.  Here is the story from the Oregonian.

I took these photos last night.

Great energy.  There was music and fun chants:  Shell No!  We won't go!
They are ready to hang there for days.  They can raise themselves when big ships come in or out but they will hang low if the Shell icebreaker tries to escape.

The sign says "Save the Arctic"
The "kayaktavists" will be getting in the way as well.
A lot of people have turned out to offer their support.  

Lots of fun but serious business.   We have hit Peak Oil.  Now desperate humans are trying to drill in the Arctic to get their fix.   The only way they can drill in the Arctic is because climate change due to burning fossil fuels has melted ice and opened up waterways.   
Shell no.
Greenpeace asks everyone to call the White House today 1-888-369-5791 as Obama could deny Shell's drilling permits.  

God's Great Rummage Sale

God's Great Rummage Sale is underway at Southminster!  

God is unloading a lot of his old stuff cheap!

It is amazing the things that gods will throw away!

Proceeds to help fund Southminster youth mission trips!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Bible for the 25th Century

This sermon series BYOS (Bring Your Own Sermon) is going well.  Great discussion after each worship service about the topic.   You can catch audio of the sermons and read the texts on the sermon blog and on the church website.

This week's question is:
What poems, songs, works of art, novels, short stories, movies, cartoons, etc., from the last 50 to 100 years might/should be included in a bible that would be canonized 400 years from now? Why? Extra points for ones that actually do more than echo familiar portions of the current canon.

That is a great question.  I am going to use this opportunity to talk about what I think the function of the Bible has been for the West and for Christianity up to the Enlightenment.   Since the Enlightenment this function has been replaced in part by science.  The church has so far stumbled in its role, reacting to science by either fundamentalism or by attempting to protect the Bible as a "spiritual" or "theological" book.  

The "Bible" of the 25th century is a difficult prediction to make.  But I think what is starting to take shape is a new cosmic origin story that is common to all humanity that is being presented by science. All of the wisdom traditions will have a role in shaping human identity and possibility in this new cosmic story.    Whatever "poems, songs, works of art, novels, short stories, movies, cartoons, etc.," from our time that make the cut and become our sources of inspiration and part of our new mythos will be those that speak to that new reality, identity, and hope.

That is the sermon in a nutshell.  We'll see what happens when I finally put it together!

Saturday, July 18, 2015


Sunday is the fourth sermon in the summer series BYOS (Bring Your Own Sermon).   And the question is:
  • So you've been quoted as referring to a belief-less Christianity.  What does that mean? And since the Presbyterian faith is grounded in numerous "beliefs", how is it that you are Presbyterian?
The questioner is referring to the guest post I wrote for the Friendly Atheist (I'm a Presbyterian Minister Who Doesn't Believe in God).     I have written more about that and related topics since that article was posted:
And of course, my sermons. An interview with Hemant Mehta of the Friendly Atheist is coming up next week on Religion For Life.  I think you will enjoy that.  I also interviewed Don Cupitt who just published his 50th book, Creative Faith:  Religion As A Way of Worldmaking.  You will like him, too!
I found this quote from Cupitt:
So I am arguing that it is time for some of us to start being courageous. We must leave behind both cultural and ecclesiastical Christianity, admit our emptiness, and struggle for a new beginning. My constructive proposal is that we should learn to see our belieflessness not as a state of being derelict and damned, but as a clean sheet and a challenge to be creative.
Who is up for the challenge?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

We Need a Keyboardist!

At Southminster we are looking for a keyboardist.    Our beloved Kenn Wilson is stepping down after many, many years.   Here is the announcement:
Southminster Presbyterian Church a Progressive Christian Community in Beaverton, Oregon is looking for a keyboardist. Forty hours per month. Responsibilities include Sunday worship, Wednesday evening choir rehearsal and other accompanist duties. A bachelor’s degree in music with an emphasis in keyboard or equivalent in experience is required. Go to the website for a job description Call 503-704-0184 for questions. Send resume to shuckjohna [at] gmail [dot] com or Southminster Presbyterian Church, 12250 SW Denney Road, Beaverton, OR 97008.   Here is the job description in pdf .  
It is a cool position for the flexible person who can play a variety of music and have fun while doing it!

Plus, we have a gorgeous new grand piano!

