Bo Sanders: Public Theology

updating & innovating for today

Postures of Prayer

This evening we are doing an experiment with postures of prayer.

Prayer is sometimes a verbal thing – trying to get the right words. Other times prayer is a heart thing – trying to make sure your have the right attitude or are in the right mood.

My thinking about prayer changed radically 12 years ago when I encountered Richard Twiss’ work We Dance Our Prayers. His basic point in that the tongue is muscle and words are learned and repeated motions to create certain sounds. Native dances are the same way!

Native dancing ceremony is different than night-club style dancing. In a club it is about the individual feeling and interpreting the music with spontaneous and individualized style and moves. This is often for the purpose of signaling desirability and attractiveness. Which is fine … but when Twiss talks about dancing, me means something different.

Twiss highlights Native ceremonial dance as a communal activity that replicates inherited movements and steps in order to tell a story or bring out a message. It varies according to tribe and song but it has an intentionality and deliberateness that is palpable if you have ever seen it. Here is an example from his Wiconi Living Waters Pow Wow

This is one kind of dancing and there are several others. A powerful example is shown at minute 15 of this presentation

We Dance Our Prayers opened me up from the vary narrow concept of prayer that I had as a charismatic-evangelical who primarily viewed prayer as intercession.

Twiss’ work coupled in my mind and heart with this new realization that the central story of the christian faith is about a body. That christianity is an embodied religion and that I had made it too ‘spiritual’ and other worldly. God intended for the body to be a something more than a mud-suit to temporarily house a ‘soul’ until it was time to ascend to the higher realm. This is more platonism or gnosticism than it is christian.

In the past 12 years my prayer life has changed a lot. Perhaps the biggest change came when I stopped closing my eyes. Randy Woodley first pointed out to me the 2-fold problem with closing your eyes when you pray:

  1. It is nowhere in the Bible
  2. You block out creation

I started praying with my eyes open and opening my eyes to the world that god loves so much. I look around for a tree or the sky or anything that god has made. Once in a while I get stuck in a church building that has literally blocked out all nature and so I have look at a person who’s eyes are closed to see something that god has made!

Which brings me to tonight. I am so excited to do this experiment.

Here is the thing that I hope comes through for people:

  • Our bodies help us pray. The posture creates in us an attitude that changes the way we pray.
  • Our bodies pray for us. This is the big epiphany! If I am kneeling with my hands raised and looking to the heavens … that is a prayer whether I say anything or not.

Talking is one way to pray. Dancing may be a way to pray. Placing your body in different postures is a way to pray.

Here are the postures we will utilize tonight:

Body Prayers


  • Gentle Movement
  • Folded
  • Raised


  •             Bowed
  •             Raised


  •             Closed
  •             Raised


  •             Looking Down
  •             Looking up


  •             Down
  •             Up

I would love to hear about your experience with any of this.


Rachel Held Evans Tribute

Rachel Held Evans was a popular author and blogger. Her voice will be missed.

This 2011 interview with Bo is a wonderful snapshot of her work, her insight, and her generous spirit.

You can post your comments here or on the show’s Facebook page or email

Please support the show through Patreon

You can also buy your book and seeds at

The next reading group May 14


Live As Easter People

Tomorrow will begin a new blog theme on Public Theology.

Today I wanted to share the most recent sermon series. It was a 3 part sermon centered on Easter. The themes are:

  1. Palms as Protest
  2. Easter as Life
  3. … as Easter People

The videos are below or you can listen to them on the podcast stream:

Quick May Update

After some time off and a house renovation, I am excited to return to the blog.

The past couple of months have renewed my commitment to ‘do theology in public’. The whole point of public theology (for me) is to engage 3 Publics:

  1. Society and Cultural Concerns
  2. Academy
  3. Religious Communties

These 3 Publics allow me to engage in a from of inter-disciplinary dialogue that is mutually informing and constructive. We can not afford to allow these diverse engagements to become silos and in-house conversations.

Here is a quick video (5 min) as I prepare to return to the blog.

I am really looking forward to this.

Shalom Reading Group

Starting this evening at 5:30 PM PST on both Facebook and zoom chat we will be discussing the first three chapters of Randy Woodley’s book “Shalom and the Community of Creation”.

If you would like the Zoom meeting number just email

Or you can watch on FB live

Come and join the conversation!

Change the Past, Present, and Future

I just wrapped up a 3 week series on change with a sermon called “I would prefer not to”.

The first week we asked “Can the past save us?” The answer is ‘no’.

The next week talk about “the Life of the Ages” which is so much more than eternal life. We looked at how Jesus updated present religious practices in his time.

