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Bo Sanders: Public Theology

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Books Before 2000

I condensed my library last year and decided to allow one theme or topic per shelf. An interesting theme developed with the books that did not make the cut.

There were 3 important topics that many books written before 2000 were missing:

  1. The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and the subsequent global war on terror.
  2. The impact of the internet, cell phones, and social media.
  3. Capitalism and Consumerism.

Here is a short introductory video (more thoughts coming next week)

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Beware The Emergency

I write about Emergency Politics every so often. It is far more ominous than its news coverage. Here is a snippet for those who are new:

Bonnie Honig, in Emergency Politics, says “The state of exception is that paradoxical situation in which the law is legally suspended by sovereign power.”

The problem is that we now live in a permanent state of emergency.

September 11, 2001 ushered in a state of perpetual exception. This applies to racial profiling, police brutality, State surveillance of its citizenry in the NSA – to name only a few.

When people are scared they willingly sacrifice their freedom and privacy in exchange for safety. The State benefits from a frightened population and people are more willing to accept the exceptional measures.

A population is more willing to view as exceptional the excessive tactics and escalation of violence precisely because we now live in a permanent state of exception (or emergency).

Gulli [in this article ] reports, “At the end of his critique of the state of exception, Giorgio Agamben addresses the question of contingency, which is very important in all of his work, when, with a reference to Benjamin, he speaks of “the urgency of the state of exception ‘in which we live’” (2005)

In his eighth thesis on the philosophy of history, Walter Benjamin says:

“The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the ‘state of emergency’ in which we live is not the exception but the rule. We must attain to a conception of history that is in keeping with this insight. Then we shall clearly realize that it is our task to bring about a real state of emergency.” (1968)

I bring this up in the hopes that our current crisis might help to create a real sense of emergency that will call into question in the larger American conscience a question about the permanent state of exception that has crept in over the past decades. The supposed ‘war on terror’ and ‘war on drugs’ are but two examples of this.

We must question the exceptional violence and emergency politics that have become too normalized and quietly accepted in our society.

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* I capitalize ‘State’ to illustrate its elevated and exceptional status.

Retiring from Evangelism

I am done trying to convert people from the old ways – it is time to live into the new ways.

Nearly 20 years ago I attended the Billy Graham School of Evangelism and even over the last 10 years, as my faith has changed, adapted, expanded, and evolved, I have labored to help those who wanted a bridge to a new kind of faith.

In the past, I have held a deep sense of obligation to help those who were asking questions to get a sense of how things were assembled … or for those who were in transition to find a landing spot for their new conviction.

I didn’t want anyone to get left behind. We live in a time of constant change and fluid social settings. I always tried to account for various perspectives and to give a generous a framework as I could imagine.

I am satisfied that I have done that well.

No longer will my primary concern be explaining the faith and providing access points for those who want to understand. I have left a substantial bread-crumb trail for those who are looking to migrate.

Starting in 2019 my primary concern will be professing faith that works in the 21st century and postmodern context.

I am retiring from evangelism and moving to profession – from apologist to professor.

It takes a lot of energy to account for and attend to the various perspectives and then to frame them and present them in a way that any genuinely interested person could gain access. It has been a wonderful 10 years and it has been a very formative experience.

I will now put my energies toward a constructive and innovative project where my primary concern will not be translating or explaining for those who believe a different way … but professing a forward-leaning faith for those who are interested.

I am done trying to convert people from the old ways – it is time to live into the new ways.

Here is the upside: because Protestantism (in general) and Methodism (in particular) provide me an already assumed structure  – complete with content, praxis, and institutional frameworks … I will be free to play off of the as-is always/already and put my energy into the:

  • Playful
  • Irreverent
  • Creative
  • Poetic
  • Whimsical
  • Melodic
  • Critical
  • Ironic (and at-times)
  • Transgressive

I am moving from being a builder who feels obligated to provide a constructive apparatus for those who are migrating and need a completed faith that they can live in (which is now available), to an artisan or song writer or analyst.

This is a big shift for me.

I have spent the last 10 years honoring, explaining, translating, and mediating between the Evangelical world of my upbringing and the new constructive, philosophical, and diverse approaches of the late 20th and early 21st century.

Those who have wanted to make the migration have largely done so – I leave them to be the new translators, practitioners, and guides. Evangelicalism has changed even more than I have in the last 10 years. It has become something in its contemporary manifestation that I barely recognize from my youth. [1]

I have thought about this long and hard. I am at peace with this change. I am confident of the timing. The reality is that Evangelicalisms is a closed-system (or what system theory would call a ‘bounded set’). It is has its own borders, its own gatekeepers/guards, and its own internal logic.

I will still be available to help those who are genuinely asking for clarification but I am retiring from the business of attempting to convert anyone.

I want to thank you all for the support and feedback during this journey. If you unsubscribe, I bless you and wish you well. If you choose to continue on, buckle up … some changes are in store.

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[1] Evangelicalism (and its charismatic offspring) has its own operating system (based on inerrancy) where the Bible becomes a science text book, a history book, a counseling manual, a financial spreadsheet, an explanation of world religions, a road-map to the future, and guide the end-times/afterlife . The evangelical operating system is incompatible with nearly any other program that you might seek to run. It is an all-or-nothing- machine.

Christian Politics

Normally I am allergic to modifiers. I find them deeply suspicious.

Why reference someone as female comedian or author? You don’t call Stephen King a male author or Jerry Seinfeld a male comedian.

Randy Woodley is often referenced as a Native American theologian. That is fine… but why am I not introduced as a white theologian?

The worst is ‘biblical’. Every time I hear it used I think to myself, “this is probably going to be inaccurate and untrue”.

People talk about biblical marriage but that is an imaginary. There are between 9-15 types of marriage in the Bible. It is the same with a ‘biblical’ worldview. There are 6 different worldviews in the Hebrew and Christian testaments. People want to say that scripture speaks with one voice … but have you read it ? I wish it did!!  It just doesn’t.

All of that is to say that I DO have one modifier that I find helpful: Christian.   Not like christian bookstores, or christian radio stations, or christian colleges.

I find the modifier ‘christian’ helpful when it comes to politics and the underlying motivation behind them.

Watch the short video and let me know what you think.

Formula For Success?

Is this a formula for success?  Not everyone thinks so!
Focused Intensity – over Time – multiplied by the ‘God’ factor
I always pay attention when push-back does not follow a predictable bell-curve.
In this case, the concerns were equally divided into quarters.
Watch this 5 min video and let me know what you think.

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.

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 …

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