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Bo Sanders: Public Theology

updating & innovating for today

Favorite & Least Favorite Part Of Church

In the past month I have been told by somebody that each element of our Sunday gatherings is their favorite … and somebody else’s least favorite.

  • Passing of the Peace
  • Music and Singing
  • Prayer
  • Sermon
  • Conversation
  • Communion
  • Videos

This is fascinating to me – and I love that we can talk about it!

This is part of our life together. This is how community works. Each aspect or element connects with some and may not with another. BUT when you put it all together … that is where things become life-giving and dynamic.

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Worship Words Determine Faith

The early churches developed a saying:

The rule of prayer is the rule of faith

As we have moved through the centuries, things have changed. Our worship communities have moved from being centered on prayer, to sacrament, to preaching … and now many are centered on music.

I am proposing that now, the rule of worship is the rule of faith.

Watch this 5 minute video and let me know what you think.

you can also check out “changing words to worship songs“.

Believe Different Things Differently

A short video (5 min) about how  progressives and liberals not only believe different things than conservatives and evangelicals … but they believe them differently.

From Missions to Eschatology -they both believe different things and they hold those beliefs differently.

Let me know your thoughts.

Consider the Crows

One tradition I really like surrounding communion, is that you never throw the bread in the trash or pour the cup down the drain.

Once the bread and cup have been blessed, you are supposed to return them to earth from which they came.

I love this imagery. It helps me to think about the grain that became the flour for the loaf and to think about the vines rooted in the earth that brought forth the grapes.

I do this, not in a superstitious way, but in an earth-honoring way.

This month something cool happened. As I was walking the elements out to the garden, I noticed a large group of crows in the trees all around me. They seemed very intent on what I was up to.

No sooner had I scattered the bread around the yard and retreated to the building, they descended in mass.

It brought a big smile to my face. I couldn’t help but think of Jesus’ famous lesson that says “consider the birds of the air …” (Matthew 6:26)  They don’t sow or reap and yet God provides for them.

 

I was at an event yesterday where the opening meditation was supposed to be something about how nature teaches us to trust and that by connecting with nature we come back into balance.

I kept thinking about the crows. I am grateful that we have traditions built into our practices that point us back outside, that don’t allow us to sit inside and to waste time and material.

I like that spiritual practices ask something more of us.

My prayer for you today is that the falling leaves, shorter days, and cooler nights would awaken something in you – make you aware of something. Consider the crows …

Top Ten Theologians

Here are the 10 theologians who have influenced me the most:

Randy Woodley (Shalom and the Community of Creation)

Bonnie Miller-McLemore (Practical Theology, Web of Meaning)

Sheila Greeve Davaney (Theology at the End of Modernity)

James Cone (The Cross and The Lynching Tree)

Wolfhart Pannenberg (Prolepsis, The Ontological Priority of the Future)

Elizabeth Johnson (Quest for the Living God, She Who Is)

Schreiter & Bevans (Contextual Theology)

Richard Twiss (We Dance Our Prayers, Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys)

Elaine Graham (Transforming Practice, Public Theology in a Post-Secular Age)

Paul Tillich (Ground of Being, Courage To Be)

Conflict Case Study

Conflict Case Study: 2nd Amendment, Abortion, Voting, Police

This is a follow-up to last week’s Conflict Culture.

5 elements to each:

1) Individualism

2) Remnant Structure

3) Technology

4) Intensity/Amplification

5) Trigger

2nd Amendment

  1. Individual: gun owner
  2. Remnant: militia language and muskets
  3. Technology: Assault rifles and militarization
  4. Heat: 24-hour coverage of mass shootings
  5. Trigger: ‘don’t politicize’ in wake of shooting vs. government taking guns

Abortion

  1. Individual: choice of woman v. unborn child
  2. Remnant: essential understandings of gender, sexuality, and
  3. Technology: sonogram, pregnancy tests, in vetro fertilization, sperm banks
  4. Heat: echo-chamber media (not able to see other side)
  5. Trigger: Roe v Wade, appointment of Supreme Court justices

Policing Strategies

  1. Individual: unarmed black men v. a ‘good’ cop
  2. Remnant: policing practices originated in Jim Crow South
  3. Technology: cell phone videos, body cams, riot gear, militarization
  4. Heat: echo-chamber media (not able to see other side)
  5. Trigger: access to national media provides constant new stories

Voting:

  1. Individual: popular vote v what does one vote matter?
  2. Remnant: electoral college and gerrymandering
  3. Technology: Russian bots, Facebook, Citizens United, PACs
  4. Heat: Argument Culture, Echo Chamber, Social Media
  5. Trigger: Hanging ‘chads’ in Gore v Bush, Popular Vote

 

What issue would you like to explore with this 5-part tool?

