A lot of the atheists I run into have a really warped view of the Bible–almost the mirror image of the fundamentalist view. I understand where that comes from–it’s largely a reaction to vocal fundies in the media. But for people who espouse the virtues of rational discourse to dismissively refer to the Bible as a collection of fairy tales about an evil old man in the sky is an absurd a failure to see what it actually is–about as absurd as saying that it is inerrant and never contradicts itself.
Robert Price, an atheist speaking to a group of (mainly) atheists, gives them a better view of what the Bible actually is, and why even a non-believer can (and should) love it.
Listen to it here, on the podcast of the “Point of Inquiry” radio show.
This editorial hits the nail right on the head. I don’t think I have a single quibble. Here’s a taste:
THE American clergy is suffering from burnout, several new studies show. And part of the problem, as researchers have observed, is that pastors work too much. Many of them need vacations, it’s true. But there’s a more fundamental problem that no amount of rest and relaxation can help solve: congregational pressure to forsake one’s highest calling.
The pastoral vocation is to help people grow spiritually, resist their lowest impulses and adopt higher, more compassionate ways. But churchgoers increasingly want pastors to soothe and entertain them. It’s apparent in the theater-style seating and giant projection screens in churches and in mission trips that involve more sightseeing than listening to the local people.
As a result, pastors are constantly forced to choose, as they work through congregants’ daily wish lists in their e-mail and voice mail, between paths of personal integrity and those that portend greater job security. As religion becomes a consumer experience, the clergy become more unhappy and unhealthy.
A classic from Bill MacKinnon: No Voices in My Head
Update– This is my favorite bit, and it hit me like a 2×4 when I first read it a few years back:
It is curious to me that if someone in a typical evangelical church stood up and said an angel spoke to him and told him that God wanted him to be a missionary to Africa, we would be very skeptical at best. Yet if that same person stood up and said that he “just really feel led to go to Africa to be a missionary”, the “amens” and applause would be deafening. Yet the former is biblical and the latter is not.
Since we are both intuitive types, we do not decide things as much as we gravitate toward them. This is not very theological language, I know, but on the subject of divine guidance I side with Susan B. Anthony. “I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do,” she once said, “because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.” Having been somewhat of an expert on the sanctification of my own desires, I try not to pin them on God anymore. At the same time, I recognize the enormous energy in them, which strikes me as something God might be able to use.
When I read the stories in the Bible about people such as Sarah, Jacob, or David, what stands out is not their virtue but their very strong wants. Sarah wanted her son to prevail over Hagar’s son, Jacob wanted his older brother’s blessing, and David wanted Bathsheba. While these cravings clearly brought them all kinds of well-deserved trouble, they also kept these characters very, very alive. Their desires propelled them in ways God could use, better than God could use those who never colored outside the lines. Based on their example, I decided to take responsibility for what I wanted and to trust God to take it from there.
–Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith
To continue my McCracken blogging, here’s her acoustic version of “Justice Will Roll Down,” one of my favorites from her new album. We need more like this in our church repertoires. It’s an excellent rendition of the strong Biblical themes of justice and eschatological hope.
Sandra McCracken’s album of new hymns is out and you can download the whole thing from Amazon for $5.99. Run, don’t walk.
Not For Sale: There are 27 million slaves worldwide right now. Here’s a map of where they are.
For many people, awareness of modern slavery—especially slavery in America—began with John Bowe, when his article “Nobodies” was published in the New Yorker in 2003. That was subsequently followed by a book of the same title, part of which became the basis for This American Life #344 “The Competition.” Here’s Bowe on NPR’s Marketplace as well.
Now ethicist David Batstone (interview) is devoting his time to abolishing slavery, through his book Not For Sale, and through co-founding the Not For Sale Campaign, which “equips and mobilizes Smart Activists to deploy innovative solutions to re-abolish slavery in their own backyards and across the globe.” Here’s an excerpt from the book.