Category: Blog Posts

Woke or Awakening?

(Note: after writing this blog, I discovered there is a substantial, serious literature from conservative voices claiming that “woke” and “awake” represent very different religious values and social mandates. It is a literature with which I should become acquainted. But I did not write the following with a woke/awake dichotomy in mind. My point of […]

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Three Earthquake-level Changes in Seminary Education

From 1977 to 1981, I was a seminary student. From 1993 until the present, I’ve been an educator in graduate theological seminaries. Every level of education has been changed, most radically, since 1977. Here are three of the most significant changes I’ve seen and experienced in seminary life. There are many others, such as accreditation, […]

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Forty Years of Change, or Not, in Church and Culture

As I near retirement from my full-time work (January 31), I’ve been reflecting on what has changed—and not—over the 41 years of my post-seminary ministries in congregations and graduate education. Here is a sampling of my thoughts about Protestant churches and social issues over the last four decades. In 1981, America was majority white, Christian, […]

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The Brief History of Christianity’s Failure to Unify

From its earliest days, the Jesus movement, and then Christianity, were comprised of different, conflicting streams. Jesus lived and died in occupied Roman Palestine. But Jews who believed Jesus was God’s promised one lived all over the empire. Paul, and probably other itinerant evangelists for Jesus’ Way, went to Roman cities, found the synagogue, and […]

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Distrust Binary Thinking

One of Phillips’ alums who follows my work posted a response to one of my musings, to the effect: “Be careful about creating an either-or, two-option scenario when there are more possibilities. There is no need to divide into two every time, as if “two” is the maximum number of options.” Caution appreciated and accepted. […]

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Old Santa-god Shows Up Again

One of my seminary pastoral care professors was Dr. Tibor Chikes. He was a Hungarian refugee who, along with his wife, survived the siege of Budapest in 1945, during which some 38,000 civilians were killed (including by Hungarian troops). I remember two sentences from his classes—which is pretty good, actually. The first: “If you can’t […]

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They’ll Know We are Christian by the Size of our Cross?

Last week my family took a two-night camping trip with one night in central Missouri and the second on the Arkansas/Missouri border. On the drive, we passed two different churches where the defining feature as one drove past at 60-ish miles per hour was a set of three gargantuan crosses. I immediately felt agitated. No, […]

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When Disruption is Gospel

It feels odd to work for an organization considered by some of the Powers and Principalities to be an enemy of sound education and good order. For the next few months, in addition to my Phillips work, I am serving as the interim CEO and president of the Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice. (I’ve […]

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Books and Holy Discomfort

Banned Books Week, celebrating the freedom to read, is next week. In Oklahoma and many other states, pulling “offensive” books or books that discomfort students regarding race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and the like and thus (in Oklahoma) violate the “spirit” of HB 1775, is a thing. A bad thing. In honor of Banned Books […]

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On Using God to Divide

The national motto, “In God We Trust,” has been divisive from the day of its minting. According to historian Harry Stout in his brilliant book, Upon the Altar of the Nation: A Moral History of the Civil War, Northern clergy led—and Southern clergy took notes and then caught up—in the battle to show how religious […]

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