Response to The (Non)Wesleyan (Non)Quadrilateral

Please read this is the “I’m having fun talking about something I love” voice.

A very good post was put up called: Once Again The Wesleyan Quad

I will now call it the “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Should Not Be Allow To Use ‘Butter’ Blog”

The author and I have a lot in common: both United Methodist, both from Ohio, both academic.

The Butter Blog is right on so many points.

  • The Wesleyan Quad was not explicitly used by John Wesley in the 1700’s
  • Wesley looked to scripture first (Prima Scriptura) unlike other Reformed folks who claimed ‘Sola Scriptura
  • The Quad is not an symmetrical cube but a 4-part sequence which many of us have pointed out.

The Butter Blog is missing a couple of things:

  • Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience are found in Wesley and easily retrofitted as ‘the Quad’
  • This is the same impulse that developed the canon of scripture because of it’s common use centuries after the founders.
  • The Quad was born out of the cultural need of the 1970’s and answered a question that was being asked in that context.

In my mind there are (at least) two vital reasons for the element of experience being added:

First, since 1906 the Pentecostal (and charismatic) movement has place primary importance on the experiential nature of Christian expression. I don’t think that we can afford to (or want to) poo-poo on the largest and fastest growing branch of Christianity globally.

Second, locating ‘experience’ as a site of theological reflection gives validity to the experience of those who have not had a chance to contribute to scripture, the tradition, or ‘reason’ (aka European philosophy) in the way that they may have wanted.

In this way: perspectives of women, people of color, and non-European contributions  are included and valued.

 

So when the Butter Blog argues that:

“Moreover, what too often happens in UM circles is that when the quadrilateral is employed, it is most of the time used for the purpose of pitting one of the four “principal factors” against the others (usually to pit experience against Scripture)”

Well, sort of … not against scripture … but to compliment the scripture and compensate for the lack in scripture …

I hate to be the white guy who has to point out that every person quoted in this Butter Blog seems to have something in common: Kevin Watson, Randy Maddox, Andrew Thompson, and N.T. (Tom) Wright.

As far as the quote:

“The problem, as Thompson rightly notes, is that we Methodists tend to be more American than Methodist.”

That is like saying that International Harvester tends to be more ‘harvester’ than international. Most Methodist (even in Ohio where the articles’ author is from) can’t even tell you what the ‘methods’ are.

 

I would like to point you in 3 other directions:

 

I have 50 other thoughts tonight but unfortunately it is late, and I have a 6am online session to teach for my East-coast seminary class.

 

BTW: I have an entire session in that seminary class about ‘the migration of meaning’ where we talk about everything from universities in Texas  – TCU (the ‘C’ being Christian) and SMU (the ‘M’ being Methodist) – to Emergent (from scientific thought to a ‘brand’ of post-evangelical hipsters).

Conflict Culture: Perfect Storm

We live in a ‘Perfect Storm’ for conflict and chaos that seems to have no end or hope for resolution.

5 Elements come together

  1. Individualism (consumerism) –
  2. Remnant Structures – fragments of previous eras
  3. Expanded Scope – oversized beyond our understanding

Those 3 create a perfect storm. But the heated environment provides a 4th element that intensifies the problem

4. Water Warmed by Media –  24 hour news and social media

These self selecting platforms create a confirmation bias, which can become an echo-chamber, which morphs into a feedback (distortion) loop when the volume is turned up too high.

The 5th and final element is a ‘spark’ that triggers the :

5. Alienated from the power to change it. Fight against resignation

In the video below I use 3 test cases: 2nd Amendment, Abortion, Policing strategies.

I may make a video just detailing those 3 and adding our voting crisis.

 

For more:

Why Things Seem So Bad

Fragmented and Fractured

No Such Thing As Neutral Anymore

Everyone For Themselves

Be Brave (it might not work)

Here is a short encouragement that I shared with a seminary class recently.

Be brave. Be bold. Be daring. … it probably won’t work anyway.

The systems is so powerful and so dominating that it can absorb, adapt to, and even appropriate any protest or critique.

Parables, by the way, are not earthly stories with heavenly meanings.

Parables are earthy stories with heavy meaning.

Parables come in underneath your radar when your defenses are down … and then ask you to subvert, undermine, and interrogate the presumptions that you came in with from the as-is structures of the powers that be. 

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