Don't miss your chance to play for the coolest church in Portland!  A church so hip we get protesters!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Another Helpful Resource from the LayMAN

The LayMAN has come out with another resource.  More propaganda regarding how the PCUSA is apostate.   And yes, I get a couple of honorable mentions.   The LayMAN just can't stand the "progressive" turn the denomination has taken.    They claim that they are the victims:
When it comes right down to it, this is not a conversation about leaving the PC(USA) but about how the PC(USA) has left us.  
Here is the irony.  This "progressive" turn happened in 1910!  They admit it.   The PCUSA had "left them" before they even entered it.  The PCUSA had "left them" before they were even born!    We haven't been fundamentalist since the 1920s.   That fundamentalist era was a blip in time, a knee-jerk reaction against historical criticism of the Bible and the rise of modern science.  These fundamentalists have a lot of chutzpa to think they define the church.

This particular document is virtually ready-to-copy and to distribute to church members, presbytery officials and so forth.  The convenient yellow shaded sections are suggestions for congregations to complete as they notice other clergy in their area that are not fundamentalist.
You very likely have examples from your own presbytery that you could present here.  Read the statements of faith of pastors and candidates in your presbytery packet.  Visit the websites of other area PCUSA churches and document the "beliefs" expressed.  See if there are churches associated with the "progressive" church movement and then call and ask what the pastors of those churches believe about the Bible, Jesus as the only way to salvation, the necessity of Christ's atoning death, His Virgin Birth, bodily resurrection, and miracles.  The idea here is not to set out on hunt for heresy.  The idea is to help you and your congregation understand that Presbyterians in the PCUSA espouse beliefs that are foreign to the historic Christian faith.   (bold mine)
"The idea here" is to fabricate a rationale for taking the property that congregations hold in trust for the PCUSA.   That is the bottom line.

I highlighted a portion of the above paragraph in bold to show a concerted effort to hassle progressive churches.  We have seen this action against progressive churches led by fundamentalist Presbyterians elsewhere.    David Felten was attacked most recently.   I interviewed David about it on Religion For Life.

For what it is worth, I hope this document gets distributed widely and I am happy to help the LayMAN out with its publicity as the LayMAN is ever faithful in helping me with mine.   I hope a lot of people will visit my website and witness a bonafide progressive heretic in action!

I hope they beat the bushes and expose more "progressives" because Heaven knows we need the publicity.    Far too many people actually believe the crazed proclamations by the LayMAN and don't know that historical criticism of the Bible and theological exploration as it relates to the modern world has been going on for centuries!

Perhaps it will be the LayMAN who will succeed in getting the word out that progressive Christianity exists and there are congregations in your neighborhood that don't believe all the nonsense that the fundamentalists proclaim.

Can I get an Amen?

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Executed God

Here are the questions I will address this Sunday:
  • The whole thing about sacrifice in the Bible. Animals sacrificed in the Old Testament; Jesus sacrificed. I don’t see why God just can’t forgive without a sacrifice.
  • If Jesus was not born of a virgin (that being a myth) then he is not God's begotten son, and could not be expected to die for the sins of the world. Furthermore, if God said he didn't require sacrifice but justice, and he saved Abraham's son at the last minute, he would never require Jesus to be a human sacrifice. In fact, a God who requires any human sacrifice is repugnant to most of us. So how are we to see Jesus' death on the cross? Not as propitiation for my sin? I'd like to hear some discussion of this.
How are we to see Jesus' death on the cross?  

It won't take long to offer a critique of substitutionary atonement.  

Following that, I am going to offer a metaphor, "The Executed God," as a way to look at the Jesus event and the ethic that follows.   The metaphor comes from a book by Mark Lewis Taylor, The Executed God:  The Way of the Cross in Lockdown America.  