This past week was a 4-layered experiment with responding to change.

The videos are here – you can also listen to the podcast audio if you prefer (below)

Past (can it save us?)

Present (Life of the Ages)

Future (I would prefer not to)

Podcast Audio

Theopoetics of Transition

I had the pleasure of being on the Theopoetics Podcast to talk about my transition away from evangelicalism.

I retired from evangelism early this year but have not really had the chance to debrief that with anyone. My friend Tim reached out to offered me the space to do that publicly.

It was a wonderful experience and we covered a LOT of ground. The 1/4 was about the past but then we moved into the present and the future.

The episode is called Theopoetics of Translation (episode 13)

Please listen and let me know your thoughts. 22382211_1012141218928936_5950252956256749811_o


Can the past save us?

Here are my sermon notes from the past week – video below

Will the past save us ?

I weekly hear well-meaning people romanticize the ‘early church’ or simple primitive

I study this all the time: Books covers

We even have something like this happening in our country right now: red hatIMG_7802

This has been a major theme for me in the past decade

The future of the church is not Europe’s past

We have set sail and are coasting in to uncharted waters.

Look at our institutions:

government is broken with congressional gridlock, banking crisis and scandal (too big to fail bail out of 2008), military spending is exponential but stuck in 2 endless wars because how do you win a war on terror, even religion … just look at our denomination [even the Quakers split last year] the UMC is about to, this is why some people are attracted to converting back to Orthodoxy, or Catholicism, or Anglicanism. It has a fetish appeal. Our seminaries are buckling.

Democracy, Capitalism, Nationalism, Religion.

We live in unprecedented times.

It is incredible and exhilarating and overwhelming to many. You can begin to see why some folks are attracted to going back to the way things were. It would make sense – it would be simpler and easier if we all just settled down and went back to the way things were.

Here is the problem – you can never go back. Because the past isn’t where you remember it was and even if you got there – it simply isn’t there anymore. It is gone. Time moved on

And the past won’t save us. Our future is not to be found in the past. Backward looking and past-oriented systems and mentalities will not prepare us for what is coming.

Things have changed. The landscape is changing. We live in fluid times and a liquid culture. It is time to sell the farm and becomes sailors. We won’t need bigger barns when the tide comes in – it is time to tear down the barns and use the wood to build some boats. We are floating in the new age.

The past will only sink us.

The Danger of ‘Re’ words.Screen Shot 2019-03-10 at 4.54.46 PM

But have no fear!  God knows what (S)he is doing! God will get us through! Faith will get us through by God’s grace.

OK – so even if you are not as enthusiastic  as I am about the future, which is fine (not many are) you need to be aware of dangers in romanticizing the imagined past.

SO what do we do?

 Easy – Christianity is built for this! We have an incarnational gospel that is infinitely translatable to any language, culture, and time. God didn’t just work in the past. God is working in the present here and now.

We can bring about a preferable future by partnering with God’s spirit in the present moment. The infinite and timeless God is calling from the future into each moment providing us opportunities to say ‘yes’ and open up potentialities that were not always available in the past. This present moment is pregnant with possibilities for goodness and justice that don’t come embedded with the need to re-create, reinforce, and re-instantiate the layers of racism, sexism, and hierarchy inherent in past systems.

This is one of the unique aspects of Christianity that is different than other religions. We have a built in contextuality and translatability that gives us flexibility. All we have to do is repent and divorce ourselves from the marriage of religion and power – or to release the safety of empire and control.

That is what we are going to talk about next week: why things seem out of control.

For now let just say this: the past won’t save us. The future of faith is better than Europe’s past. We have nothing to fear but fear itself. God is at work in the world by Christ’s spirit. God is wanting and willing to work in and through us here and now. All we have to do is join God is the work that we were built for – and uniquely gifted and graced to do!

Inverse Preaching

The ‘We Make The Road By Walking’ series has been intense and interesting.

I am trying something new. Since everyone is reading the same chapter of the book each week, there is no sense in my just repeating that information or providing a slightly different take to supplement it. That is what I have historically done.

I am attempting ‘inverse preaching’ which is to take the idea and turn it inside out to see if it looks any different … or maybe it falls apart.

So for instance, at the start of the series I took the common thought (often attributed to Augustine) that ‘darkness doesn’t exist, it is simply the absence of light’ and inverted it to ask:

What if there is no such thing as light, but it is only the absence of darkness?

I take common wisdom like ” Jesus loves you” and says Jesus doesn’t love you as an individual – Jesus loves whole groups.

Here are the last 4 sermons (video) but you can always listen to the audio podcast as well [link]

Let me know what you think or if you have any questions.

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