Taylor writes:
The executed Jesus of Nazareth is not in himself some executed God, as readers might first think from this book’s title. No, the God who is executed, suffering imperial, state-sanctioned crucifixion, is presented in this book as a whole life force, a greater power, if you will, that is made up of three dynamics that were crucial to Jesus’ way of the cross: (1) being politically adversarial to religiously backed imperial power, (2) performing creative and dramatic instances of resistance to imperial power, and (3) organizing movements that can continue resistance and flourish even after imperial executioners do their worst. The executed God is a force of life that is greater than all imperial powers and thus can foment the resistance and hope that all suffering peoples need.
The Executed God is what I think Paul means by preaching Christ Crucified.   In the context of Pax Romana, the only message worthy to preach was resistance.   As we open our internet browsers in 2015 and find ourselves confronted by the beast of racism, the devastation of Earth, the widening gap between wealthy and poor, the wasting of lives in our prison system, the proliferation of weapons of war all in the name of peace, freedom and progress (the wisdom of this age), The Executed God and the hope of resistance it carries  must be proclaimed from our pulpits and enacted in our lives.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Reading the "Good Book"

I was thrilled to interview Harvey Cox, John Dominic Crossan, and Jennifer Grace Bird on Religion For Life.   It is a nice podcast package on reading the Bible.   You can download all three podcasts from the KBOO podcast page and the Religion For Life podcast page.  Here is information about each show:

I am doing a three part series on the Bible, what it is and how to read it.   Three excellent scholars and teachers will be our guides, Harvey Cox, John Dominic Crossan, and Jennifer Grace Bird.   Leading off is Harvard University professor, Harvey Cox, author of the famous Secular City in 1965.  He was with me two years ago on Religion For Life to discuss his book, The Future of Faith.  He returns to talk about his latest book How To Read the Bible.    Download or listen to Harvey Cox.

In my second in a series of three on the Bible, world-renowned scholar on the historical Jesus, John Dominic Crossan returns to Religion For Life, to address one of the most troubling aspects of the Bible, the violence of God. How do we read and trust a book whose main character, God, is less ethical than most humans? His latest book is How to Read the Bible and Still Be a Christian: Struggling With Divine Violence from Genesis through Revelation.  Download or listen to Dominic Crossan.

I finish my three-part series on the "good" book with Jennifer Grace Bird.   She teaches at Portland Community College and the University of Portland and has written a fantastic guide to the Bible, Permission Granted:  Take the Bible Into Your Own Hands.  She doesn't flinch from challenging the "bad" texts in the good book.   More than a critique of the Bible, she encourages her readers to read the texts for themselves with a critical eye and not just accept it because it's what "the Bible says."  You can disagree with the Bible.  Permission granted.  Download or listen to Jennifer Bird.

New shows are uploaded every Sunday morning.   Make sure you follow on the podcast page and you will receive an email update when each new show is uploaded.   You can follow on iTunes as well.  If you have just discovered Religion For Life you have some catching up to do as I just uploaded my 153rd show.   You can find them all on the podcast page.

How do people listen to Religion For Life?  Some take a half-hour break at their computer and listen.  Others download shows to their iPods or cell phones and listen while walking, running, exercising or driving.  The lucky folks who live in the broadcast range of WETS, WEHC, and KZUM listen on the radio.   Many people use the podcasts for study groups and radio stations have permission to air them as each show is fully produced and exactly 29 minutes!  Of course, it is all free.

A huge thanks to KBOO for allowing me to produce the show there, for hosting it on the podcast page, and for promoting it on air throughout the day!   If you have ideas for guests or would like to drop me a note about the show I can be reached by e-mail!   It is really nice if you like the show to share it with friends!

Thursday, July 02, 2015

An Emergent God

I am enjoying the ideas put forth by Nancy Ellen Abrams in her book A God That Could Be Real:  Spirituality, Science, and the Future of Our Planet.   You can hear the podcast on the Religion For Life podcast page or the KBOO podcast page.  

  1. God is an emergent reality.
  2. God did not exist before human beings existed.   
  3. God emerged from the human mind and cultural evolution. 
  4. New realities emerge from simpler components.  "No atom of my body is alive yet I am alive."
  5. God is the emergent reality of humankind's aspirations to be something more than we are.
  6. Thus God is real.  (As real as you and me, the economy and democracy). 
I have been enjoying this idea, playing with it, even trying it out in sermons.   I thought of the late Walter Wink who might have been on a similar path.  I always have liked this quote about prayer from his book Engaging the Powers.  It has more significance with an emergent God:
Prayer is rattling God’s cage and waking God up and setting God free and giving this famished God water and this starved God food and cutting the ropes off God’s hands and the manacles off God’s feet and washing the caked sweat from God’s eyes and then watching God swell with life and vitality and energy and following God wherever God goes. . ., p. 303